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Tributes for Sparrow from UTT

By COREY CONNELLY Sunday, February 23 2014

click on pic to zoom in
Mighty Sparrow...
Mighty Sparrow...

After being in a coma at a New York hospital several months ago, Slinger Francisco, 78, known popularly as the Mighty Sparrow, Calypso King of the World, on Friday displayed snippets of the feistiness which characterised his persona as a calypsonian during a special tribute to him in Port-of-Spain.

At an event titled: “The Anthropology of Sparrow: In the Age of Independence,” hosted by the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s (UTT’s) Academy of Arts, Letters, Culture and Public Affairs, at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA), a gutsy Sparrow, without the aid of his cane, walked from his seat among patrons to the stage, a short distance away, to perform one of his classics, “Jean and Dinah,” accompanied by members of the Errol Ince Orchestra.

The audience, which included Chief Justice Ivor Archie, sitarist Mungal Patasar and Chairman of the National Carnival Commission Alison Demas, erupted into applause whilst singing along to the popular tune. Many patrons also gave the “Birdie” a standing ovation for his efforts.

Sparrow’s appearance on the stage, though, proved to be a blessing for his son, Sergio who, performing “Jean and Dinah” in tribute to his father, apparently forgot verses of the song and was forced to hum along to the music before returning to its catchy chorus.

The audience, witnessing Sergio’s dilemma, cheered him on, but Sparrow extempored a verse, poking fun at his son’s failure to remember some of the song’s lyrics.

Sergio told Sunday Newsday after the performance: “Thank God for Daddy... he even freestyled a verse about how I forgot the lines.” Sergio said his father was still extremely proud of his effort.

“Jean and Dinah,” was among 13 of Sparrow’s hits performed by a range of artistes during the anthropology, which focussed on Trinidad and Tobago’s pre-Independence era (1956-1962). Other songs included “Education,” “Pay As You Earn,” “Mr Benwood Dick” and “Rose.”

Dr Hollis Liverpool (Chalkdust), Programme Professor at the Academy, who delivered an introduction to the anthology, said Sparrow’s songs were largely informed by events which occurred during an era “when we sought to forge an identity of our own as a nation.” The songs spoke not only to national/political developments, as in Francisco’s “Federation,” but also dealt with the manner in which male-female relationships were pursued and the critical role played by prostitutes and barrack-yard settlements toward the development of the calypso artform, he said.

The show, which coincides with the UTT’s tenth anniversary celebrations, was the first in a seven-part series of events chronicling Sparrow’s life and work as a calypsonian.

Sparrow, an 11-time monarch and eight-time Road March champion, is to be bestowed with the Order of TT, the country’s highest honour at this year’s Independence Awards ceremony.

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