Commentry: Open Letter to Trinidad & Tobago Govt.

Sparrow “Enough Awards, Cash Reward For his Service”

By Carlton Joseph

A few weeks ago, I spoke with the “Mighty Sparrow” he is recuperating from his recent illness and is in therapy everyday, he is doing great and I look forward to him having a good many years ahead of him. Since he has many years ahead of him, I believe that it is time that the government of Trinidad and Tobago rewards him for being the unofficial ambassador to the world from Trinbago. No artiste has done more than he to promote T&T both nationally and internationally.

Over the years, I have watched as promoters use Sparrow to maximize their own profit while paying him small appearance fees. They have had “Sparrow Awards” programs for the past 30 years, verbalizing his praise and giving him trophies and plaques. If these things could be converted into cash he would truly be a “US Multimillionaire”. But the awards are not convertible, so they sit gathering dust in a room in his house in Trinidad and in the homes of some of his friends.

The Mighty Sparrow
The Mighty Sparrow

Meanwhile, Sparrow, and other artistes who laboured in their time to create the future that Machel, Bungi, Fay Anne and others enjoy, have never been adequately rewarded for their pioneering efforts.

Sparrow recently recalled that when he won the Calypso Monarch title in 1956 the prize was a cardboard crown, $50.00 and the Angostura cup. In 1957 he and other artists like “Lord Superior” boycotted the Calypso Monarch competition fighting for better conditions for the calypsonian. He sang: “ They could preach Peter or Paul Ah wouldn’t go savannah to see football . . Ah will keep mi calypso on the shelf Let them keep the prize in savannah for they own self Let the queen run the show Without steel band or calypso Who want to go could go out dey But me ain’t going no way”

The following year 1958 the prize was $1,500.00, the Angostura cup and the cardboard crown was upgraded to brass. Sparrow was singlehandedly responsible for improving the lot of the calypsonian and demanding respect for the art form but his contribution has not brought him the personal financial reward his contribution deserves.

In 2011 the government awarded prize money of $2 million each for Soca Monarch, Calypso Monarch and Chutney Monarch. In 2012 the awards were $1 million each for the same competitions. Brian Lara (Cricketer), Soca Warriors (Soccer), Keshawn Walcott (Olympic gold medalist) received house and land, cash and other gifts. I have no problem with these individuals receiving cash rewards for making their country proud, but I believe that the Mighty Sparrow has also made us proud over the past 50 years, more years than each of these individuals have lived. He and many of the old artistes who have fought to bring dignity to this genre deserves cash awards for their contributions.

If we are to be guided by recent trends, Sparrow deserves a cash award of at least $2 million. He deserves it because he has promoted T&T all over the world and has never received cash reward for successfully marketing our country. In fact, I had a long conversation with BB King some years ago and he intimated that he thought that at that time Sparrow was one of the greatest artists on the world stage. Sparrow entertained us and promoted our country over the years but now he needs the country to support him.

Recently, Sparrow emerged from in a coma, which had immobilized him for about three weeks. Since then he has been in therapy every day. Health care in the US is expensive and he will have to receive ongoing care. His insurance will not cover all of these expenses.

Although his health is failing, Sparrow is compelled to work as agent for his brand, and is forced to continue to perform to keep the wolf from the door. It is beneath his dignity to go cap in hand to anyone as long as he can muster enough strength to perform and earn enough to pay his medical and living expenses.

Sunshine, the bandleader, informed me that Sparrow was going to perform during the third week of January 2014.

That is Sparrow, too busy doing what he loves and thinking that youth is in his favour to understand that he needs rest in order to fully recuperate. The situation reminds me of an old boxing champion going back into the ring because he needs the money and being mercilessly beaten by a young fighter.

I believe that the Mighty Sparrow has earned the right to live the rest of his life in dignity not having to depend on token performances to eek out an existence. A cash award of TT $2 million will go a long way to making that possible.

I implore the government of Trinidad accede to my request to mark the fifty-sixyear contribution that the Mighty Sparrow has made to this nation locally and internationally by granting him a two million dollar reward for his effort. Carlton Joseph, Maryland, USA