LEGENDARY calypsonian Leroy “Black Stalin” Calliste smiled brightly when former president Anthony Carmona visited him at his San Fernando home on Friday, to wish him a happy 80th birthday.
Carmona held Stalin’s hands and danced to one of his hits 'Bun Dem' which he played on a cell phone.
Carmona was accompanied by Presentation College, San Fernando, principal Dexter Mitchell. They both came bearing gifts of a Legacy Award and cash donation of $10,000.
Mitchell said the decision to make Calliste the first recipient of the award was due to his tremendous contribution to calypso and the national community.
The award was presented to Stalin’s wife, Patsy Calliste, at a tribute concert to celebrate her husband’s birthday. The concert was held at the studio of WACK Radio 90.1, Coffee Street, San Fernando, on Friday, Republic Day. The concert was also streamed live on Gayelle television.
Denyse Plummer, who was among over 35 artistes who showed up to pay tribute, was moved to tears as she recalled her baptism of fire at Calypso Fiesta, Skinner Park.
“When nobody else wanted me around, he taught me to be a calypsonian. I cried when they (audience) pelt me (at Skinner Park) and he told me 'don’t leave.' I did not leave and I came back and I won the Monarch – the highest honour in the land for a Calypsonian - with Nah Leaving.
“If it wasn’t for you, Black Stalin, there would be no me," she said in a tearful tribute.
The sentiment was also echoed by Muhammed Muwakil of Freetown Collective who also performed Can you feel the love.
Iconic Roy Cape, who has been friends with Stalin for over four decades, also spoke of Stalin’s goodwill.
“He is the best friend I ever had in my life. Where I am, musically, the Black Man has paved the way for me,”
Cape, also known as ‘Pappy’, hung up his performing hat after being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2014, around the same time Stalin suffered a stroke, which has kept him away from the stage.
“Happy, happy birthday to a strong man, a man who has dedicated his life to the people of TT and the Caribbean. A Caribbean man.”
Reigning Extempo champion Brian London, one of the key organisers of the Stalin tribute concert,said the call by the Prime Minister, following the death of Rapso pioneer, Brother Resistance (Lutalo Masimba), to honour icons while they are alive, resonated with him.
Given Stalin’s health challenges, London said this gave birth to the idea to honour the five-time Calypso monarch.
“He is in good spirits but for the past six or seven years his health has not been one hundred per cent. That being said he is still here and he has all his faculties so we definitely want to celebrate his life in some form or fashion every year that passes.”
He said the genuine love people have for Stalin manifested itself when they heard of the celebration.
“We did not really have to contact artistes. Artistes contacted us and we had to tell them the cast was tight because of the curfew.”
The theme of the concert was: The Songs that have kept me going. London explained the theme was testimony to the songs and artistes who have kept his spirits up on bad days.
Some of these artistes included Eastlyn Orr, Denyse Plummer, Carol Addison, Brother Valentino, Francis Prime, who also performed on Friday. Addison’s performance was streamed live from the US where she now resides.
The wide-ranging cast also included two of Stalin’s grandsons, Kevan and Keegan Calliste, Eunice Peters, Devon Seales, Karen Eccles, Michelle Henry, Freetown Collective, Calypso Monarch Terri Lyons and her dad Austin 'Superblue' Lyons, as well as dancers from the Malick Folk Performers.
Minister of Tourism, Culture and the Arts Randall Mitchell in wishing Stalin a happy 80th birthday said, “It is fitting that Dr Leroy Calliste celebrates his birthday on September 24, our nation’s Republic Day."
He lauded his immense contribution to TT’s cultural landscape.
San Fernando East MP Brian Manning also extended birthday greetings to one of his famous constituent.
“I want to thank him for his contribution to TT and for his music which really is the soundtrack of a generation and still inspires young people.”
Manning said he was happy the City of San Fernando was able to “honour him and give him his flowers while he is still alive with the naming of a