Tag Archives: Swallow

Over the Boundary: the High Flying Swallow, King of the Road

This is a throwback to an article I did for the Calypso Association 50th anniversary magazine in 2007. In the interest of increasing awareness of the accomplishments of some of Antigua and Barbuda’s iconic calypsonians and increasing appreciation for the art form, I figured I would share some of that issue with you. This particular article looked at a quartet of repeat-repeat-repeat winners. in this post, I’ll share the section of that article focused on Swallow (as it ran, so some of the info will be dated). The first excerpt from this article focused on Queen Ivena and the second excerpt was King Onyan’s. DO NOT repost without permission or credit.

Listing his ‘Subway Jam’ (1981), among “5 More Small Island Classics” insultingly lumped together – with Short Shirt’s ‘Tourist Leggo’ and Burning Flames’ ‘Workey Workey’ – for a passing mention in its 2004 countdown of the region’s 250 best songs, Caribbean Beat magazine wrote: “(Swallow is) best known for his infectious melodies and catchy hooks.” This combination, married to a flashy onstage persona, energy-cyarn-done, and a mellifluous voice have yielded party classics like Road March titleholders ‘Pow Pow’ (1972), ‘Push Ya Push Dey’ (1973), ‘Shake and Break You Bam Bam’ (1975), ‘Party in Space’ (1983), and ‘Satan’ (1984). Not to mention the likes of crowd pleasers ‘Rude Bwoy Jam’ and ‘Fire in de Back Seat’.

Nineteen seventy-three was a particularly stellar year for Rupert Philo, with Monarch, Road March, and Caribbean King victories.

With collaborations like ‘Higher’ with Dread and the Baldhead and the remake of ‘Don’ Stop Dis Party’ with King Edimelo, Swallow hasn’t missed a dance step since his competition days.

He’s worn the Monarch crown four times – 1973, 1977, 1978, and 1985 – a figure that perhaps fails to capture the excitement of the intense rivalry between he and Short Shirt, and later Obstinate between the 1970s and early 1980s. But tunes like  his ‘The King Can Go’ bear witness:

“Since ah put the beating on yuh Shorty boy yuh shrink
Yuh pants can’t fit you
And now yuh eyeballs sink
Soon from now Dr. Weisenger or Straffie
Go get yuh case
So, man, Shorty, keep yuhself in yuh place.”

Of course, the rivalry only made the victories sweeter, as he told the Antigua Sun in 1998. “Whenever I win is a joy, because is a battle well fought,” he said. “I used to like the rivalry. As I always say, Short Shirt is one of the persons responsible for my elevation in Calypso.”

That elevation is not only local, as Swallow not only has Sunshine Awards wins and various other international accolades to his credit, he’s also made history as the first Calypsonian to sing at New York’s famed Apollo and at Radio City Music Hall. A stellar year, among his various years as a nominee at New York-based Sunshine Awards, meanwhile, is 1989. That year, he was adjudged winner in three of four nominated categories – including best Calypso of the year.

Though Swallow always knows how to get the party started, undeniable is the impact of more sober tunes like his 1973 winner ‘March for Freedom’ about the Liberation Day Parade and ‘Man to Man’, which he once described as his best crafted Calypso.  “Just saying it, I get goosebumps,” he was quoted as saying in the Sun in 1998. “I feel into ‘Man to Man’ so much because it was facts.”

“If we see we brother falling in de gutter
We find the meanest way to push him further
Instead of lend a hand help we brother man
We left him dey to die in suffocation…”

This, and songs like ‘Dawn of a New Day’ and ‘Children of a Universe’ have helped cement him in the national psyche; and elevated the high flying Swallow among the greats of the art form. The most recent recognition of this came in 2007 when he was honoured by the National Action Cultural Committee of Trinidad for his contribution to the development of the art form. He’s earned the right to affirm, as he did in the article announcing this latest accolade, that “I’m the baddest thing since the wheel when it comes to Calypso and don’t talk about soca”.  He’s after all a charter member among The Big Three of Antiguan Calypso.

