Keep practicing, Keep reading and be creative- The Mighty Sparrow tells Guyanese calypsonians
Calypso King of the World, the Mighty Sparrow, is undoubtedly one of the Caribbean’s beloved musical treasures. The cultural icon has performed all across the world, and even at age 81, continues to deliver memorable performances.
The Mighty Sparrow asserts that his life and journey with Calypso music has been a most fulfilling one.
Securing the Calypso King title in 1956, with the still enjoyable hit, “Jean and Dinah” was the beginning of the Mighty Sparrow’s successful and still vivacious career which spans over 40 years.
His celebrated music has transcended international barriers and paved the way for many Caribbean musicians to follow. The News Room managed to secure an interesting interview with this charismatic performer. Below is an extract of that dialogue.
The News Room (NR): What do you believe are the elements of an excellent Calypso piece?
The Mighty Sparrow (TMS): Well there is no one answer for that. Different calypso songs call for special elements. But I think Calypso songs shouldn’t have too much inside. Sometimes you want to work on just a few things. If your song is going to be about politics then don’t try to be funny and serious and ironic and all kinda things. Some calypsonians make that mistake. You can be effective by choosing one mood or tone for your song and stick to it. But all calypso songs should have a strong message… just make sure your song is witty and don’t be too obvious with everything. That spoils it.
NR: What is one tip you would give to our aspiring calypsonians?
TMS: I think Guyanese have all the tools you know. I have not heard the recent calypso music in Guyana but I used to follow it a lot in the days of Lord Canary. And so the young ones have good examples that they can follow and they have the right tools but it is all about practice. You could have all the tools but that ain’t mean you gon come out with a masterpiece all the time. So my advice would be to keep practicing and reading. Oh and be creative.
NR: Which do you enjoy the most, singing about Caribbean history, current affairs or love ballads?
TMS: I love singing about West Indian history and the unique stories that make us a Caribbean people you know. Like our food, our stories about the Obeah Man and how we would have a Caribbean kind of wedding. I just love singing about those things. I love ballads too. I am a lover (chuckles) but you have to be current you know. It is good to give commentary on what are some of the things happening in our society. I can’t choose one though (chuckles). I love them for different reasons.
NR: You have notable songs on West Indian history such as “Obeah Wedding” and “Witch Doctor”. Do you find that Calypso music reflective of folklore is not as prevalent?
TMS: I believe in my days there was a great appreciation for folklore because those stories are part of our Caribbean identity and back then the mood and thoughts about slavery and African superstitions were very much alive. People loved that, they were interested in hearing that. I think the Caribbean people still love to hear the commentary, even if it serious or funny on our culture like the obeah or the witch doctor. But times have changed. Some people love to hear that kind of music still but new things have come up and people would want to hear about that. But I still think that singing about our folklore is important. I believe Guyanese calypsonians should also remember to focus on their folklore. Be proud of it…Guyanese are just funny people. There is a lot of material they could use.
NR: In which country do you enjoy performing the most?
TMS: (Chuckles) Why you putting me on a spot? Man you know I love performing for the fans don’t matter where. But Guyana has a special place in my heart.