The description of calypso legend Leroy “Black Stalin” Calliste by his daughter as “the people’s messenger” rang through his grand funeral service yesterday as the lyrics of his songs were highlighted by several who offered tributes.
The solemnity of the service lingered even as light-hearted moments were shared in fond memories of Calliste and performances of his calypsoes.
The curtains opened to the casket, adorned with anthuriums and an oversized crown and placed centre stage at the auditorium at the Southern Academy for Performing Arts (SAPA).
Bishop Kessel Byer said people could bring across their message of salvation in many different avenues. He said Calliste was anointed for this purpose and “he lived it and he lived it well and saved a lot of souls”.
Byer said Calliste will remain a legend and added: “He was a man of God and he was a man of country.”
Calliste’s daughter Keina Calliste delivered the eulogy on the Humming Bird Silver recipient, who was also given an honorary doctorate from the University of the West Indies in 2008 and selected as part of Trinidad and Tobago’s cultural contingent for the FIFA World Cup in 2006.
She shared memories of him being “just Dad” and said they saw him as one who simply went to work. She said because he was popular, there was a perception that they were rich. However, Keina said that was not the case but they were comfortable.
She said her father was the people’s messenger. He was not affiliated with any political party and performed for several political parties and “cleverly used his songs to communicate his messages each time”.
Keina also said the five-time Calypso Monarch was not fazed by material possessions and never requested or demanded any accolades but appreciated the efforts and accepted them with pride and dignity. However, he felt they would not make a difference or impact the lives of people as his songs did.
Calliste suffered a stroke back in 2014 and Keina said he will have an opportunity to live forever through his music.
School children line the route to say a final farewell to Leroy “Black Stalin” Calliste. (Picture courtesy Trinidad Express)
Minister of Housing and Urban Development Camille Robinson-Regis gave her tribute and also that of Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley.
In his tribute, Rowley said Calliste wrote high poetry.
“He told us stories about ourselves and educated us about the history and the world, singing his lessons to us with sheer love, prompting neither racial hatred, bitterness nor revenge, instead reaching us with the melodies, rhythms and stage presentations that pricked our collective consciences and touched our souls.”
Rowley said Calliste despised “racial politics” and was cynical, defiant and resistant to oppression in the world order but ever the optimist as he quoted from Calliste’s calypso, “We could make it if we try”.
The Prime Minister also said Black Stalin was no pedestrian and not one who stood by the wayside watching on, whining or complaining but the bard, philosopher, griot, calypso king, Caribbean man and Black man who left the country and the Caribbean with a stronger and more resilient people.
During the service, there were tributes and songs were performed by a number of artistes including The Most Honourable Anthony “Gabby” Carter.
Soca star Machel Montano sang “Love Fire” in which Calliste was featured. He said Calliste’s example had shown him how to love his wife, mother and women.
The funeral service ended with the artistes singing Calliste’s renowned “Black Man Feeling to Party”. (Trinidad Express)