The Soca scorcher: A tribute to Arrow

Michelle Loubon, writing for the Trinidad Guardian, recalls his friend Arrow and how he exemplified warmth and affection.

Hot! Hot! Hot! It is the classic that catapulted Montserratian Alphonsus Cassell onto the regional and international map. Cassell, fondly known as Arrow, passed on at his Lime Kiln home between 5 and 6 am on Wednesday. His death sent shockwaves through the soca and calypso fraternities. Montserratians consider him their calypso gift to the Caribbean and the world. Among those who expressed profound sadness at his passing was ace Mt Lambert based arranger Sir Leston Paul. Paul said: “They sent him back to his native Montserrat after he was airlifted to Antigua. They realised there wasn’t anything they could do. During his illness, I kept in touch with his brother and a number of people who knew him in Barbabos, Antigua and New York.” Paul said he even attempted to speak to him via telephone during the time he was ailing, but Cassell could not communicate.

“It really hurt me. At that point, I realised it would take a miracle. Here was this vibrant young man beloved by Montserratians and soca and calypso connoisseurs around the world…literally fighting for his life,” said Paul.
Paul said he first met Cassell as a fresh-faced youth, struggling to make his mark in the competitive music industry. An eight-year partnership was born. Among his quiver of hits, Cassell registered Hot! Hot! Hot! internationally. “Hot! Hot! Hot! is still the biggest soca hit to date,” said Paul. Quizzed on how he chose to remember Cassell, Paul said: “He was a good friend. He was a kind person who was willing to help anybody. He was a shrewd businessman. He had a way of remembering you. He recently sent me a T-shirt from his Man Shop in Montserrat.” He also said people close to Cassell in the industry called him “Phonsy” and “The Jew.”

Paul said: “He was known as The Jew…because he was tight with money.”
He also admired his passion for excellence. “He spent his money to get high quality products. He would put us in the best hotel in Manhattan, New York. He would record at the best studio. He was the envy of a number of calypsonians, but he invested in himself heavily. His accomplishments were not handed out to him.” Paul had the pleasure of seeing Hot! Hot! Hot! being translated into a multitude of languages including Spanish, German and Hindi. He praised Cassell’s go-getter attitude. “He would say you have to get things done for yourself. That’s what I admired about him.” Paul said he learned from his shrewd business acumen. “He taught me a lot about dealing with people. He knew about the business side of the business.”

Cassell also appreciated the finer things in life. “In fact, his first house had a bathroom of gold. He had a swimming pool shaped like an Arrow. The landscaping was done by his brother Justin. It had an abundance of fruit trees that grow in the tropics. Mangoes, cherries, pommecytheres. It didn’t have apples and grapes,” he said.

Edwin Ayoung comments
On Boxing Night 2009, calypsonian Edwin Ayoung performed the hit Hot! Hot! Hot! with his friend Cassell. During the performance, Cassell paid tribute to Ayoung for being a true friend when Hot! Hot! Hot! swelled like a tsunami. “I remember stopping to wipe my face and the entire kerchief was acidised. Ayoung stood by me. He was so glad for me,” said Cassell. Ayoung had joked Cassell had “come out of retirement just for him.” But, on Wednesday, a more sombre Ayoung said: “I will miss my friend Arrow. The only thing we can hold on to is his great music…his legacy. Whenever he was in Trinidad, he would look for me. He would pass for me, and we would go for a drive. “Montserrat was one of the last times he performed publicly. “Arrow was a genuine friend. He was a good boy. He will be missed. But we all have our destination,” he said.

Cassell left a legacy of hits like Soca Rhumba, Long Time, Dance This Dance, Groove Master and Colombia Rock. In 2009, he also performed at the Fifth Summit of the Americas, when United States President Barack Obama and US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited. When News Editor Robert Alonzo heard he was ailing, he said: “Hot! Hot! Hot! is always a staple at back-in-times parties.”

Arrow in Monteserrat
From the moment one hits Montserrat, it is impossible to escape the fact that Cassell enjoys demi-God status. The island, which is home to the Soufriere Volcano, is pristine, green and clean. After a brief stop at the radio station, promoter Earl Sullivan said that they would definitely find him in his man shops. There, people greet him with warmth and affection, as they shop for everything from safety pins to clothing for elegant evenings.
When he saw his longtime friend Edwin Ayoung he rushed over and greeted him. Quickly, he offered him a white suit. Ayoung wore it to a wedding. “Every time I see Arrow he does give me something nice. I still treasure the white suit he gave me,” he said.

Quizzed on his sobriquet, he said: “At the time, it was Sparrow. I decided to call myself Arrow. I used to like to go and catch birds as a boy. I used to shoot straight as an arrow.” The next day, he drove past Soufriere. A great portion of the island had been abandoned. Houses were covered in ash. A tar-like substance washed up on the beaches. He explained his home at Lime Kiln was named after the huge number of lime trees and the fact they used to extract lime juice there. His palatial mansion was dotted with tapestries, and beautiful pieces of art work from far flung places like Morocco—where he had been a guest of the Sultan.

For the original report go to http://guardian.co.tt/news/general/2010/09/19/hot-hot-hot-soca-scorcher

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