FYI, here’s a short cut to some other calypso related links on the site: this is a report from the launch of the book on the Monarch King Short Shirt by veteran calypso writer – Dorbrene O’Marde; an article on that book being short listed for the regional Bocas prize and why it matters; an article on Antigua’s King of the Road – Swallow; an article on Marcus Christopher – the late great calypso writer and key figure in the development of the art form and of Carnival locally; a piece on pre calypso pioneer Quarko; an article on Short Shirt’s documentarian and the birth of his film; a piece on Short Shirt’s 50th; the site’s evolving songwriters’ data base – dominated by, you guessed it, calypso writers; an article on King Obstinate; a reflection on Latumba; a review of Dorbrene’s book by D. Gisele Isaac; a video retrospective – King Obstinate; an article on bandleader and key figure in the development of the art form – Oscar Mason; Lesroy Merchant was, among other things, a calypso writer – we remembered him here on the site when he passed; Short Shirt article; my review of his classic Ghetto Vibes album

As with all content (words, images, other) on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight,  Fish Outta Water, Oh Gad!, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about WadadliPen and my books. You can also subscribe to and/or follow the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks. And remember while linking and sharing the links, referencing and excerpting, with credit, are okay, lifting whole content (articles,  images, other) from the site without asking is not cool. And using any creative work without crediting the creator will open you up to legal action. Respect copyright.


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Antiguan and Barbudan song writers

The cover of the Calypso Association 50th anniversary magazine on which I had the privilege of working as editor.

As with the playwrights and screenwriters, the listing of Calypso song writers may will take a good long while, building sloooowly over time as I gather information and as I find time to upload the information I already have. Part of the challenge is that while we know the names of the artistes, the writers often exist somewhere in the wings, out of the spotlight (sometimes deliberately so). Often, even today, there are no liner notes (a pet peeve of mine since well-written liner notes enhance the listening experience for me). So, more than any of my lists, this one promises to be a challenge. In a number of cases, I’m not 100% sure about the songwriting credits (so if anyone knows, for sure – i.e. with proof, please email wadadlipen@yahoo.com). I think Antigua and Barbuda has produced some classic calypsos (and noteworthy songs in other genres) and they dripped from somebody’s pen; and those guys and gals deserve a bit of the spotlight, wouldn’t you say?

Davidson ‘Bankers’ Benjamin – Bankers’ popular tracks include ‘Me D Ras’ and ‘Fire go bun Dem’ which won him the Antigua Calypso Monarch crown in 1996. He’s also popular for the songs he did with Dread and the Baldhead (‘Motorbike’, ‘Do You wanna rock some more’ etc.) in the 1990s and for songs like ‘Pulling Me’ on the Sweetest Mango [film] soundtrack.

Boasta (Tario Philip)Old Time Something (2015).

Muerah ‘Mighty Artist’ Bodie His calypsos are known for their double entendre (read: alternate lewd interpretation), earning the most humorous prize in competition a time or two. His songs include ‘Vitamins and Iron’, ‘Tarpan Tone Up’, ‘Woman Working Under Man’, ‘Me Ole Wife’, ‘Pot Hole’, ‘Business Dead’, ‘Clap You Tongue’, and others. He’s been singing since 1972.

Marcus Christopher– over 300 calypsos written: incuding several which won the Calypso Monarch competition like Short Shirt’s Carnival on the Moon (1969), Beatles MBE (1965), No Place Like Home (1964)  and Heritage (1964), Technical School (1971), Black Like Me (1971); Zemakai’s Tribute to Radio Antigua and Fidel Castro (1961); King Canary’s Gem of the Caribbean and Slapping Hands (1960) and Island People Names and Immigration Bill (1962). Also many that while not winners are memorable, such as Short Shirt’s Parasites (1963) and Anguilla Crisis (1969) and Sleepy’s Under the Carpet. Christopher died in 2015.

