Lord Cobra

Panama Lord Cobra

Album’s Overview
#? lord-cobra-con-the-beachers-calipsos.jpg 1972 [8, 33:23] Lord Cobra con The Beachers - Calipsos (Tamayo LPT-1084) studio • new music 6.15 “Decent enough” Caribbean
date.png 24-Apr-2016
notes.png Not attempted. Looks like a tricky task.


Wilfred Methusiel Berry Gonin was born in Bocas del Toro on October 17, 1926. Known as Lord Cobra throughout his life, it was the city of Colon, however, that witnessed the growth and development of his artistic career that started almost accidentally at the age of 16 when, along with some of his friends, he began improvising songs that eventually became legendary throughout Panama and the rest of Central America and the Caribbean. Lord Cobra’s fame even reached the eager fans of the Big Apple, Germany, London, India and other Asian cities. For many years, Lord Cobra was surrounded by “The Children of the Antillanos,” a musical group that developed Calypso imbuing it with a Panamanian flavor which has always distinguished it from other variants in the Caribbean region. They recorded with him most of the pieces of his popular repertoire.

Lord Cobra delighted his Panamanian following with his unusual talent giving rise to many private collections that, to this day, are jealously guarded by their owners with the same fervor held for cherished treasures. His records were produced on the Loyola label including his most popular pieces like “Banana,” “Christie,” “Baptism,” and “The Man with the Big Suitcase,” which comprised his vast repertoire of compositions. He admitted that he had composed at least 40 songs. His Calypsos, known for their irresistible dance rhythm, were in great demand and no self respecting discothèque, cabaret, club or bar in Colon would let a day go by without contracting the services of the great Lord Cobra. He was an extraordinary troubadour who often gave his characteristic touch of humor to his lyrics, making it a fundamental part of Panamanian Calypso.

Like a good tailor Cobra wrote his lyrics seated within the curious confines of his local patio, long before copyright laws were ever enforced, watching and listening for the common day occurrences of his people, especially the people of El Marañon. Old Marañon, the home of darkened little bars full of cattle hands reeking of the bitter perfume of spilled beer with the landmark bakery, La Estrella, the neighborhood matahambre (hunger killer) just up the street, is, even today, one of the poorer sections of Panama City, and was often the venue of his bursts of creativity. Cobra knew how to be a true sovereign with his heavy, pompous, sensational voice and noticeable smile. As a teacher of this melody, the profane and spiritual breath of the black man, he had an ongoing flirtation with the English and French languages, patching and blending a curious dialectal symphony, a symphony mixed with the sweat of the “great ditch.”

As one of Panama’s great monarchs he was in the same league as The Mighty Sparrow and Lord Kitchener and often went on road competitions with them and other Calypso greats in the Caribbean. “Banana,” an internationalized Calypso, was Cobra’s favorite put to dance. Before his death, however, he wrote his last melody, “Panama, My Native Land,” which, months before the reversion of the Canal, he presented to his relatives as a tribute to the land of his birth on the occasion of its achieving total sovereignty after receiving the aquatic route. One of my favorite Lord Cobra Calypsos is “Baptism” which I have been able to include in this post for your enjoyment. It brings to mind memories of my childhood and how Cobra captured the imaginations of our generation of Westindian children and preserved a piece of the Caribbean in Panama.

In the tranquility of his home, Wilfred Berry, in 1996 decided to dedicate his last years to the Lord, giving his life over to the Church of God in Christ, where along with his wife and companion of 20 years, Gloria de Berry, they prayed daily to God. Ill and tired from long years of work, Lord Cobra was still conscious of everything he did and in English, the language that he always spoke, he wasted no time continuing to compose and sing his Calypsos, his inspiration since his youth. In an uncanny tribute, radio station CPR, hosted by radio personality Jacobo Salas, rendered tribute to Cobra on Saturday, the 22nd of April, 2000, not knowing that six days later the great Lord Cobra would cease to exist in his humble home of Cativá, in the outskirts of Colon.

On Friday the 5th of May, 2000, the body of Lord Cobra was laid to permanent rest in Mount Hope Cemetery after having been paraded from 3 Street and Central Avenue to 15th Street and Bamboo Lane to dismiss the hordes of Colonenses who so loved him. In front of a battery of musicians, old friends, family and fans, the farewell was very emotive. The musicians felt inspired even at the cemetery and sang several of his Calypsos, the songs of the soul that had brought so much joy to so many people.

Roberto Reid
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