To commemorate the 43rd anniversary of the death of calypso icon Cecil “Maestro” on August 31, 1977 and, to remember his contribution as one of the two artistes accredited with being responsible for the birth of soca music in T&T, members of the South Central Island Production (SCIP) have reconstructed his tomb at Princes Town in his honour and memory. If Hume was alive today he would have been 81-years-old.
Back in 1977, Hume’s Bionic Man was released shortly after his untimely death and to defy the rumuors that his death was his premonition fellow calypsonian and Chairperson of SCIP Carey “Kinte” Stephens disputed the rumour, and said the song was based on another reality event.
In the opening lines of the song Maestro sang, “Ah car crash, Ah harsh lash, everybody say man done. Ah news flash, severe smash, one more calypsonian gone. Scientist from a foreign country sat and plan to turn me into ah bionic man. De doctor ask meh mudda wah she crying for, they brining me back better than before…”
Stephens said: “That said year, Maestro had a freak accident, colliding into a bridge in Port-of-Spain, and in the (calypso) tent all thought it was a dangerous one. He hit a bridge on his way to the tent. With the accident, and Steve Austin being popular on TV, Maestro did the song on a movie. He did the song as him as the Bionic Man. Most of his songs was based on TV shows. The song was supposed to be released after he come back from New York; that album was supposed to be a template for the soca music. It was a template of what soca was supposed to be. Because of his death, they just rush ahead and released the song on the album.”
Hume, on August 31, succumbed to his injuries after a vehicle struck him as he attempted to help someone he knew that stalled on the highway on the night of August 30 that same year. Stephens who idolised Hume as a “brother,” having met the composer/calypsonian in 1969, said it was befitting to modify the tomb at the cemetery of Holy Cross Roman Catholic Church, in Princess Town, “because of his rich contribution to culture in T&T.”
Stephens said the tomb, modified by fellow calypsonian Terry Marcel, was done in tiles and designed to ward-off people from occupying the space for their own personal uses. Through fund-raisers and cake sales, and calypso shows, the SCIP group managed to raise the money that concluded the $9,000 tomb restoration. He said this it’s works like this that SCIP liked to do for fallen calypsonians and someday partner with the Tourism Ministry to be treated as national landmarks.
He said Hume began singing in the 1960s and churned out hits like Savage, Tantie, Knock Dem Down, Rampage, Melee, and Gold. He said before that, he remembered Hume would sit with Garfield (Ras Shorty I) Blackman and both would interchange a guitar to synthesize melodies of which Blackman had mastered the East Indian rhythm and Hume for the soca aspect without the “boom, boom base.”
Stephens said: “Maestro have no boom, boom soca. Most of Maestro soca have a distinct bass line, separate and apart from the boom, boom. And it has no Soca Chutney by Maestro. Soca was given birth through Maestro and Shorty. That East Indian rhythm is Shorty thing because he grew up in Lengua. Attributed to Maestro is the soca aspect without the boom, boom, and with the American style music.
When you listen to Maestro soca, you hearing instruments that you hear in American songs, like Share and Over Yonder, he have some reggae songs to, liuke Doh Call Them Names.”
Maestro’s smash hit single Gold, arranged by Pelham Goddard, however, hoisted the red, white and black flag in tribute of Hasely Crawford winning the 100-meter race and securing gold in the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
A collaboration of entertainers, including Duane O’Connor, Rikki Jai, Machel Montano, and Karene Asche also covered Gold in 2012, and modified the lyrics to honour Keshorn Walcott for winning the javelin gold medal in the London Olympics.
The following year, steelbands like Exodus, Buccooneers, Supernovas, Tamana Pioneers, Tokyo and West Stars chose the reworked Gold as their tune of choice for the 2013 National Panorama competition.
Not unlike the late Lord Kitchener, Maestro too had an indelible hand in the steelband movement. His brother Keith Jones, 65, was in high praise of the restoration of his brother’s tomb, as he remembered being “tapped behind his head,” when Hume found him unsupervised at a pan yard. Jones said Hume would tap him for running away to play pan but he would applaud the initiative with cherished the memories of his brother.
Jones said his favorite song by Maestro was Just Don’t Live and Die. He said the song is like an obituary to sum up the way the calypsonian lived. “I appreciate this (restoration) very much,” said Jones. “All in all, for the benefit of our family and the man who he was; it is greatly appreciated that something like this was done. No one has taken the time to do anything like this. This is the first time and it will be cherished as long as I am around.
“Just Don’t Live and Die is one of my favorite songs. Because you listen to the words, if you had encounter the life of the individual, he lived it; everything he said in the song is what he portrayed in his life,” Jones said.
It is appropriate to remember late calypsonian Maestro as World Steelband Month ends today, as like many other calypsonians, he had a hand in the steelband movement.
Maestro’s father lived at Ste Madeline, and his mother at Princes Town. When he left Ste Madeline for Princes Town, his involvement with the [steelband] movement came to pass. In Princes Town, he formed the band Freetown; for which he was the tuner and arranger. Maestro arranged for Free French, one of the oldest bands in San Fernando, in 1960; and he was also associated with True Tones of Princes Town.
At the Steelband Music Festival in 1968, Maestro arranged the tune Concert Hall for True Tones. They came second to Desperadoes; whose interpretation was arranged by Anthony Prospect. Concert Hall was Maestro’s first 45 [record]; and [on] the reverse side, Great Inventions was a tribute to Ivory and Steel.
Maestro himself wrote the tune Tempo in 1975; which was a tribute to the steelband movement in which he commented on the lack of tenor... [arrangements] in their Panorama [performances].
Pan and calypso go hand in hand and Maestro surely solidified this in his contribution to both.