Singing Sandra remembered as a force on and off the stage

A report by Laura Dowrich Phillips for Loop.

Singing Sandra’s unexpected passing has sent shockwaves through the calypso and soca fraternity.

A calypso legend, she was fondly known as Mother by those who knew her and stood as a force off and on the stage.

The second woman to win the Calypso Monarch title, winning in 1999 with the songs “Song for Healing” and “Voices from the Ghetto” and in 2003 with “For Whom the Bell Tolls” and “Ancient Rhythm”, she was was also the first female calypsonian to win the title twice.

Many soca artistes and calypsonians have been paying tribute to the late singer, birth name Sandra Des Vignes.

Soca star Fay Ann Lyons-Alvarez said she showed that one didn’t need to conform to stand out.

“We lost a female who gave us proof that different works, you don’t have to be cookie-cutter or regular,” she told Loop News.

“As you could tell from her imagery she was as natural and African as you could find and she encouraged you to be your authentic self, she didn’t believe you had to look and sound a particular way to be successful.”

Lyons-Alvarez said it was only last week that they reached out to Singing Sandra to perform on her new platform Chrending. She said the news of her death was a shock.

“Coming into the industry she knew me since I was a kid, for her she took on that motherly role for me, when I was pregnant she was most present, she was there backstage, when we went to her house in Tobago she would give us advice about the industry, she was very, very supportive of our union and careers,” she said of the relationship she and her husband Bunji Garlin had with the calypsonian.

In its tribute, the Trinbago Unified Calypsonian Organisation (TUCO) said as one of the pioneers in the Calypso industry, Singing Sandra’s trajectory has empowered many listeners, especially women.

“She influenced people in a positive way by giving them something to think about,” TUCO said.

In his tribute, Culture Minister Randall Mitchell said she was seen as an educator via her songs.

He noted that long before the “Time’s Up” and the “Me Too” movements took root, Singing Sandra embraced the women’s movement and provided our women with the rallying call to “die with their dignity”.

“Singing Sandra was true to her word and as we mourn her passing, the citizens of Trinidad and Tobago in general, and the cultural fraternity, in particular, will always be thankful for her contribution which has made us a richer nation,” he said.

Singing Sandra’s influence expanded overseas.

Barbadian soca star Alison Hinds said Sandra was one of the first females that would have supported her in my early days in Square One when they first started coming to Trinidad.

She said: “It was her, Denyse Plummer, Calypso Rose and Francine, they all gave me their support. I was the first female soca star that there was and she has always been like that motherly figure, she really was like a mum. When you are around her you knew you were learning something, you were going to have an experience with her you wouldn’t have with anyone else. She was down to earth and easy-going.”

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