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Sparrow concert good, not great
If some structure had been applied to the production of Thank You Sparrow, a mere “good” concert might have become a “great” one last Saturday night at the National Academy for the Performing Arts (NAPA) in Port-of-Spain. Presented by Spektakula Promotions, the event was staged to celebrate the 36th anniversary of Trinidad and Tobago becoming a Republic, as well as the music of the Mighty Sparrow (Dr Slinger Francisco), the iconic calypsonian who throughout his career has made significant contributions to the country’s advancement from the period before Independence to the present.
The producer had promised, “it will be more than simply a concert, in that the event would be a full-scale musical production incorporating elements of drama, dance and more.” The elements were there, but certainly not fashioned into the expected musical production.
Spoken-word poetry exponent Muhammad Muwakil opened the playbill doing adaptations of make-believe conversations with Melda and Mae Mae, women immortalised in two of Sparrow’s early calypsos. A 28-year-old UWI undergraduate, Muwakil has had his poetry published in the Cuban Casa de Las Américas 2009 review, was a feature presenter at the 2010 Nature Island Literary Festival in Dominica, and since 2011 has co-curated the spoken-word programme at the annual NGC Bocas Lit Fest, alongside musician and Guardian colleague Gillian Moor.
Then came Baron (Timothy Watkins) to lend his vocal skills to Only A Fool, Slave and Alien Woman, following which Luta (Morel Peters) took centre stage to do a poised rendition of Prophet of Doom and Gloom, a searing commentary and musically challenging composition from the pen of the Birdie.
The Malick Folk Performers was up next to execute a jolly dance sequence to carefully selected Sparrow calypsoes that included Ten To One Is Murder, Both Ah Dem, Tobago Gal, Doh Back Back and Miss Mary. The only act that attempted to capture the spirit and intent of the production, the group earned sincere approval from the full house of patrons.
On resumption of the programme after a short intermission, Sparrow appeared on stage to a rousing, standing ovation. He began with Jean and Dinah, and followed with Congo Man and Saltfish. But while the voice was strong, it was obvious the aging Calypso King of the World was a bit unsteady on his feet. Calypso Rose (McCartha Lewis) joined him to complete his set and assist him off stage. In the process he, unfortunately, lost his footing and took a tumble.
People on stage, as well as backstage personnel, responded swiftly to assist. Thankfully, the Supreme Serenader was unhurt. He was then placed in a chair to receive a commemorative award from president of Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organisation (Tuco) Lutalo Masimba (Brother Resistance).
Closing the programme was David Rudder. Seemingly in fine form and voice, his choices were Model Nation, Federation and Dan Is The Man. In rendering the latter he ventured into the audience and engaged eager patrons in the performance.
Also making appearances were Meagan Waldron and junior calypsonian Jeremy Roberts. Musical accompaniment was provided by Wayne Bruno and Rapid Response, while show hosts were CG and Tommy Joseph.
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