A veritable Who’s Who of the political elite and other leaders in the Caribbean American community are expected to turn out for a gala salute to two iconic figures of Caribbean culture, the Mighty Sparrow and Calypso Rose, who will be honored at a “Tribute to Calypso Royalty” to be hosted by Tropical Paradise Ballroom in Brooklyn, Saturday evening, May 21.
“We never had to think too much about this before committing to it,” said Dave Gayle, owner-operator of Tropical Paradise Ballroom. “Once you consider what these two legendary artists have contributed both within the Caribbean diaspora and outside of it, there was no hesitation about arranging this special recognition event for them.”
“Tribute to Calypso Royalty” affords an opportunity for dignitaries as well as members of the general public to record their appreciation to Sparrow and Rose. The dinner event will consist of special citations to the honorees from various elected officials and community leaders, in addition to entertainment that will include brief turns by the two calypso stalwarts doing what they have done to such enduring perfection over the years.
Between Sparrow and Rose the aggregate of time spent in the calypso trenches has been quite formidable. Sparrow (Slinger Francisco) began composing and performing while still in his teens and was not yet 21 when he made his big breakthrough in 1956, winning the calypso crown and road march for that year’s Trinidad and Tobago Carnival with the immortal “Jean and Dinah.” Zooming almost instantly to the top of the calypso world, he maintained that position with a towering laundry list of popular hits and commanding stage presence that have been clearly unmatched in the field. In all, he won the Trinidad and Tobago calypso monarch title eight times and was also eight times the road march champ. His numerous honors and awards include an Honorary Doctorate of Letters from the University of the West Indies.
Tobago-born Rose (McArtha Lewis) relocated to Trinidad in the early 60s to try to make her way in the calypso arena. It wasn’t long before she came up with a composition that has remained one of her signature tunes and a calypso evergreen, “Fire Fire.”
Perhaps an even more significant contribution than the several notable hits she has introduced over her career is the inspiration she has been for the women who would follow her into the male-dominated calypso ranks. She made history in 1978, becoming the first female calypso monarch, and was twice the road march winner. A much traveled ambassador for the art form, Rose was awarded the Hummingbird Medal by the government of Trinidad and Tobago in 2000.
Also in attendance for the “Tribute to Calypso Royalty” will be the Sunshine Band, with Ian “The Goose” Eligon as M.C. and the deejay sounds of Madman Maddy. The event gets underway at 7:00 p.m. A full-course dinner is included in the advance ticket price. Tickets are available at Tropical Paradise Restaurant (Utica Avenue & Avenue D) and other neighborhood outlets.
Tropical Paradise Ballroom is located at 1367 Utica Avenue (between Foster & Farragut), Brooklyn.