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Friday, July 21, 2006

LISTENING POST

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Mighty Sparrow


Trinidad's famed carnival had two rival Calypsonians: Lord Kitchener and Mighty Sparrow. These two singer/songwriter/tricksters vied every year for the honor of Calypso Monarch and "Road March," the most played song during carnival.

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Mighty Sparrow

Though Lord Kitchener passed away several years ago, Mighty Sparrow, the more ribald and political of the two, is still going strong 50 years after his first hit. He brings his unique rhythms and unrivalled lyrics to Tokyo next week.

When taken into the mainstream, the image of calypso became sanitized in the early 1960s, (as did rock 'n' roll before it). People who think of the "Banana Boat Song" should be well advised that topical irony -- especially subversive and sexual irony -- is the heart and soul of true calypso. Whether singing about the injustice of taxes, the lower price of prostitutes after Yankee boats depart, the various effects of rum or a sand-troubled date on the beach, Mighty Sparrow turns the details of life into hilarious, earthy songs.

Mighty Sparrow (whose real name is Slinger Francisco) was also one of the few old-school calypso singers to adapt to the funkier soca (soul calypso) style of a younger generation. The intricate rhymes and barbed wordplay sound just as good today. A rare event in Tokyo, calypso's greatest performer, Mighty Sparrow should not be missed.

Mighty Sparrow plays Tokyo Blue Note, July 31-Aug. 3 at 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., as part of the Roots Music Festival. For more information call (03) 5485-0088.


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