Vincentians pay tribute to ‘Son of the Soil’ Basil ‘Bung’ Cato

Vincentian Basil “Bung” Cato.  Aisha Cato
Vincentian Basil “Bung” Cato.
Aisha Cato

The Vincentian calypso and soccer fraternities in New York have paid tributes to Basil “Bung” Cato, a distinguished “son of the soil,” who left his indentation on the calypso and soccer landscapes in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Cato died on Friday, Feb. 4, in Brooklyn, his daughter, Aisha Cato, said. He was 77.

“As we mourn the loss of another of our calypsonians and former president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Soccer Federation and Calypsonians Association, Mr. Basil ‘Bung’ ‘Sukarno’ Cato, the members of the Dynamites Calypso Tent extend condolences to his family, friends, the calypso and soccer fraternities on his passing,” Calypsonian Carlos “Rejector” Providence, president of the Brooklyn-based Dynamites Calypso Tent, told Caribbean Life exclusively on Monday.

Dynamites Calypso Tent is the sole Vincentian calypso tent in North America.

“’Bung’, as he was affectionately known, will be remembered as proprietor of one of the best restaurants ever in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, ‘Bung’s Creole Kitchen,’”,added Providence, a former calypso monarch in Vincy Mas, the national carnival in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. “He, however, spent most of his life as an advocate for the calypso artform and soccer, always demanding that more respect be given to calypsonians and recognition of the value of the artform.

“He had a very extensive period as a calypsonian, stretching from the 1960s to the time of his passing, during which he was a prominent feature in several buy-local, Ricky Hillocks’ dragon stout, Independence and Vincy Mas calypso competitions,” he continued.

Providence recalled that it was during Cato’s tenure, as president of the St. Vincent and the Grenadines Calypsonians Association (1994-1996), that his “relentless efforts saw some significant success, when, for the first time, a car, for which he lobbied, was added to the prize of the calypso monarch in 1995.”

Providence said the late Garry “Freedom Fighter” Cane, the 1992 and 1996 carnival and independence calypso monarch in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, was the first recipient of that coveted prize.

Providence, who served as Cato’s vice president, captured the second car in 1996.

Cato also co-wrote with a number of calypsonians, “enabling most to make it as far as the top three positions in Vincy Mas calypso competitions,” Providence said.

“We pray that he will be accepted into the place of eternal peace, and may God bless his soul,” he said.

Stanley “Luxie” Morris, a former national soccer caption and erstwhile manager of Team SVG (St. Vincent and the Grenadines) in the Brooklyn-based Caribbean Soccer Cup, also told Caribbean Life that Cato played a “very pivotal role in the development and success of football/soccer in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.”

He said Cato was elected as a member St. Vincent and the Grenadines Football Federation, and served as assistant manager and manager of the Under 19/20 Boys’ team and senior Men’s team.

“’Bung’ was not only the manager but also the cheerleader, encourager, believer in the team’s ability, and those ‘traits’ translated into success,” said Morris, adding that, in 1977, the U19/U20 Boys’ team “made it to the semi-final of the prestigious C & W (Cable and Wireless) Tournament and into the finals the following year.”

“’Manage’, as he was also called, would leave work early on practice days, even was a no-show at work on Fridays prior to a game,” he continued, stating that Cato was “very, very proud when the U19/20 Team won Barbados, whose team was coached by the German coach for the senior Men’s team.”

Morris said 1978 could have been Cato’s “proudest moment”, when St. Vincent and the Grenadines made its “first encounter against a senior Men’s team from Trinidad and Tobago, which SVG (won) 1-0.”

He said Cato “worked assiduously on behalf of the football fraternity in multiple roles, and was at the helm in 1992 during St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ first forays into FIFA’s World Cup qualification,

“Basil ‘Bung’ Cato had pulled the rights strings, mobilized the right people of influence and money, involved the public, approached the public sector, sought and took advice from all and sundry, exercised wisdom, and didn’t take no for an answer,” said Morris, adding that Cato had popularized the adage, “football is the game of the people.”

“Basil ‘Bung’ Cato, you deserve a salute,” he declared. “Our nation owes you a debt of gratitude.”

A “Celebration of the Life” of Basil “Bung” Cato will take place on Saturday, Feb. 12 at Caribe Funeral Home, 1914-1922 Utica Ave., Brooklyn, from 4: 00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

Cato’s body will be flown to St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Feb. 19 for interment.

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