“It’s Carnival time and that means it’s tent time. I hope to be in one of the tents when they open. I don’t have a contract as yet but I made the point to call and speak to Cro Cro (Weston Rawlins) about performing in his tent,” said Sparrow yesterday. “Of course, if someone has a show and they invite me I will be willing.”

Sparrow, 75, also said he was very excited about being part of the Congress of the People’s (COP’s) Patriotic Series which commemorates the country’s 50th anniversary of Independence in 2012. “They asked me to be a part of it and I readily said, ‘Of course’ because this is for the people,” he stated.

Dr Patrick Watson, chairman of the Patriotic Series, described the series as public programmes marking the events leading up to the golden anniversary of Trinidad and Tobago’s Independence. He pointed out the first of the series called “The Promise,” incorporated insights from Sparrow, who documented a lot of what transpired at that time in calypso. “Illiteracy was high and a lot of people counted on the calypsonian to let them know what is going on. Sparrow was the voice that was interpreting certain event for them,” said Watson. “He sang a lot of songs in favour of the PNM and directly and indirectly for independence.”

When asked if he agreed with this evaluation of his early career, Sparrow replied, “Yes I had a big mouth.” Sparrow then began reciting the lyrics to some of his popular songs such as “Slave”, a song about African enslavement, “The Yankees Gone” , about the US presence in Trinidad during World War II, and “P.A.Y.E”, explaining what is income tax.

“I was explaining in a very indirect way, long before independence, that I was a slave: ‘I’m a slave from a land so far. I was caught and I was brought here from Africa. Well it was licks like fire from the white slave master… They made me work, yes ah work, good Lord, no pay! And then ah toil, ah toil, ah toil and toil so hard each day. I’m dying! I’m crying! Oh Lord! Ah want to be free!’ Then there was Yankees Gone. You couldn’t even go down to Carenage because of the Yankees but people protested and the Yankees decided to leave. And in 1958, I had P.A.Y.E. explaining the importance of paying taxes.”

Sparrow yesterday shared such history with students of Cedar Grove Private Primary School, Palmiste. The older students surprised him when they called on him to sing “Congo Man, which he did. They sang along helping him with the verse and chorus. He also sang “Education” and “Try Again” and asked the students to pay attention to their lyrics. Although he sat down to sing, it took nothing away from his performance as his voice remains as strong as ever. When a student asked what was his best song, Sparrow said “Tell St Peter” which speaks of death and going to heaven. “Tell St Peter, I’ll be there, (repeat), With all my sins forgiven and all my friends up there in heaven, Tell St Peter I’ll be there,” he sang.

The students sought answers from Sparrow on his long career which he told them started in 1955 and asked about his opinion on soca superstar Machel Montano. “I like Machel very much. As matter of fact I was one of the first to bring him out on the big stage. Not long after that he took over the whole thing.” He told them they could get into singing once they love it. Two of the students sang their own compositions for Sparrow.

Original article by Anabelle Castagne of the Trinidad and Tobago Newsday