Sparrow Challenges Radio Deejays

Hardbeatnews, NEW YORK, N.Y., Fri. Sept. 30, 2005: Infamous calypsonian, The Mighty Sparrow, may be known for popular calypsos like ‘Jean & Dinah.’ But while Sparrow has written many other social commentaries since, few know about them. The main reason he says is that radio deejays are largely ignoring the more serious calypsos and giving airplay instead to the ‘jump & wave’ soca favorites.

The 70-year-old Dr. Slinger Francisco, known more popularly as the Mighty Sparrow, told HBN recently that while authentic calypso, the slant in airplay being given on Caribbean radio stations, “one would think calypso was no longer around.”

The New York resident says from where he sits, radio deejays seem to feel “they’ll get more appreciation from the public by playing the jump-up music.”

“There’s a tremendous slant towards party-type songs,” he said, but added that there’s street revelry music and serious calypso and the two can be played together.

His comments come as Caribbean music begins to experience as cross-over success in the U.S. that has largely been elusive, since the likes of Bob Marley.

But since Shaggy’s overwhelming success on the cross-over American scene, many Caribbean artists have been signed by top labels, including Virgin, and achieved the same cross-over triumph.

Among them are Sean Paul, whose first album, ‘Dutty Rock,’ went platinum six times, along with St. Vincent’s Kevin Lyttle and Barbados’ Rupee.
But in all of their songs, the common theme is the ‘jump and wave’ or hardcore dancehall, booty-shaking rhythm. Calypso, as a musical genre, remains largely ignored.

It’s a fact that saddens the famous calypsonian, who feels that while many musicians “can make serious point in articulate and profound ways, they prefer not to touch it” since it’s seemingly not marketable anymore.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Kaara Baptiste contributed to this story. –