Toriano ‘Onyan’ Edwards – One fourth of the original groundbreaking Antiguan jam/soca band Burning Flames and later a solo act and four time calypso monarch (1997, 1998, 1999, 2000); Onyan has attracted controversy for lyrics deemed offensive by some (I for instance wrote an article critical of 2012’s Kick een she back doh – loved by fans who assured it the road march win, and decried by women’s groups) and not for the first time; anyone remember such classics as Man fu Whorehouse and Baby Food off the Baby Food album? But with songs like Crazy Man, Old Fire Stick, Life in the Ghetto, Nice and Slow and even the named controversial songs he remains  a crowd favourite and road march winner.

Mclean ‘Short Shirt’ Emmanuel – The Calypso Hall of Famer is celebrated as The Monarch (subject of the documentary film The Making of the Monarch  and of the book Nobody Go Run Me – long-listed for the 2015 Bocas prize) as the 15 time Calypso Monarch (’64, ’65, ’66, ’69, ’70, ’72, ’74, ’75, ’76, ’79, ’80, ’86, ’87, ’88, ’92) of Antigua and Barbuda; in addition to being a multiple title holder in both the Road March and Caribbean Calypso King categories. Check out this article on his 1976 album, Feeling the Ghetto Vibes. Also scroll down for the Shelly Tobitt entry.

Fd – The official pseudonym of a songwriter who provided evidence of his contribution to Antiguan calypso (as I hope other songwriters will do so that I can continue to build this data base). Those contributions include social commentaries  –  ‘True Antiguan’ (2011), ‘Forward Together’, ‘Share The Honey’ (1992), ‘Heaven Help Mankind’ (1993), ‘How Could I Sit Back’, ‘Tell The Truth’; and party tunes – ‘Push Back You Bam Bam/Jennifer’ (1987), ‘Taste The Honey/Taste It’ (2011), ‘After Midnight’ (1983), ‘Get It Up’, ‘Champion’ (1987) & ‘Angela’ (1987) – all performed by King Short Shirt. Other Fd songs: The Party, Give me a Beer, Rolling Back, That’s How I Like It’, ‘Wire Waist’, ‘Stay out of Politics’, ’25 Years’, ‘Good Advice’, ‘Love Me Up’, ‘Shake de Booty’, ‘Push Wood’, ‘Selfish Man’ (1983), and ‘Rub Your Body (1983)’.

Stanley Humphreys – a frequent Short Shirt collaborator beginning with 1980s Summer Festival album, continuing wtih 1981’s Dance with Me Album including songs like Nationalism and We have got to Change, and ongoing; also in 1981 Pledge (as confirmed by the artiste himself).

Joseph ‘Calypso Joe’ Hunte – His classic “Bum Bum” became, in 1970, the first homegrown winner of the Antigua and Barbuda calypso road march title. Other well known tracks composed and (I believe) written by Joe include: 1971’s ‘Educate the Youths’ and ‘Recorded in History’ with which he won the Calypso Monarch crown;   ‘War’, ‘A Nation to Build, A Country to Mould’, and 1972’s ‘Life of a Negro Boy’.

Tameka Jarvis-George is a novelist and poet who continues to cross boundaries by mixing genres such as when she converted her poem Dinner into a short film of the same name. Her lyrics for Naki’s Talking in Tongues on the Tin Pan Riddim is another example.

Oglivier ‘Destroyer’ Jacobs  has written for both himself and his son Leston ‘Young Destroyer’ Jacobs. Destroyer Sr. has never won the crown, though he came close in 1971 and 1989 winning the first runner-up spot. His written songs include 1967’s ‘Bring Back the Cat-o-Nine’, 1989’s ‘Discrimination’ and ‘Message from Gorkie’, ‘Back of de Bus’ (sung by his son and winner of best social commentary in 2006),

Accepting a National Vibes Star Project Award

‘Woodpecker Sarah’, ‘Jail Cart’, ‘Country Running Good’, ‘All Fool’s Day’, ‘Beg Georgie Pardon’, ‘Ah Wha Me Do You’, ‘Can’t Smile ‘Bout That’, ‘Ah Wonder Who Do Dis’, and many others.

