A colleague has sent me a remarkable video of a conversation with the Irish surgeon Dr Denis Burkett done in 1993 some months before his death.
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Mama Popo, rest in peace
I extend my personal condolences to the family of Brigo, Samuel Abraham, with whom I enjoyed a strong bond over the many years that I knew him. I also extend my condolences to the calypso fraternity and sisterhood who have lost one of their champions.
I felt very touched when Lutalo Masimba, Bro Resistance, the President of TUCO, offered his condolences to me and the members of the National Joint Action Committee (NJAC) and the National Action Cultural Committee (NACC) because, in Resistance’s words, the organisations and I had lost a wonderful friend.
I knew Brigo had been ailing. Last week I took out his self-published book, The Peoples Cultural Book, and read it again. The picture on the cover was Brigo holding the Keys of the City which were given to him by the Port-of-Spain Corporation in 1989.
Brigo had dedicated the book “to all the people who made this book possible, to the Peoples Cultural Theatre and all the charities and people who help me from time to time. And Paula.”
He also dedicated the book “To All my brothers and sisters in the Calypso World…Let’s all come together and stand strong for calypso and the arts and culture of our lands.”
I place all this on record because Brigo was dedicated to calypso with a passion that was indefinable.
And if I had to allay any one’s doubts I want to recall the information about Brigo that was written in a magazine published when NACC held the Uncrowned Kings Competition on Saturday, May 27, 1989 at the Jean Pierre Complex, Wrightson Road, Port-of-Spain.
Nine artistes competed: Funny, Valentino, Nelson, Superior, Brigo, Explainer, Mudada and Conqueror. Smiley, Creole and Almanac also sang but did not compete and the special guest was Ras Shorty I. At the end of the competition, Brigo, Mudada, Nelson and Funny were declared the joint winners.
Here is what we then wrote about Brigo, who we had called “the family man.”
“The story of Brigo mirrors the evolution of the art form of calypso in almost exact detail. Born 1st July 1940, Brigo…was the first of 13 children who knew hardship so intimately, that it became his constant companion and ultimately, the driving force behind his commitment and success. Life yielded only very grudgingly, the kudos which both he and his beloved art form have received to date.
“The story of this artiste, whose early performances were at age seven at school concerts, is that of having to survive in the early years by making the rounds of restaurants along Maracas beach, entertaining the tourists in search of surf and sand. His first week’s salary was an unforgettable $1.50.
“The year 1962 was as much a coming of age as it was for the country at large, for in that year, he assumed the mantle of professional calypsonian at the Lodge, situated at the corner of Duke and George streets, Port-of-Spain. One of his most memorable achievements in tent life was when, in 1966, he won the Tent Competition over such greats as Melody, Blakie and Cristo.
“During his long and colourful career, Brigo was a semi-finalist on seven occasions, ‘68, ’69, ’72, ’73, ’74, ’75 and ’76 and was selected for the finals on three occasions, 1972, 1973, and 1974. Controversy and dissatisfaction prompted his withdrawal from the Calypso Monarch competition, finding, satisfaction instead, in increasing public performances, which for him was a welcome replacement for ‘the Big Yard’.
“Brigo’s performances are such as to continuously evoke laughter from his audience and at the same time admiration. The performances…of Limbo Break, Love on the Cemetery, After Carnival, and Lemme Go are marked by a bulging eye delivery which often reduces his audience to hysterics.
“Over the many years Brigo has appeared at many tents including Victory, Kingdom of the Wizards, CDC, Spektakular Forum and BUCKs Promotions. He also established and ran his own tent, the Cultural Theatre for three years.”
At the conclusion of the article NACC said, “That refusal to quit, while publicly demonstrating his undying love for the art form of calypso, marks him most deservedly, as a king, albeit uncrowned. He has often, outdanced, outsung, outperformed…many. Long after the annals of our history are recorded, those extra-large eyes and expressive features will continue to bear testimony to a talent that has refused to be harnessed.”
Mama Popo, rest in peace.