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My friend, Sprang—Eric St Bernard remembers an enduring friendship

‘Sprangalang’ was mih partner. We worked together on many productions. Sprang did not tell jokes; he told stories. He was a true standup comedian who would have held his own on any stage with the likes of Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy and Chris Rock.

I recruited Sprang into radio broadcasting at the station then known as Radio Tempo. Sprang was never one to discuss ‘de money’. That responsibility he passed to Errol Fabien, whom I would eventually recruit as well. It fell to Errol to  meet with general manager Grenfell Kissoon to discuss ‘de money’. It did not go well.

Photo: Dennis ‘Sprangalang’ Hall in the studio.

I never asked about the details but when I called Sprang to express my disappointment that things hadn’t worked out, he replied with his signature nonchalance: “You serious? Good. Leh we do de wuk and not study ‘bout de money.”

Our morning show was going well—until we started talking politics and making fun of political leaders Patrick Manning and Basdeo Panday. Programme director Andy Johnson summoned me to his office to instruct that we stop talking about politics.

Later, as we discussed the matter over one of our beer sessions, Sprang decided that we should open our own political party and call it GOBARR which, he explained: “is cow dung, but we go say it means Good Or Bad All Raggamuffins Rule.”

The dynamics of commercial radio being what they were, I suggested we move our show to the night slot where we got even better ratings! It was left to Lady B, with the Kaisosoca Touring team, to launch the GOBARR party at the Soca Boat with calypsonians representing different constituencies. The show was a huge success. I was shocked to see even the then commissioner of police among the audience.

Sprang, dressed in a suit with a fresh haircut, delivered a political speech which brought the audience to its feet. We would always joke that Lady B ‘take we show, which we sold out, and eh gee we no money’.

Photo: Dennis ‘Sprangalang’ Hall performs.

We did an amateur comedy contest, which was awesome. At the end of our night shows we would sit by ‘Pie on Maraval Road’ and ‘suck’ on beers while old talking for hours.

Sometimes, Sayeed Emamali would join us. Sayeed was not a drinker but he happily paid for some rounds of beers just to enjoy Sprang’s serious old talk which kept us in stitches.

We decided to do ‘Parang on de Road’ which put Sprang and me on pavements outside bars throughout Trinidad with the country’s top parang bands. Dennis Ramdeen, then marketing manager at Carib Brewery, provided sponsorship backing for our Parang limes. Dennis would send cases of little Carib beers to give away which included one case for Sprang and one for me.

Sprang promptly re-christened the ‘Little Carib’ with the name ‘Arawak’. I begged him to stop for fear of losing the sponsorship but he just waved me off with the confident assurance that:

“Dennis Ramdeen understand our people and we ting so we safe. De country need more marketing managers like Dennis. We have ah bunch ah marketing people who only like being we at Carnival time.”

Photo: Dennis ‘Sprangalang’ Hall.
(via Newsday.co.tt)

When I left radio to join the management team at CCN-TV6, Sprang bemoaned that I had brought him into radio and left him to fight up with ‘jackassness’. I assured him he would be fine because he had no ego to clash with the many egos at radio stations. He eventually left Tempo for another radio station.

At TV6, Sunity Maharaj decided on documenting the life and music of Mighty Sparrow and assigned me the responsibility to produce the live performance part of the project. Naturally, Sprang was my man to MC the show. We were happy to work together again.

When Sparrow said we should select the songs for the show, Sprangalang and I were the two happiest men alive. We spent several nights at my house arguing over what must be on the list of songs for Sparrow to sing. When Roy Cape saw the list of songs, he thought it was so wonderful that he made only minor changes.

As usual, Sprang would not give a price for his services. Sunity, not known for back and forth, made an offer to Sprang. He said: ‘de money nice, but not as important as what de lady (Sunity) is doing. At last we have somebody in authority who understands the importance of documenting we stories’.

Sprang and I always found time to talk over the years. When in NYC, he would come to our home to old-talk for hours—making me roll with laughter. Our last conversation was on 19th June 2020. He called via FaceTime to discuss an upcoming performance.

Photo: The late Dennis ‘Sprangalang’ Hall.
(via Newsday.co.tt)

The discussion naturally turned to the music. He said: ‘hardback spending too much time focusing on the music that was, and not paying attention to some of the nice Calypsos and sensible Soca ah bag ah youth doing’.

He was hoping to get back on radio to do such a show.

But the tables turned. This time it is he who moved on and left me. It now falls to me to do the show.

For mih pardner Sprang.

About Eric St Bernard

Eric St Bernard
Eric A St Bernard is a host and producer of Global Soca on TeamSoca.com, the #1 Total Soca station in the world. He holds a MSc in TV/Radio from Brooklyn College and has worked extensively in Caribbean music formats in Trinidad and New York, as well as events promotions and media advertising.

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One comment

  1. Earl Best

    Gone, yes, but with straight-from-the-heart writing of this sort, not soon to be forgotten.

    COVID prevents many of us from seeing our friends off on their final journey. But even when they are interred, we must ensure we don’t let them down.

    Take an A on that, Eric.