King Zacari

Trevor ‘King Zacari’ King  (pictured above, performing)- The 1991 and 2001 monarch began writing for juniors in the early 1990s (e.g. The Zulu Will Rise Again performed by Pepperseed) before entering the arena with his own tracks among which can be counted Black Rights, Guilty of Being Black, Fine Ants (2001), Guilty as Charged etc.

Logiq (Vincent Pryce) – A rapper whose discography includes tracks like Sometimes, Intimidation, and All 4 Love.

Menace (Dennis Roberts)Old Time Something and Sand to the Beach (2015).

Kobla ‘Promise No Promises’ Mentor – This Guyana born singer-songwriter broke through in Antigua with his behind the scenes contributions (as co-writer) on the 2003 Wanski hit (More Gyal) before claiming the so/calypso spotlight the following year with hits like Can’t Stop My Carnival and Pon de Move; 2010’s Do Good,  2011’s Her Drums , and 2014’s Draw we out are among his more recent offerings.

Lesroy Merchant – His songwriting is referenced in this obituary/tribute but details of the specific songs remain elusive. RIP. ETA: “Lesie wrote mainly for Franco, as a matter of fact, it was Lesie who introduced me to Franco and tried to get me to write songs for him. I was very busy at that time hence Lesie wrote the songs for Franco and many times he would have me look at them and asked for my input. May he rest in peace.” – William Shelly Tobitt in the comments below the post ‘Press On’

Justin ‘JusBus’ Nation – He’s written and produced songs and remixes for many artistes including himself with his 2015 J. Nation CD (Vertigo, Hard Work, Sometimes I, Blasting Away etc.)

Dorbrene O’Marde – song listing requested. Dorbrene is also the publisher of Calypso Talk magazine and the author of the Short Shirt biography Nobody Go Run Me.

The Mighty Bottle (Percival Watts) – Fungi, Dive Dung Low, 10 Bag a Sugar.

Rupert ‘Littleman’ Pelle – Song listing requested but it is well known that he has been a prolific writer for artists like Lady Challenger (pictured).


Rupert ‘Swallow’ Philo – ‘Raphael Trujillo‘ (1961), Party in Space, Man to Man, Dawn of a New Day, We Marching, Subway Jam, One Hope One Love One Destiny, Don’t Stop this Party, Fire in De Backseat, and more as chronicled here. With Short Shirt and Obstinate, he is considered one of the big three of Antiguan calypso and a legend in his own right.


Quarkoo, circa 1942. (Museum of Antigua and Barbuda archival photo)

“The dominant form of popular music in Antigua [up to arouund 1950] was ‘Benna’. The main proponent at the time was a strolling minstrel John ‘Quarkoo’ Thomas.” – P. 20, King Short Shirt: Nobody Go Run Me by Dorbrene O’Marde. Listed among his songs – Maude Smell Donkey and 1924’s Man Mongoose, dog know your ways; 1943’s Yes, it is more than tongue can tell…

Sir Prince Ramsey is a family physician by profession, an HIV/AIDS activist by choosing, a calypso lyricist and producer by calling. He has produced more than 45 calypso albums and written over 100 songs since 1979 for artistes like King Obstinate, Rupert ‘Baba’ Blaize (‘In Antigua’), Onyan (‘Stand up for Antigua’ – 1998 Calypso Monarch winner), De Bear (‘My Allegiance’ – 2003 Calypso crown winner; and ‘Man is Nothing but Dust’ – 2007 Leeward Islands calypso competition winner), Zero (‘Protect Yourself’ – 2002 Calypso Monarch winner), De Empress (‘We don’t want it here’ and ‘Power of a Woman’ – 2000 Queen of Calypso crown winner), Blade (‘The Brink’ – 2008 Carnival Development Committee winner for best writer and best calypso), and others (about 50 artistes in all).

