Alphonsus Celestine Edmund Cassell, MBE National Hero of Montserrat
Alphonsus Celestine Edmund Cassell, MBE (16 November 1949 – 15 September 2010) was a calypso and soca musician who performed under the stage name Arrow, and is regarded as the first superstar of soca from Montserrat.
Early life and education
Born Alphonsus Celestine Edmund Cassell on 16 November 1949, The Mighty Arrow became the first soca star from Montserrat and the most successful soca artist of all time!
Arrow, who reportedly coined his stage name out of respect for calypsonian Mighty Sparrow, is credited with mixing elements of Latin rhythms, American rock with Caribbean music to create something special; something new, something Caribbean but internationally popular.
Cassell, first performed at aged 10 in a concert at the Montserrat Secondary School. He began singing calypso in 1967 and took the Junior Monarch title that year. He took up singing professionally in 1969, and in that year he was runner up in the Montserrat Calypso King competition, going on to win the title the following year (following in the footsteps of his brothers Justin (a.k.a. Hero) and Lorenzo (a.k.a. Young Challenger).He would go on to take the title a total of four times.
His official debut single Dance with Me Woman (1972) gave him initial success as did hits Bump and Wine and Long Time. His most famous track which gave him international success was Hot Hot Hot, which made Arrow a worldwide name, putting calypso, soca and caribbean music into the limelight.
His tune, Hot Hot Hot, is the single most well known tune in soca history and has given him greater royalties and more acclaim than all of the other soca artists together. The idea for the song came when Arrow was performing in a club in Holland. With the crowd yelling for an encore and being out of rehearsed material, Arrow began chanting “How you feeling?” One sweaty dancer yelled “Hot, hot, hot!”
First recorded in 1982 with arranger Leston Paul and his Multi National Force band, Hot Hot Hot became a popular Caribbean anthem and dance floor hit. Covered by merengue and salsa groups, it was the theme song of the Mexico FIFA World Cup competition in 1986. It got even more main stream exposure when it was picked up by Buster Poindexter in 1989 and got extensive airplay through radio, MTV, and Poindexter’s numerous television appearances. It also was recorded by the popular Latin teen group, Menudo. Recorded in Hindi as Kuchh Gadbad Hai it became a hit by very popular Indian duo Babla & Kanchan in 1985. It later was regularly licensed for commercial and advertising purposes including television ads for KFC, Toyota, and Pizza Hut was used in two movie soundtracks and became in the most recognized of all soca tunes. He continues to record adding a variety of international influences, including salsa and zouk influences, gearing his releases for an international market. He has proved a popular concert attraction throughout the Americas as well as in Europe. His recordings have been featured on a number of major motion picture soundtracks.
Arrow had over 33 music albums under his belt. The hugely popular Hot Hot Hot has sold over 15 million copies worldwide, and millions of copies recorded in twelve different languages, and different versions. Arrow made history when he became the first calypso soca artist to be awarded the prestigious MBE by the Queen for his service to music.
Cassell began to fuse calypso with other genres such as Zouk, R&B, and salsa, resulting in some criticism, with accusations that he was destroying Montserrat’s calypso traditions. Others argued, his updating of the genre brought it to a new audience.
He capitalized on this success with 1983′s Heat album, and the “Rub Up” single, and 1984′s Soca Savage album, from which the international hit “Long Time” was taken, a top 30 hit in the United Kingdom.He enjoyed further chart success in the UK with a remixed version of “Hot Hot Hot”, which reached number 38 (the original had stalled at number 58). By this time, Arrow was also incorporating Latin brass into his music. Subsequent albums also saw the incorporation of merengue (1986′s Heavy Energy), and rock (1988′s Knock Dem Dead). Heavy Energy was his first album for Island Records‘ Mango label, with two further albums released on the label.
Cassell also established himself as a businessman in Montserrat, owning the Arrow’s Manshop store in Plymouth. When this was destroyed by the Soufriere Hills volcanic eruption, he relocated to Salem. Even his own home in Montserrat became inhabitable as a result of volcanic ash. He later organized a fundraising calypso festival on the island in 1996, in response to the devastation caused by the volcano.
Cassell co-headlined Bermuda‘s Soca ’96 festival, and continued to regularly release albums. In 1988, he was awarded the Living Legends award by the organizers of the Caribbean Song Festival and the Bahamas Tourist Board.
Cassell continued to be much in demand in the Caribbean. He last performed at the Cricket World Cup 2007 opening ceremonies with Shaggy, Byron Lee and Kevin Lyttle.
Honours and aards
In 2016, Cassell was bestowed with the Order of National Hero for his “outstanding contribution to culture in the field of calypso and especially his unparalleled international achievement in the genre of Soca.
Arrow was diagnosed with cerebral cancer in early 2009. He continued to work in music and TV until his last days. The Mighty Arrow died peacefully at his home in Montserrat with his family at his side, 15 September 2010 at age 60 after a battle with cerebral cancer for two years.
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