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The Mighty Sparrow began his musical journey as a choirboy at Newtown Boys’ RC, a foundation which led him to his “anointed” duty as the hero of the “lower class” in a post-Independence T&T. Sparrow’s calypsoes, according to literary icon Earl Lovelace’s estimation yesterday, made him the champion of the masses struggling to find an identity as T&T tried to find its own identity as a nation, post-colonialism. Yesterday students from 17 secondary schools, including Bishop’s Trinity East, Tabaquite Secondary, Barrackpore West Secondary, Naparima Girls’ High School and St Francois Girls’ College, were treated to an academic analysis of Sparrow’s work by Lovelace at the second installment of the UWI Distinguished Lecture Series, If Sparrow Say So: A tribute to the Might Sparrow. It was held at the Rudranath Capildeo Learning Resource Centre, Couva.
Lovelace’s presentation, titled “Leaving Royal Jail”, was accompanied by Lord Relator. Yesterday’s lecture was chaired by Victor Edwards, who said the series was a “celebration” of love and goodwill. The series has been organised by Canboulay Productions. Tomorrow David Rudder will deliver his lecture on Sparrow at Naparima Bowl, San Fernando, at 7 pm. Guardian Media Ltd is the exclusive media partner in the series honouring the Mighty Sparrow, the world’s most eminent calypsonian. Sparrow, speaking with the T&T Guardian yesterday at the lecture, said he was honoured to be featured and the series had given calypsonians a prominence which had been lacking. “We are very thankful and grateful, I mean if this is just part of what is going to happen, we are on the way to success, definitely,” he said. For most of Lovelace’s discourse Sparrow was absent but as Relator began singing Carnival Woman, he entered the amphitheatre singing his popular hit.
Although there was a technical hiccup with the microphone, Sparrow did not let that deter him as he sang over the thunderous applause of the audience, who rose to their feet to welcome him.
He treated students to his mega hit Congo Man and the auditorium erupted in cheers as they sang along with Sparrow. After the lecture he was mobbed by eager students who clamoured for his autograph and photos with him. He sang his advice to the young students, the opening verse of Education. “Children go to school and learn well, otherwise later on in life you will ketch real hell. Without an education in your head your whole life will be misery, you better look well. For there is simply no room in this whole wide world for an uneducated little boy or girl. Doh follow idle companions or you will get burn to earn, to earn you got to learn,” he sang. Sparrow assured his health is in good stead as he told students: “Don’t mind I am walking with a cane, I am still the king.”
Lovelace, in his hour-long “performance lecture”, hailed Sparrow as the hero of the lower class whose music showed T&T the reality of its society. He said Sparrow’s purpose in calypso was “anointed” because when he stood up against the Carnival committee in the late 1950s over the “50 cents” prize money he became the voice of the downtrodden — the panmen and the calypsonians — all of whom had become part of the “jammette” class he referred to in his music. “Sparrow has been our chantwell and the expression of our confidence, swagger, irreverence and hard work,” Lovelace contended. He said Sparrow’s contribution to the T&T identity and masculinity of the black man in the post-independence era made him a giant among many. Sparrow’s lyrical prowess made him the Anansi of T&T, a “master trickster,” who could be both a hero and a villain and he used his music to reflect the reality of society as he saw it.