One of the perks about being a journalist is getting the opportunity to meet my childhood heroes, whether in sports, music or other fields. If music is indeed the soundtrack to our lives, King Obstinate would be a major player on my track listing. It was purely by chance that I got to meet him for the first time recently, and it was a memorable encounter.
I had about a six-hour layover in Antigua before my flight to Miami. A friend picked me up at the airport and asked how I would like to kill time. On a whim, I asked if she knows where King Obstinate lives. She said she didn't know but would try to find out. Then she remembered that he owned a bar in town. We drove there, but an employee said Obstinate had just left to run some errands and also had a doctor's appointment. I considered giving up on my quest but I asked the employee if she had a phone number for him. She gave it to me, and I dialed. I figured if he said he was too busy, at least I heard it from him personally. Obsti here, he answered. I explained that I was a journalist and longtime fan and that I was at his bar in town and would like the opportunity to meet and interview him. Stay right there, he said.
About 10 minutes later, the four-time Antigua calypso monarch walked toward the bar with the help of a cane. I greeted him, and he greeted me warmly. He then spoke to several people hanging out at the bar, addressing everyone as Family. We spent about 10 minutes trying to figure out the best place to set up my video camera so that lighting would be adequate and the audio would not be drowned out by the midday din of downtown St. John's. His cellphone also rang frequently as he conducted business.
Finally, the interview began.
I didn't require notes because I have followed his career since childhood. I asked him about some of his older songs such as Hold Strain and The Mumps . He cleared up the misunderstanding that he calls himself The Undefeated because he had never lost a calypso competition. I have lost competitions, he said. But when I returned to Antigua and won the crown in 1981, '82 and '83 I decided to retire undefeated.
We addressed several other topics including the stroke he suffered in 1998 and his subsequent challenges of being disabled. He also explained the origins of some of his songs such as The Mumps and Lazarus the Laughing Man . He talked about his poignant 1985 song Who Kill Me Sister and said her murder still remains unsolved.€
I found Obstinate friendly, hospitable and gracious despite my interrupting his busy day, and I never got the feeling I was simply being tolerated. I thanked him for the interview and he thanked me for thinking of me. As my friend and I drove off I started thinking of so many other questions I wanted to ask him. But that would have to be left for a next time. Most of the true legends of calypso have either left us or are in the winter of their lives, and I relished the opportunity to record history - if only for a day.
View Edwin's interview below: