TOP AWARD FOR SPARROW
By LAUREL V WILLIAMS Thursday, February 20 2014
ON the eve of her departure for a State visit to China, Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar yesterday announced calypso legend Slinger “Mighty Sparrow” Francisco will be awarded this country’s highest honour– the Order of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago– for his contribution to music and culture.
Also veteran masman and award-winning designer Peter Minshall now has full legal rights to his home as he has been granted the deed to the property at Federation Park, Port-of-Spain, Persad-Bissessar further disclosed at the annual Kiddies Carnival Parade and competition held in her Siparia constituency at Bhupsingh Park, Penal.
On Tuesday, the Office of the Prime Minister indicated Persad-Bissessar would make an “announcement of national importance” at the event, where she said Cabinet had agreed to cover the medical bills of Sparrow, who spent months in a New York hospital last year recovering from a stroke and a coma.
Sparrow, 78, has been feted by the calypso and academic fraternity since his return earlier this month to Trinidad for the first time since his illness. Canboulay Productions, led by university lecturer Rawle Gibbons, is hosting several lecturers, one of which took place in San Fernando last night, in a bid to raise $100,000 to go towards Sparrow’s medical expenses.
Persad-Bissessar told reporters later although she did not have a final figure of Sparrow’s medical bills once they were presented, the State will take care of those expenses. “He truly deserves to be taken care off in that regard,” she said.
Of the national award to Sparrow, Persad-Bissessar said it was a “fitting tribute” to the contribution he has made to Trinidad and Tobago and the world. “I am sure the national community will agree this is a richly deserved honour,” Persad-Bissessar said at the Carnival parade. The Prime Minister noted she has recommended to President Anthony Carmona to confer Sparrow with the prestigious award. She did not say if the presentation would take place before this year’s Independence Day celebration on August 31 when national awards are handed out to honorees.
Persad-Bissessar told the gathering that Sparrow’s work has been studied by academics and musicologists. She added he rightly earned the title — the Calypso King of The World.
The Prime Minister said the “immortal words” of Sparrow’s calypsos and his unique style of showmanship have “entertained peoples’ senses and challenged their sensibilities”.
“Your words have inspired, reflected, caused serious introspection and at times have just provided sheer musical and lyrical delight. You are literally one of a kind, emulated but never duplicated. I join with my constituents, particularly the children, in thanking you most sincerely for making the effort to journey to Penal today, to be with us,” Persad-Bissessar said.
In response, Sparrow said, “It is with great pride and pleasure that I accept the award and I thank you for your presence here and for your love and kindness. I hope I can stay long enough to give you more and more.” Expressing his gratitude, he thanked the Prime Minister and fans. “We say thanks to the Prime Minister and we can only thank you all even more. I will sing something for you, that is what I want to do. If you have a special request , just let me know. I can sing it a capella,” he said.
At this, people began shouting the names of songs for him to sing. Despite his recent illness, Sparrow’s voice was powerful as he sang verses from “Congo Man” which he said was for the adults. For the children, he sang “Education” and “Dan is the Man (in the Van)”. The audience sang along with him.
In announcing the granting of the deed to Minshall, 72, Persad-Bissessar said his work has also been hailed internationally.
She said Minshall’s pioneering contribution to Carnival has left an indelible mark and his breathtaking innovative creations continue to influence and inspire designers of costumes and theatrical presentations.
“In 1989, Mr Minshall was given the opportunity to occupy a State residential property. My Cabinet has agreed to make a grant of the property to him,” she said.
Minshall responded by simply saying, “ From my heart, I want to thank the people of Trinidad and Tobago for putting a roof over my head. And thank you Prime Minister for inviting me here where Sparrow said, ‘the air is rear.’”
Speaking afterward to reporters about the land-title gift, Persad-Bissessar said, “I do not know the value of Minshall’s property. He has been there for sometime but did not have the legal documents.”