From today, calypso aficionados will be able to visit the Caribbean Wax Museum in Bridgetown, Barbados, to see a life-like wax figure of the Calypso King of the World, the Mighty Sparrow (Slinger Francisco).
It is only fitting that the man who was made an indelible mark on the cultural and musical landscape of T&T and the wider Caribbean should be immortalised. Here in T&T, the place he has called home for most of his 85 years, Sparrow’s statue holds a place of prominence at the St Ann’s Roundabout and is one of the significant landmarks around the Queen’s Park Savannah
In his birthplace in Grand Roy, Grenada, a plaque celebrates him as a son of the soil.
Now he gets to take his place among the many Caribbean icons featured at the region’s only wax museum. It is an honour well deserved, made more significant by the fact that the unveiling of the Sparrow wax figure is taking place on the penultimate day of Calypso History Month.
That fact was highlighted by Trinbago Unified Calypsonian Organisation (TUCO) president Brother Resistance (Lutalo Masimba) who said it fitted into this year’s theme—Calypso Beyond Boundaries and Borders.
However, the joy over this immortalization of the man who gave the world some of the greatest calypsos ever written is tempered by the fact that here, in the birthplace of that indigenous musical genre, there is not a place to go to see the history and development of the art form on display.
And as much as Mr Masimba and other stewards of this element of T&T’s culture might want to claim credit for keeping the music alive, they should be called to account for the absence of a Calypso Museum or Centre anywhere in this country.
Of course, the same question can be asked of the stakeholders of steelpan and mas, but calypso is the focus today because recently the world’s greatest private calypso collection was sold to a foreign government. It is not in T&T’s hands.
T&T-born George D Maharaj, a passionate calypso researcher and collector, had over many decades amassed a collection of more than 5000 original vinyl records as well as videos, photographs, posters, flyers and other historical memorabilia. It includes the oldest calypso recording done in 1912 and, quite naturally, the music of Sparrow and other legends of the art form.
But that priceless collection now resides in another country because successive T&T governments showed no interest in acquiring the collection. Mr Maharaj also offered to donate the collection to TUCO and the National Carnival Commission (NCC), but they showed no interest.
His many offers to help create a calypso museum were also ignored.
Like the National Carnival Centre—a project envisioned by the late Prime Minister Patrick Manning which never saw the light of day—this failure to acquire the George Maharaj collection exposes how little T&T culture is valued by the very people who should be protecting it.
A disappointing note on which to end the 18th edition of Calypso History Month. Just weeks after the passing of cultural icon Dennis “Sprangalang” Hall, the art form has suffered another loss.