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Farewell to Mama Popo

Published: 
Thursday, May 18, 2017
Brigo performing at Calypso Spektakula in 1982.

Born in 1940, in Chaguanas, the Samuel Abraham I knew was a unique and humble man. On stage, easily recognised as the Mighty Brigo, Abraham was a one-of-a-kind act, combining all the components of stagecraft with the greatest of ease, it seemed.

I first met Brigo at Penthouse Nighclub decades ago. The most popular showplace in the nation’s capital, it was located atop Salvatori Building in downtown Port-of-Spain and was run by the late Choy Aming and Roma Kim Sabeenay. The Penthouse staged some stellar shows headlined by many top artistes of the day, including Brigo, Bill Trotman, Julia Edwards Dance Company, dancer Strech Cox, Indian dancer Aziz, Pat Baptiste and others.

Brigo subsequently secured a place for his own cabaret at Miramar Nightclub on South Quay. A regular performer there was the late Lord Blakie. Besides being an entertainer, Brigo was also a visionary, and his vision back then was to open a school for the performing arts, an institution where he would employ calypsonians, panmen, mas folk, actors and people of various performing disciplines to teach. It is not far fetched to suppose that Brigo’s dream and vision are the embryo for the carnival studies programme now used by the University of T&T.

Brigo and I spoke at length about his dreams and he was heartbroken when he presented them to government and corporate officlas and was snubbed, sometimes chased away.

But yet Brigo persevered and, with every performance, always had a word of advice to young artistes and the nation’s youth in his audiences. He had a strong belief in the development of young people in the arts. Many times Brigo would question the state’s recalcitrance at including calypso and steelpan studies in its formal curriculum. Brigo was firm in his conviction that T&T’s indigenous art forms were relevant and positive role-building blocks for our young people and fledgling republic.

Brigo made the public sit up and pay attention in 1971 when he sang Barnabas in Lord Kitchener’s Calypso Revue tent. In 1977 he released the single Shake Up, recorded on a seven-inch, vinyl disc, with musical accompaniment by Pelham Goddard and Charlie’s Roots. In 1986, the coming out year of David Rudder with The Hammer and Bahaia Girl, Brigo again created his own unique niche with yet another smash hit—Limbo Break. Two years later he again grabbed attention with Leh Me Go. Through the years, other hits Brigo thrilled fans with are Doh Beat Mama Popo, Walk in the Dark, Do So Ent Like So, Obey and Voodoo Man.

In the mid 80s, Brigo’s popularity mushroomed to nationwide status when he exploited his facial attributes to the max in a television advertisement for an insect repellant with the catch phrase of “Det Kill Dem Dead.”

After battling cancer for many years, Brigo, 77, died on Tuesday at the Eric Williams Medical Sciences Complex, Mt Hope. With most of his children residing in North America, plans for his funeral are yet to be finalised.

Tributes to Brigo

Sparrow: “I have know Brigo from his beginning in calypso, back in the ‘50s. He was always a good calypsonian and a nice fellow to be around. I am saddened by his death and extend condolences to his family and the calypso fraternity.”

Brother Superior: “Brigo and I go back to the fifties. I had a special name for him and used to call him Jordan and that remains our private joke. We had a very close friendship. I enjoyed seeing him perform and he was a classic performer. Brigo was a true true kaisonian, especially when composing to understand ‘phraseology.”

Tuco president Lutalo “Bro Resistance” Masimba: “We have lost a great one. Brigo’s passing is a loss to the music industry and the calypso world. His power as a performer and calypsonian and his theatrical ability formed a unique package on a calypso stage. Besides that Brigo was a great human being.

“We mourn his passing but celebrate his life. But, personally for me, I am glad that I met Brigo on my journey and that I have walked part of that journey with Samuel Abraham. He really touched my life.”

Roy Cape: “Brigo was different from any artiste I know and he was a consummate performer. Brigo was a kaiso connoisseur and we have been good friends since 1962 from sharing the Original Young Brigade stage on Duke Street. If Samuel was born in any other country, he would have been a millionaire, as his talent as an entertainer was limitless. We stayed friends to his dying day. But, that is death; we, too, have to go that way some day.”

Explainer: “Brigo was a valuable contributor to our art form. Unfortunately he got to the top of the rostrum where he deserved to be, but was never rewarded for his talent. He will certainly be missed as he was a master on stage.”