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Spotlight – Calypso Icon, Swallow

Swallow regards accolades like his induction into the Sunshine Hall of Fame, national honours, spots on Calypso and Soca “Best of the Century” lists, and now the International Soca Award as “a kind of inspiration (to) go ahead.”

That said; he’s pleased as punch about the recognition. It shows that people appreciate the work.

And it’s quite a body of work. He has netted four Calypso Monarch crowns – 1973, 1977, 1978, 1985 – and five Road March wins – ’72, ’73, ’75, ’83, ’84. But his legend is greater than the number of crowns thanks to enduring tracks like Satan, Party in Space, March for Freedom, Dawn of a New Day, Subway Jam, and Man to Man to name a few.

This is excerpted from a piece I did for the Antigua Observer in August 2010 as Rupert ‘Philo’ Swallow prepared to receive his Lifetime Achievement Award from the Soca Award Organization. Read the entire article, here.

Here’s an earlier piece (written after he made the Sunshine Music Hall of Fame) written sometime in 2008 and re-posted here, just because. Remember the site rules and do not repost either piece without permission:

By Joanne C. Hillhouse

It was inevitable that Swallow would join his brethren, amongAntigua’s calypso trinity, in the Caribbean Sunshine Awards Hall of Fame. That time has come. Rupert Philo is one of four 2008 nominees to the Hall of Fame making him only the third Antiguan to be so honoured. Short Shirt was first in 2002 and Obstinate followed in 2004 in a category overwhelmingly dominated by Trinidad artistes such as Sparrow,Kitchener, Black Stalin, Lord Nelson and Roaring Lion.

Like these, the Big Three are, of course, legends here in Wadadli; and the case could be made that the international accolade is long over due. Certainly, Swallow has paid his dues racking up Calypso Monarch winner after winner from 1973’s March for Freedom and Push Ya Push Dey to 1977’s Dawn of a New Day and Jam Dem Back, 1978’s One Love One Hope One Destiny and Win’ing, to 1985’s All is Not Lost and Tung Mash Dung. Then there are the line up of road march wins; 1972’s Pow Pow, 1973’s, Push Ya Push Dey, 1975’s Shake and Break Yuh Bam Bam, 1983’s Party in Space, and 1984’s Satan. Other hits are indelible parts of the Caribbean soca canon such as SubwayJam.

Announcing his elevation to the Hall of Fame, the Sunshine Awards committee, in a press release, stated, “With his style of lyrically-strong soca songs, he has made such a mark on calypso that no show featuring calypsonians in Antigua or abroad can be considered complete without the appearance of King Swallow.”

Still flashy and agile, Swallow remains a much-in-demand artiste and calypso ambassador; and as the revived rivalry with King Short Shirt, in time for 2007’s Caribbean Calypso Competition, demonstrates, he remains one of the great showmen and humorists of the art form.

This is not the first honour for the soca elder, far from it. Highlights include an ISA Legend award in 2006 and designation as one of the Top 50 Calypsonians of the 20th Century by Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organization. Also, he’s been honoured at home, with, for one, the Grand Cross of the Most Illustrious Order of Princely Heritage.

It’s noteworthy that this is not the first Sunshine win for the man often referred to as the Soca King of the World. In the Sunshine competitive categories, he won Calypso of the Year and Best Party Calypso in1989 for Fire in de Backseat, and Best Political Commentary for 1997’s CDC.

The Hall of Fame announcement, however, is another level of recognition. As co-founder of the Hall of Fame, Dr. Hollis ‘Chalkdust’Liverpoolstated in a release, “We do this with a sense of duty, knowing that those whom we nominate to the SUNSHINE Awards Hall of Fame are men and women who paved the way for many of us. We take extra pleasure from the fact that many of our past bards initiated into the SUNSHINE Awards Hall of Fame are only remembered by the rest of the society because they are honored by SUNSHINE Awards.”

The other Hall of Fame nominees are late legendary Trinidad pannist Belgrave Bonaparte, another pan innovator from the land of the hummingbird John Ernesto Ferreira, and calypsonian and calypso activist Robert ‘the Mighty Skipper’ Stafford.

Also announced via release were several 2008 honorees: Emmy and Image Award nominated actress CCH Pounder, a Guyanese, known for her outstanding work in TV films like Common Ground and TV shows like L. A. Law, E.R., and The Shield; music educator Lauren Ramdhanny, who’s made outstanding contributions to the Spice Isle’s music education programme; friend of the arts Holly Betaudier, a Trini; Ivory Coast dancer Mamadou Dahoué; soca chutney artiste  Sundar Popo; Vincentian calypsonian Quinyn ‘Toiler’ Joseph; Ugandan businessman and philanthropist Habib Kagimu; Trinidad ‘Master Artiste and National Treasurer’; LeRoy Clarke; and well-known Jamaican entertainer Oliver Samuel. In announcing the honorees, Sunshine Founder Gil Figaro said, “These great men and women for whom the SUNSHINE Awards was conceived and developed have, through the years, brought joy to our lives and made significant contributions to the development of the various Caribbean  and South American art forms — the art forms that connect us to our cultural heritage”. It’s not clear if there will be competitive categories in 2008; there was none last year.

The black tie Awards are scheduled for October 25th inNew York.

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