T&T soca stars pay tribute to Mighty Swallow

The late Antiguan Calypso King, the Mighty Swallow.  ABS TV/Radio
The late Antiguan Calypso King, the Mighty Swallow.
ABS TV / Radio

Several Trinidad and Tobago soca stars have been paying tribute to the Antiguan Calypso King, the Mighty Swallow who passed away at his home in Antigua and Barbuda recently.

According to Loopnewscaribbean, among those paying tributes are Soca King Machel Montano, Bunji Garlin and Austin “Superblue” Lyons.

Montano posted on Instagram that Sir Rupert “King Swallow” Philo, was a great influence on his career, Loopnews said.

“The legendary Antiguan Calypso King was a mentor to us growing up and a great influence on my career,” Montano said. “As a teenager and bandleader of Pranasonic Expres, I remember his songs being a great part of our repertoire as they had heavy dominance in the music scene of Trinidad and

Tobago: ‘Fire in the Backseat’, ‘Wine on Something’ and, of course, ‘The man with the Pepper Sauce is Boss.”

“He was a friend and inspiration to us all, soft spoken and humble,” he added.

In his tribute, Bunji Garlin expressed condolences to the people of Antigua and Barbuda, according to Loopnews.

“Condolences to the family of legendary calypsonian King Swallow and such an important icon to the culture of the Caribbean,” Garlin said. “Solidarity with all of Antigua in this moment of the passing of an absolute gem of a talent.”

Lyons recalled the good times he spent with Swallow, according to Loopnews.

“I’m lost in words,” Lyons said. “Just last year, we were performing in Antigua together, laughing and having a good time.

“Condolences to your family, friends and fans,” he added. “King Swallow, you will always be remembered as a super star, Antigua icon.”

Swallow died after a prolonged illness, according to ABS Television/Radio. He was 78.

The Antigua and Barbuda national television and radio station said Swallow was one of the twin-island’s more “revered icons.”

“Sir Rupert ‘The Mighty Swallow’ Philo died peacefully surrounded by family at his home in Willikies,” it said.

ABS TV/Radio said that, after introducing himself to the calypso world with a social and political commentary called “Raphael Trujillo,” “the veteran of the artform never looked back.

“His many songs have not only earned him calypso crowns and road march titles but the respect of generations and some of the toughest critics of the artform the world over,” it said.

In Trinidad and Tobago, renowned as “the land of steel band and calypso,” ABS TV/Radio said Swallow was “a favorite, winning over audiences with a string of consistent hits, including ‘Fire in the Backseat’, ‘Subway Jam’, ‘Party in Space’ and ‘Satan Coming Down.’”

Swallow won his first calypso crown in Antigua and Barbuda in 1973 with “March for Freedom” and “Push Ya Push Dey”, and then again in 1978, 1979 and 1985, ABS TV/Radio said.

It said he was a dominant force on the soca scene, winning the road march title in Antigua and Barbuda five times and “dominating airwaves with many more of his endearing party songs.”

Sir Rupert was knighted by his country for his outstanding contribution to culture and the artform of calypso, ABS/TV Radio said, stating that it “will endeavor to honor his memory and his towering legacy” in its programming over the next few days until his burial.

The Trinbago Unified Calypsonians’ Organization (TUCO) said King Swallow was born on Feb. 14, 1942.

It said his singing talent was discovered at birth, “when his loud cry was noted by the midwife.”

“This baby is going to be a singer,” she proclaimed, according to TUCO.

“His friend Jerome Ramsey encouraged him during boyhood days, and his church served as a nurturing platform,” said TUCO, stating that Swallow began competing in the calypso art form when still a youth, in 1961.

TUO said his very first hit, “Raphael Trujillo,” “recalled the story of a dictator of the Dominican Republic whose maltreatment of migrant workers from Antigua and Barbuda was re-told upon their return home.”

By capturing their story in song, TUCO said Swallow “immortalized the phenomenon of the Antiguan and Barbudan migrant worker, while showing disgust for Latin dictators.”

“He called Trujillo ‘a wicked man,’” TUCO said. “He noted how he compelled migrant workers ‘to put every cent in Trujillo’s hand, before you leave the land.’”

TUCO said “Raphael Trujillo” calypso could be deemed “the birth of the political calypso in Antigua and Barbuda.”

King Swallow was awarded the Order of Merit (Gold) and the Grand Cross of Princely Heritage during terms of governance under the Antigua Labor Party Government.

“Each award was conferred in recognition of his sterling contribution to the calypso art form,” TUCO said.