Kaiso No 15 - December 26, 1998

Holiday greetings!  I am recovering from the grip of the flu and a delightful low key, very snowy Christmas here in Alaska.  Among the presents I got from my kids was a toy gorilla in a Hawaiian shirt that sings Arrow's Hot, Hot, Hot.  This is proof of the amazing marketing and popularity of this tune that my kids know from a tape of songs by Sebastian from Disney's The Little Mermaid.  I am told that Arrow may be a headliner at the Fresh Water Yankee tent for at least part of the season this year.

Arrow (Alphonsus Celestine Edmund Cassell, b.  November 16, 1954 Montserrat)

Arrow is the party king of soca and the most successful soca artist of all time.  His tune, Hot Hot Hot is the single most well known tune in all soca and has given him greater royalties and more acclaim than all of the other soca artists together.  The idea for the song came when Arrow was performing in a club in Holland.  With the crowd yelling for an encore and being out of rehearsed material, Arrow began chanting "How you feeling?" One sweaty dancer yelled "Hot, hot, hot!"  First recorded in 1982, it became a popular caribbean anthem and dance floor hit.  Covered by merengue and salsa groups, it was the theme song of the Mexico World Cup competition in 1986.   It got even more main stream exposure when it was picked up by Buster Poindexter in 1989 and got extensive airplay through radio, MTV, and Poindexter's numerous television appearances.  It also was recorded by the popular Latin teen group, Menudo.  Recorded in Hindi as Kuchh Gadbad Hai it became a hit by very popular Indian duo Babla and Kanchan in 1985.  It later was regularly licensed for commercial and advertising purposes including television ads for KFC, Toyota, and Pizza Hut was used in two movie soundtracks and became in the most recognized of all soca tunes.  He continues to record adding a variety of international influences, including salsa and zouk influences, gearing his releases for an international market.  He has proved a popular concert attraction throughout the Americas as well as in Europe.  His recordings have been featured on a number of major motion picture soundtracks.

Born and raised in Montserrat, Arrow grew up in a musical family where both his older brothers had been Calypso Kings of Montserrat, Hero (Justin Cassell) and Young Challenger (Lorenzo Castell).   He first performed at age ten at a concert at the Montserrat Secondary School.  He started singing calypso in 1967 taking the junior monarch title and four times the Monserrat crown.  He went professional in 1969 when he took second place to Lord Shortshirt at the Monserrat Calypso King competition but won it in 1970.  Arrow was a very popular performer at the Caribbean King of Kings Calypso Competition in Antigua.  He was the first soca artist to perform at Jamaica's Reggae Sunsplash.  He recorded his first single in 1972, Dance With Me Woman.  He recorded his first album in 1974 and has produced an album at least every year since.  His first record was the single, Dance with Me Woman.  He returned in 1973 with Let the Music Play / Invitation to the Caribbean (Arrow 001).  In 1974, he produces his first album, The Mighty Arrow on Target.  He followed that in 1975 with Arrow Strikes Again.  In 1976, it is Keep on Jamming (Arrow LP 008).  Although he could compete in the annual competition, Arrow did appear for several years in the Trinidad calypso tents.  He was in the 1972 OYB tent, the 1981 Kingdom of Wizards tent, and the 1983 Spektacular tent.

In 1982, after years of working with Ed Watson, Arrow switched to arranger Leston Paul and recorded the album, Hot, Hot, Hot.  Besides switching producers, Arrow also brought in the hot rock lead guitarist Christopher 'Columbus' Newland.  The result was a magical mix especially on the title cut which grew to be an international hit record.  The album was picked up by Chrysalis Records.  He returned in 1983 with Heat (Arrow 021), also issued as Rush Hour, B's BSR-AR-021) with the featured cut being Rub Up.  In 1984, he returned with one of his best albums, Soca Savage, Arrow 23, with Long Time becoming a popular radio hit, especially in England.  It even hit the British Top of the Pops.

In 1988, he switched from the independence of his recording label to the Mango label to record the first of three albums that had wide distribution.  Knock Dem Dead, O La Soca(1989) and Soca Dance Party (1990).   Mango flooded radio stations with promos single remixes of Groovemaster featuring the rappers Audio 2 from Knock Dem Down and then O La Soca.  Groovemaster was also featured in the soundtracks to The Mighty Quinn and Cutting Edge.  Mango also had music videos not only of Groovemaster but Crazy Mama from Knock Dem Down and his recreation of the New Orleans classic, Hey Pocky Way from O La Soca.  These releases failed to capture the reaction his earlier hits had for a major label's commitment and he returned to doing his own releases.

In 1991, he released Zombie Soca (Arrow 35) and followed on 1992 with Model in De Bam-Bam.  For 1993, it was Outrageous (Arrow 40).   In 1994, he did collection of extended jams on a collection called Classics + (Arrow 042) as well as releasing a full CD of Hot Hot Hot remixes.  In 1996 he released Phat (Arrow 043) and in 1997, Ride De Riddim (Arrow 0045).   With the volcanoes destroying much of Montserrat in the mid Nineties, Arrow has been actively involved in relief efforts.  His own home in Montserrat has become inhabitable as a result of volcanic ash.


I had hoped to fill this section with information on the latest parang and soca parang releases, but I am always months behind in getting these.  I did, on my weekly radio show last week, offer a two hour selection of older parangs and soca parang and other Trinidadian Christmas music to remind folks up here how different Christmas is celebrated elsewhere.  The Internet versions of the Express and Guardian have not been very helpful in giving any details on new soca parangs but today in the Guardian Joslynne Sealey offered a very positive review of a new release by the parang group, Los Dinamicos which makes it clear they are playing not just tradition material.

Carnival '99

I had not made plans earlier to come down for Carnival because of our finances.  But as the season approached, I couldn't stand it and just got plane reservations to be down from Feb 5 through 18 and will try to arrange a place to stay soon.  I have a kind offer of a place to stay the week before Carnival and will try soon to find a place for the week of Carnival.

Hopefully, I will be able to gather lots more information on the puzzle of calypso history and I already am dying to hear this year's crop of kaiso.

Ray Funk

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