THE TT music industry and calypso lovers have joined with the rest of the Caribbean community in mourning the passing of legendary Antiguan calypsonian Sir Rupert “King Swallow” Philo.
Swallow made an indelible mark on the cultural landscape of TT where he spent many of his 78 years competing and performing to the delight of connoisseurs of the art form.
Rapso artiste Brother Resistance (Lutalo Masimba), who shared the stage with Swallow on many occasions, said he was “real, real family.
“When I look at Swallow and the contribution he has made to music, I feel really good and blessed for the kind of work he has put down,” said Bro Resistance who heads the Trinbago Unified Calypsonians Organisation (TUCO) on Saturday.
He said coming from Antigua, Swallow bridged the musical vibrations across the Caribbean.
In Trinidad, he graced the stage at the Calypso Revue and participated in many competitions.
“We at TUCO would have invited him to Calypso Fiesta at Skinner Park, San Fernando to perform. That is the esteem in which we held him.
“The music and entertainment world has lost a great artiste and a very good human being.”
Swallow, who was knighted for his contribution to culture and calypso, lost his long battle with kidney disease on Friday. He died surrounded by family in his home in Antigua.
Calypsonian Edwin “Crazy” Ayoung, who paid tribute via social media, said his passing was a sad moment as he remembered him as a dear friend.
“A dear friend has gone to the beyond and Rupert Philo, King Swallow, was that person. But God knows best. He will also be remembered by me.”
In a message posted on Facebook after his death, TUCO recognised Swallow for his nearly six decades of contribution to soca and calypso.
TUCO said he created a frenzy whereever and whenever he performed his vibrant, fiery and pulsating hits including Fire in the Backseat, Subway Jam, Party In Space and Satan Coming Down.
During his illustrious career, he captured four calypso monarch crowns in Antigua in 1973, 1977, 1978 and 1985, as well as five road march titles in 1972, 1973, 1975, 1983 and 1984.
“His legend is greater than the number of crowns, thanks to his enduring musical tracks," TUCO said. Born on Valentine’s Day in 1942, Swallow began his calypso career in 1961. His very first hit Raphael Trujillo immortalised the story of the maltreatment of migrant workers from Antigua and Barbuda by a dictator from the Dominican Republic.
He later became known for his hard-hitting political and social commentaries.
In fact, former prime minister Lester Bird credited him with giving birth to political calypso in Antigua.
Swallow was also awarded by his country with the Order of Merit (Gold) and the Grand Cross of Princely Heritage in recognition of his sterling contribution to calypso.