News outlets all over the Caribbean have reported the passing of calypsonian Rootsman (Yafeu Osei) on August 21, 2015, at his home in Morvant, Trinidad. A funeral service was held at the Pentecostal Light House Tabernacle on Second Street, San Juan yesterday morning. Rootsman was born in Tobago, but brought up in San Juan.
At the service, his sister Brenda Smart said that Rootsman was a good painter and competent wood-carver, and that “as a child he was a brilliant student, but could give back-chat left, right, and centre, but from small his heart was set on becoming a calypsonian, and he lived that dream until it became a reality.”
According to David Cuffy, before a large congregation consisting of calypsonians, musicians, promoters, and “other members of the entertainment fraternity, Smart’s discourse, delivered with deep passion and punctuated with pockets of humor, revealed glimpses into the life of a boy born in Tobago who grew up and went to school in San Juan, and whose father wanted him to become a lawyer.”
Rootsman started performing in the 1970s and became known for melodic compositions and an equally melodic voice, which was evident in songs such as “Rack Meh Rack Meh,” “Parkway Rock,” “Rocking All Night,” and “Soca in the Palace.” But his biggest hit was the 1987 “Miami Vibes”—with arrangement by Leston Paul.
Despite his illness, he continued to perform until last year at the Kaiso House Calypso Tent. He toured extensively in the States and the Caribbean and was honored repeatedly for his contributions to calypso.