Magnitude and Direction

arrow_album_cover I learned from members of my family the other day that Arrow died last week. I’ve no idea if by name you know who that is, and I am sure if I mentioned his given name, Alphonsus Cassell, that won’t make your eyes light up in recognition. But as soon as I say “Hot Hot Hot”, I bet that there’s a good chance a song starts playing in your mind. It is a Soca song (Soca being a more dance-oriented cousin of Calypso, and the name Arrow was, I think meant to pay homage to the Calypso star the Mighty Sparrow), and may well be the most famous Soca song worldwide. So many times when someone wants to inspire heat – usually involving sunshine – or excitement they play a bit of that song and so it ends up in lots of TV and radio commercials and other such places, and of course is played a lot at parties and other places where people are simply having fun. Arrow wrote and sung a lot of songs, and was devoted to his community, and so many are very sad at his passing, feeling that a friend has gone, even though they might not have known him. Seems to me he had a good life. At the very least, to be known for bringing joy and communion through good music well after you’re gone? That’s a great thing right there.

I did know him since I grew up in the community that he was part of. It was on the island of Montserrat where, you might recall from previous posts, I spent ten years of my childhood. Arrow was part of that, in music on the radio, in his clothing store, in music at parties, and of course on the streets and in the calypso and soca competitions in the later part of the year around Carnival time. In the 70s and early 80s I went to school with members of his immediate family, and, from time to time, on the long walk to school my siblings and I would get a lift from him in his car, pulling over and stopping to pick us up as he went on his way to town.

So, along with much of my childhood that has been erased by the volcano, I’ll say goodbye to Arrow. I’ll also say a big thank you to him too, since while much of the physical parts (streets, buildings, etc) of that childhood is gone, a lot remains inside me, kept alive by memories of people and community, and definitely music, of which a lot was his.

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Below is a YouTube link to him performing some of his famous song recently. You can also find an obituary at Truly Caribbean, one from Repeating Islands, and another from the BBC.

-cvj

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