Paul ‘King Obstinate’ Richards – The Undefeated is the creator of such classic gems as 1980’s Believe, Children Melee, Always come back to You, Antigua’s True Heroes, Got a little Something  for  You, Coming down to Talk to You (1982), Hungry, Shiny Eyes, Who kill me Sister? (1985), I already Talk to you (1992), All of Self (1993), Ready to Go (1996), as well as Wet You Hand, Gold Rush, and Is Love a Love You.

King Obstinate

Shelly Tobitt – Arguably Antigua and Barbuda’s best songwriter in the calypso arena, especially at his height in the 1970s during his winning partnership with the country’s most lauded calypso icon The Monarch King Short Shirt. It’s important to define Shelly’s partnership with his cousin and frequent collaborator Short Shirt. “Shelly wrote, virtually everything. He also provided ‘base’ melodies. Short Shirt either fine-tuned the melodies or created new ones based on his singing abilities or his own melodic instincts and he helped shape musical arrangements. He also provided a grounding of Shelly’s lyrics. Shelly was the poet, prone to flights of fancy and fantasy. Short Shirt pulled him back, opting for the ghetto slang or the dialect expression in phrase or sentence.” – p. 81 – 82, Nobody Go Run Me by Dorbrene O’Marde. Among the songs they did together are Lamentation in 1973, Lucinda in 1974, Carnival ’76, Inspite of All, When, Tourist Leggo, Nobody Go Run Me (in fact the whole 1976 Ghetto Vibes album), Rock and Prance in 1977, Jammin and Gently on my Mind in 1978,  Press on the title track for an album that included songs like Viva Grenada  and What You Going to do in 1979, and HIV/AIDS and Fyah in 1988. Tobitt’s discography in progress, also, includes:  Latumba’s Culture Must be Free and Liberate Your Mind in 1979, Chalice’s Show Me Your Motion (1981), King Progress’ You getting it  (1984), Figgy’s Look what they’ve done to my song (1998), Benna (2011). ETA: “I am the writer and arranger of my works and provide everything needed to realize a complete production. Back then, before I could write the musical parts for the musicians I needed an arranger to do so, but it was my arrangements that they wrote. I sat with and instructed every arranger I worked with how I wanted the songs, and what rifts and motifs to write.” – William Shelly Tobitt in the comments section below the post ‘Press On’

Cuthbert ‘Best’ Williams

Cuthbert ‘Best’ Williams with Queen Ivena

has written winning tunes for Antiguan monarchs Smarty Jr. (who won the crown in 1993, 1994, 1995 with ‘Never Again’, ‘Role of the Calypsonians’, ‘What Black Power Means’, ‘Cry for Change’, ‘Draw the Line’ and ‘Follow the Leader’) and Ivena (who won the monarch crown 2003, 2004, 2005 with ‘Robin Hood in Reverse’, ‘Ivena’s Agenda’, ‘After Lester’, ‘Reparation for Africa’, ‘What Did Castro Say’, and ‘Don’t Pressure Me’; and the  Queen of Calypso crown in 2001 – 2005 with ‘Old Road Fight’, ‘Save Ms. Calypso’, ‘I’m Angry’, ‘Remember the Pledg’e, and the other named songs).

As with all content on wadadlipen.wordpress.com, except otherwise noted, this is written by Joanne C. Hillhouse (author of The Boy from Willow Bend, Dancing Nude in the Moonlight, Oh Gad!, Fish Outta Water, and Musical Youth). All Rights Reserved. Seriously, a lot of time, energy, love and frustration goes in to researching and creating content for this site; please don’t just take it up just so without even a please, thank you or an ah-fu-she-subben (credit). If you enjoyed it, check out my page on Amazon, WordPress, and/or Facebook, and help spread the word about Wadadli Pen and my books. You can also subscribe to the site to keep up with future updates. Thanks.

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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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