Lord Kon Tiki

Lord Kon Tiki, one of Panama’s Calypso legends.

His real name is Alberto Allen Bryan and he was born in Calidonia, Republic of Panama on September 5, 1934 to Constantino Allen and Aydé Bryan. During his early childhood, like many other Westindian Panamanian children in Panama City, Alberto lived in the barrio of El Marañon, where he still lives to this day. He studied primary school at Pedro J. Sosa public school, where I attended, in the heart of Calidonia.

Kon Tiki got his start in music doing backup for one of the reigning Calypso talents of the time, Smokey, or Two-Gun Smokey, as he was also known. He participated in several radio programs on RPC Radio (Radio Continental) and throughout his career, within this unique genre, he has recorded around twenty 45 rpm’s and five long playing records. He has always competed with even the best in his class, Lord Cobra, Lord Delicious, Lord Panama, etc.

When asked which type of Calypso he considers to be better, that from Trinidad or from Panama, he responds that both are equally good except that Panamanian Calypso is sung in both English and Spanish and its rhythm is somewhat faster, while Trinidadian Calypso, on the whole (with a few exceptions coming from The Mighty Sparrow) is sung exclusively in English. Of course Kon Tiki could never hide his high regard for Sparrow, whom he considers to be the highest and best interpreter of the genre.

His catchy name, of course, is as whimsical as many of his themes. He was christened Lord Kon Tiki by a popular radio show host, Harry Iglesias, in Panama, in honor of the great Kon-Tiki expedition that was successfully carried out in 1947, and was the subject of an Oscar-winning documentary in 1951 (all the promotional rage of the time). This successful voyage of c.4300 miles proved that the islands in Polynesia were within the range of the replica of the balsa wood type of prehistoric South American vessel and that there was a very probable historic as well as anthropological link between the two areas of the world.

His greatest satisfaction, according to this humble, rather unassuming son of Panama’s urban artistic expression, was having sung in the Yellow Room in the Presidential Palace in San Felipe, having been interviewed by Time magazine, having participated in the filming of Panama, Land of Danger, and having dedicated a Calypso to his good friend the boxer, Ismael Laguna, El Tigre Colonense.

This story continues.

5 Responses to Lord Kon Tiki

  1. Kyle & Svet Keeton

    Did not realize that he made that many records.

    Kyle

    • Anjahla Bryan

      Me either. All those records they were jammin too in the house was his. I got to go through my mom’s records she played his vinyl on her uncle’s radio station —Anjahla

  2. Danny Fitzgerald

    Thanks for this! I only have one Lord Kon Tiki record which is “Panama Campeon/Tesa Party”. Lord Cobra also dedicated a calypso to Ismael Laguna in the late 1960s called “Mr. Laguna”, and it was released on the Padisco label. I had no idea Kon Tiki recorded a tribute too, I will be searching for it now!

    You can hear some Panamanian calypso at my youtube channel which is http://www.youtube.com/stroboscopicalia

  3. Peace,
    Thank you for writing this. I have been looking for some info about Lord Kon Tiki and have been able to find out very little so was excited to find your article and website.

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