King Swallow, calypso icon of Antigua and Barbuda, has died

A report by Laura Dowrich-Phillips for Loop.

Antigua and Barbuda Calypso legend Sir Rupert ‘The Mighty Swallow’ Philo has died.

Swallow passed away on Friday surrounded by family at his home in Willikies after suffering from a prolonged illness.

He was 78.

His death has plunged the calypso fraternity across the region into mourning.

The Trinbago Unified Calypsonian Organisation, the governing body for calypso in Trinidad and Tobago paid tribute to the veteran stating that he has been recognised for contributing nearly 60 years to the soca and calypso art form.

“During this time the vibrant, fiery and pulsating rhythms of his soca hits have created frenzy wherever and whenever he performs,” TUCO said.

A four-time  Calypso Monarch and five-time Road March winner in Antigua and Barbuda, King Swallow won over audiences in T&T with songs such as ‘Fire in the Backseat’, ‘Subway Jam’, ‘Party In Space’ and ‘Satan Coming Down’.

King Swallow was awarded the Order of Merit (Gold), and the Grand Cross of Princely Heritage during terms of governance under the Labour Party. Each award was conferred in recognition of his sterling contribution to the calypso art form.

Tributes are flowing for the Mighty Swallow. 

Among those paying tributes are Trinidad and Tobago soca stars.

Soca king Machel Montano posted on Instagram that Swallow, birth name, Sir Rupert “ King Swallow “ Philo,  was a great influence on his career.

He wrote: “The Legendary Antiguan Calypso King was a mentor to us growing up and a great influence on my career. As a teenager and bandleader of Pranasonic Expres,  I remember his songs being a great part of our repertoire as they had heavy dominance in the music scene of Trinidad and Tobago. “ Fire in the backseat “ , “ Wine on something “ and of course “ The man with the Pepper Sauce is Boss”.

“He was a friend and inspiration to us all, soft spoken and humble . In this picture we stood side by side singing “ Now is the time “ the Calypso for Africa project at Rawlston Recording studio in Brooklyn New York back in 1985 . I had the privilege of spending time with him in December 2019 at Charlie’s Records along with Charlie where we sat and laughed about old times, he was just as humble and quiet . May he Rest In Peace and his legacy live on ! 🙏🕊“ Don’t stop this Party”

In his tribute Bunji Garlin expressed condolences to the people of Antigua and Barbuda.

“Condolences to the family of Legendary Calypsonian King Swallow and such an important icon to the culture of the Caribbean. Solidarity with all of Antigua in this moment of the passing of an absolute gem of a talent,” he wrote on Instagram,.

Austin “Superblue” Lyons recalled the good times he spent with Swallow.

He said: “I’m lost in words. Just last year we was performing in Antigua together laughing and having a good time. Condolences to your Family, Friends and Fans. King Swallow you will always be remember as a super star. Antigua Icon.”

3 thoughts on “King Swallow, calypso icon of Antigua and Barbuda, has died

  1. I did not know of him – but it is rather charming to think of Willikies = did you know of him?

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