First it was Ken "Professor" Philmore, then Winston "Shadow" Bailey, and now Winston Scarborough, "the Original de Fosto Himself" – one of the country’s most prolific calypsonians – has died, plunging the national community in general and the calypso fraternity in particular into grief once more.
With the successive passing of these high-profile bearers of art forms indigenous to TT, and all from almost the same era, it is quite clear that we are witnessing the passing of a generation of entertainers whose exploits in their respective fields, especially pan and calypso, have assisted in stamping TT as a bedrock of Caribbean culture.
If we were uncertain about the extent to which their work was nationally appreciated, we simply have to rewind a little to the outpouring of the last couple weeks and the memorials that were held for Philmore and Shadow. Fast forward, and no doubt it will be the same for De Fosto.
De Fosto’s life story is one that began with the odds stacked against him. Pan aficionado Ronald Emrit captures a profile of an abandoned child, left wandering on the streets of Belmont, only to be taken by a Tobago woman, Beatrice Clarke, to the Tacarigua Orphanage for succour. He bore no identification, nor could he tell a name, so his benefactors at the home agreed to the surname Scarborough, after the capital of Tobago, and to create a nexus between himself and the woman who found him and came to his rescue. Hence the name Winston Scarborough.
It was from the landmark institution in east Trinidad that the calypso star was born. According to Emrit, de Fosto’s musical ability was recognised very early in his life and was nurtured by the orphanage, where, eventually, he would learn to read and score music. This would lead to a career spanning some four decades in which he brought an inimitable bouncy and always exuberant style wherever and whenever he performed, live or recorded.
But he scored for other entertainers as well, and his music seemed to have a particular affinity with the steelband. And so his compositions, such as Pan in a Rage, Firestorm, Pan Lamentation, Pandora and War, were winning tunes of choice for such outstanding bands as Renegades, All Stars and Exodus for their Panorama victories.
De Fosto was not as successful, though, in his bid to become Calypso Monarch, but his consistency managed to take him to second place twice and third once in that particular competition.
His greatest disappointment was when he was excluded from the TT contingent – despite a composition to mark and rally behind the team – selected to travel to Germany to support the national Soca Warriors in their historic appearance as representatives of the smallest country ever in a World Cup tournament. De Fosto’s grief was palpable and very public and his tears could not escape the generosity of former FIFA Vice President and government minister, Austin Jack Warner, who made it possible for de Fosto to make the trip.
De Fosto became a victim of ongoing failing health a couple years ago, but he battled his attendant discomfort, including hospitalisation, by seeking to be “himself,” performing as he did for Shadow just on Tuesday and readying his creativity to write and produce a song in the bassman’s honour.
The nation will truly miss the unique style of the man who sought always to be original.