The Mighty Sparrow honored in Toronto

The Mighty Sparrow aka Slinger Francisco is alive and well.

Francisco opened his show at the Ontario Science Centre with one of his classics "Sparrow Dead."

While the Calypso King of the World has slowed down — he did sit down at times during his performance — he still has a lot in the tank.

Besides his classic calypsos, he found time to croon "Only a Fool Breaks His Own Heart' and "My Way."

C.L.R. James observed that had Sparrow ended up in the United States he could have made it in the R&B arena. 

Sparrow performed along with Sean Sutherland, E.B. John, Jay Douglas and Syl and McIntosh.

The production company Homegrown presented "Vintage a Tribute to the Mighty Sparrow and Frankie McIntosh."

McIntosh, who was born in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is a gifted musician who has worked extensively with artists throughout the Caribbean such as Kitchener, Black Stalin, Baron, Hopeton Lewis and of course the Mighty Sparrow.

The show was produced by Raymond England with assistance from Garnet Neblette, Jean Sheen and Raf Ollivierre.

The award was presented by CHIN radio personality Jai Ojah Maharaj and Trindidad and Tobago's, Consul General  Michael Glenn-Art Lashley.

Recently, former Toronto resident Odimumba Kwamdela (J. Ashton Brathwaite) wrote a book, "Mighty Sparrow: Calypso King of the World." Sparrow was kind enough to sign my copy.

The author included the following blurb by yours truly.

"Until I left my native Los Angeles in the 1970s and settled in Toronto among many Caribbean black folks, I knew little about The Mighty Sparrow, little more about calypso, nothing about J. Ashton Brathwaite (who later would be Odimumba Kwamdela) whose writings I keep up with….I also became familiar with the genius of Sparrow."  

Sparrow's classic critique of Capitalism, "Capitalism Gone Mad," has been included in the volume, Los Poetas del Caribe: Antología. This volume was put together by Dr. Keith Ellis.

I have always loved Sparrow's political commentary even though I have not always supported his point of view. 

I loved his anti-apartheid songs and respected him for refusing to perform in that pariah state.

I had the pleasure of presenting him with an award for his correct stand on South Africa. 

I did this as a member of the Biko-Rodney-Malcolm Coalition (BRMC).

The BRMC was a broad coalition of organizations and individuals in Toronto that did work around the cultural boycott of South Africa.

The BRMC was formed in 1983. The group gave awards to artists who refused lucrative offers to perform in South Africa.

The Mighty Sparrow was one of the artists who were rewarded.

The BRMC also rewarded Gil Scott-Heron, Linton Kwesi Johnson, Bobby Womack, David Ruffin, Eddie Kendricks, Dan Hill, Ann Mortifee, Four The Moment, Phyllis Hyman, Third World, Eddie Grant, UB40, Steel Pulse, Holly Near, Sweet Honey in the Rock, Randy Weston, Roy Ayers, The Commodores, Kool and the Gang and Gladys Knight and The Pips.

The idea to award artists was inspired by Roberta Flack who turned down $2.5 million to perform in Sun City.

The Grenadian-born Sparrow has found himself on the right side of history on the question of South Africa.

Norman (Otis) Richmond aka Jalali is the producer/host of Saturday Morning LIve (SML), Diasporic Music on CKLN-FM and Diasporic Music on Uhuru Radio. SML can be heard every Saturday from 10am to 1pm. Diasporic Music on CKLN every last Thursday 8pm to 10pm


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