Trinidad and Tobago


De Fosto’s dilemma

as The Original de Fosto Himself.

February 12, 2001

BECAUSE he has no one to call mother or father, no brothers, sisters, cousins or even a pumpkin-vine relative he can identify, Winston Scarborough cannot be faulted for thinking he is the first of his kind, The Original de Fosto Himself.

Abandoned as a baby, his “family” name was borrowed from the capital of Tobago. In a recent interview with the Daily Express, De Fosto spoke of being a man without a birthday, and his dedication to calypso.

Last Saturday, smack in the middle of the Carnival season, he was involved in a vehicular accident that left him a patient at the Port of Spain General Hospital.

Misfortune that, as a baby, sent him to an orphanage where he learned the music that forged his career, could this time cost him a fortune in prize money and appearance fees, as none of the competitions for which he is registered has any provisions for his current circumstance.

He has already been forced to miss the semi-final of the International Soca Monarch competition and indications are that he will not be available for Wednesday’s Pan Kaiso Monarch semi-final either. The lucrative National Calypso Monarch competition has its semis—Calypso Fiesta, at Skinner Park, San Fernando—this Saturday. He is hoping to be well enough to perform at that event.

“I could remember that the problem only struck me when I left Tacarigua Orphanage and had to go back for a recommendation to get a passport. I had no date of birth. I had no birthday,” he said. “And it is difficult to get a passport if you’re an orphan.

“When I went to Tacarigua in the first place, I had no name. It was a lady named Beatrice Clarke who brought me to Tacarigua. That is all anybody seemed to know. All I heard is that ‘This woman who took you to the hospital was not your mother’ and this finding of the baby took place somewhere in Belmont, although the woman was from Tobago.

“I actually got my first passport through Art De Coteau, because he knew a lot of important people and he told them my particular problem. When I lost that passport and tried to get another one, the trouble started. I couldn’t tell them anything, because I didn’t know anything about where I was from or who was my family. I had to sit and wait at the Red House for hours every day.”

From those humbling beginnings, Winston Scarborough became The Original De Fosto Himself, through sheer grit and a musical ability that was recognised from early in his youth and nurtured during his stay at the orphanage.

“I remember that from a very tender age I had a keen ear for sound,” he said. “I could have identified things in the music, but I never knew it would develop to this extent. When I started getting more aware I felt that music was my calling and that I had been given special gifts to pursue this.

All of this must be attributed to The Creator.

“I listened to a lot of Sparrow and Shadow and Kitchener, but it was Kitch who influenced me most. When I heard him do ‘Jericho’ in 1974, I decided I had to sing calypso for sure. In 1976, I made my debut with Lord Shorty and the Professionals tent. I wrote and performed ‘Chicks come out to play’ that year.

“But it was Kitch, again, who moved me to dedicate more time to calypsoes for pan. ‘Superjam’ and ‘Leggo’ were tunes that did not carry pan names, but were inspired by pan. All my melodies were always pan oriented. In 1985, I arranged music for the Simple Song Steel Orchestra. Now I feel we should extend that cultural salute to the other arts. This year I not only did ‘Kitchener Say’ for pan, but I did ‘Queen of the Road’ in tribute to Calypso Rose,” he said.

It’s all on his new CD, De Fosto’s Greatest Hits, arranged by Leston Paul and produced by Earl Crosby, on which he does 13 songs, charting his progress as a champion of pan, calypsonian and musical arranger.

“I just love calypso,” he said. “During a season, I work for just about everyone in the calypso world, scoring music. That is across the board. I did nearly 300 songs for Sparrow for publishing and I also work for modern-day groups like 3-Canal,” he said.

“Invariably, I am able to add something to make it exciting for live performance of the music. It is part of my belief that I must always try to do something to help. I would not see a person in trouble, particularly if it is not of his own making, and not try to help him,” he said.

Now that the shoe is on the other foot and De Fosto’s in trouble (and it certainly is not by his design), it is left to see if any of the many favours he has done for others in the local music industry will be returned.


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