Caribbean: Farewell, Arrow

Caribbean bloggers are mourning the loss of one of the region's soca music pioneers – Alphonsus Cassell, better known as “Arrow” – whose mega-hit, Hot, Hot, Hot is largely credited with taking soca to a global audience.

News reports confirm that the singer had been ailing from cancer for some time; bloggers’ tributes have been both touching and personal.

One Tribe, Many Voices recognises that his music was a soundtrack to the lives of many Caribbean people, even posting a link for readers to take a listen:

For many people who are not familiar with Calypso, Arrow may not be a recognizable name but for those of us who have danced and partied from Brooklyn to Port of Spain that is not the case.

Arrow brought a distinct flavor to Kaiso, it was the flavor of Montserrat. Arrow put Montserrat and himself on the musical map in 1982 with his gigantic hit: ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’.

I can recall being drenched in sweat in Trinidad Carnival as Arrow sang ‘Bills’, ‘Soca Rhumba’ and ‘Rub Up’. His was a different take on soca, it had the feel of merengue and it seemed to crossover into a more Pan-Caribbean vibe. The beat was hard and it reminded me of the French Caribbean and the Spanish Caribbean all at once. The horns were very prominent, in your face.

The Caribbean Camera lists Arrow's musical achievements, but also offers a peek into another side of the man:

Arrow began to fuse calypso with other genres such as R&B, Zouk and salsa and in 1982 he worked with arranger Leston Paul and with his Multi National Force band to record the album `Hot Hot Hot.`

The title track became his first pan-Caribbean hit and the biggest selling soca hit of all time. It was adopted as the theme song of the 1986 FIFA World Cup in Mexico, and was later covered by David Johansen (in his Buster Poindexter alter ego), Menudo, and Babla & Kanchan.

Arrow also established himself as a businessman in Montserrat, owning the Arrow`s Manshop store in Plymouth. When it was destroyed by the Soufriere Hills volcanic eruption, he relocated to Salem. He organized a fundraising calypso festival on the island in 1996, in response to the devastation caused by the volcano.

Arrow continued to be much in demand in the Caribbean and most recently performed at the Cricket World Cup 2007 opening ceremonies with Shaggy, Byron Lee and Kevin Lyttle.

Finally, from St. Vincent and the grenadines, Abeni says:

Born on the tiny island of Montserrat Alphonsus ‘Arrow’ Cassell's talent was anything but tiny. He gave us hits such as ‘Pirates’, ‘Long Time’ and the monster hit ‘Hot, Hot, Hot’. It was to enjoy more success following Buster Poindexter's remake in 1987. Years later, St Vincent's Kevin Lyttle was to enjoy unprecedented success with his hit ‘Turn me on’. So, it is I think fair to say that Arrow paved the way for other soca artistes to realize that soca could be marketed to non traditional markets.

I think it was on the weekend I read that he was airlifted to Antigua for medical attention. Today (September 15th) I learnt he had succumbed to brain cancer. My condolences go out to his family and the people of Montserrat who are mourning his loss. If it's any consolation he will always be ‘hot, hot, hot’.


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