Dr Bird on Mighty Sparrow
By Wole AWE.
This piece just refused to flow. I started wanting to write something cool since sometime late in September. Many deleted pieces yet I cannot seem to find a launch pad. I kept toying with so many ideas – my lost love, my Rubik’s Cube, – never for once did I think of writing about my financial obligations.
At different times of the day, I sat at my desk, aided by black addictive fluids – coffee and wine, the former in various concentrations, the latter in tots as they do in Churches. As the title of that famous old tract of the Scripture Union affirms “Help (comes) From Above” – I ended up stepping up my steroids by looking at the music boxes above my desk…lo and behold I got my vibes back.
Okay now, let’s go there!
I ended yesterday listening to one of my favourite musicians – a bundle of musical talent, a performer extraordinaire, God’s gift to humanity. His melodious rendition of his seductive brand of music laced with his trademark of caustic humour made me forget for a while the recycling turbulence around the globe. With our academics shutting down public universities and the givers of “democracy” shutting down Uncle Sam’s economy, rather than join the bandwagon I opened up my music library while shutting the windows and bolting the door. I shut in the flavour.
My love for steel drums started in the 70’s – 1977 to be precise. Whilst I cannot remember how I got bitten by the bug, the then popular “Sugar Bum Bum” by Lord Kitchener and FESATC 77 were responsible for my love for this brand of music from the Caribbean. I do recall that there was a conscious attempt by Nigerians to have a slice of this music genre. In particular I remember Godwin Omobuwa, a fine Nigerian Calypso musician – he lived on Montgomery Road in Yaba in the 70’s and featured prominently on television shows such as the Bar Beach Show anchored by no other than the doyen of Nigerian musical entertainment – Art Alade of blessed memory. I do confess that I do not know much about Godwin Omobuwa but I do know he was a delight to watch as he performed this brand of ever twisting music.
The Nigerian Army (and also most probably the Nigeria Police as well) had a full compliment of a steel band that performed excellently well at State functions – rendering amongst others, popular traditional folk songs in harmonious harmony of skillfully tuned metals. A joy to the ears.
My favourite musician after Baba 70 is Mighty Sparrow – the Calypso King of the World, the Omo Wale of Ikoyi, a title bestowed on him during his visit to Nigeria during Festac 77 (the largest party ever held in the world yet to be surpassed, no thanks to the stupendous revenue derived from the bowels of the Niger Delta).
Nigerians took a liking of Calypso music in the late 70s and early 80s. So much so that West African Distilleries Limited introduced its fast selling blend of rum and coconut liqueur to the teaming youngsters that took to this bum wriggling and fast paced rhythmic blend of steel drums. There was also a yearly carnival like parade of colourful floats and gaily dressed youths on Easter Mondays organized by Niger Wives – an association of wives, foreigners married to Nigerians.
Slinger Francisco, now 78 years old is a prolific song writer, and guitarist of Trinidadian citizenship. I have followed this sage of exotic mind and body twisting musician for almost forty years. His legendary hits cuts across all facets of human endeavour – having a strong bias for arguably the most profitable of all human endeavours – sex.
As most of the muisc greats, Mighty Sparrow started from the Church, taking Calypso music to lendgary heights – just as Bob Marley did to Reggae and Olufela Anikulapo-Kuit to Afrobeat. Raised in Trinidad he is the King of Calypso.
Sparrow’s songs, often laced with poignant humour does not always fail to hit the nail on the brad. Given the antecedents of Calypso music, it has evolved into a tool for mass mobilization. Sparrow has used this genre of music in many ways than one. “This is Madness” one of his contemporary hits is an apt reflection of present day Nigeria. The first day I heard it, I was convinced that Sparrow lived next door! “London Bridge” (a tongue lash at the fallen British Empire) and “Wanted Dead or Alive” ( a castigation of the world’s despotic leaders from Idi Amin to the Shah of Iran) are two old hits which vividly shows his political inclinations. His music is not limited to winding the booty.
“The respect of the world, which we now lack, if you want it back, then vote Barack,” proclaims the musical wordsmith, The Mighty Sparrow – Calypso King of the World, who on Wednesday, August 22, 2007 endorsed presidential candidate Barack Obama in Brooklyn.
During the backstage meeting, which was also attended by publisher and attorney Brian Figeroux, community activist Gerry Hopkins, political organizer Jordan Thomas, and Caribbean immigrant Derek Webster, The Mighty Sparrow also presented Sen. Obama with a CD of a calypso which he composed and recorded as a tribute to Obama.
The song gives an exposé which takes the listener through Barack’s humble beginnings and his rise to the top. The sharp lyrics, which are skillfully interwoven with a rhythmic Caribbean melody, present Barack as a true family man, capable intellectual, effective grassroots leader and legislator, and a progressive Presidential candidate with a solid agenda for real comprehensive reforms in education, healthcare, economic development, and foreign policy.
With respect to the issue of whether or not Obama is ready to govern the United States, Sparrow observes, “Were we ready for 400 years of slavery? Based on what I have heard, read and researched, I am very impressed by the resplendent vision of Obama. He is resilient and wise. It is easy to equate him to Solomon.”
“Barack! Barack! He is fighting for openness and honesty in government. Barack – is doggedly defiant; phenomenal strength; and wisdom beyond comment,” Sparrow sings in the chorus. The calypso single, titled Barack the Magnificent, is not yet available in record stores.”
“Village Ram” a timeless hit, one of my favourites, shows the multifaceted offerings of Calypso music. With a lot of macho/ego tripping, Sparrow – often described as a ladies man (he actually claims he is) is always to ready to boast of his bedroom exploits. I would refrain from commenting on “Sell the Pussy” and “Ah Fraid Pussy Bite Me”, not that the lyrics are unprintable. Nay, they are, his mastery of the use of pun in these masterpieces is beyond the objective of this write up. As he said, he’s superstitious about cats thus he has a “pussy complex”. I better leave it at that.
Dr. Bird’s music is not always X-rated. His “Mother In-Law” and “Mother’s Love” mirrors the realities of these two great family institutions. While he compared the former as often sounding like a “Spanish radio station”, he asked that we should give our mothers “our love and affection…as the wealth of a mother’s love” cannot be quantified.
In need of a good laugh? Listen to “Lying Excuses”. The masterpieces are inexhaustible – at least on these pages.
Would love to meet with Sparrow some day soon. I already see us hugging each other. This coffee appears too strong.
Slinger Francisco CMT, better known as Mighty Sparrow, is a calypso singer, songwriter, and guitarist of Trinidadian citizenship. Known as the “Calypso King of the World”, he is one of the best-known and most successful calypsonians. -Wikipedia