By Theresa Goodwin
From a very young age, the late Joseph “Calypso” Joe Hunte was branded a “tornado” and prankster, due to his spontaneous sense of humour and antics as a boy.
Another aspect that was crystal clear from the very onset was his love for music and the performing arts, which he developed with the assistance of his former headmaster who recognized his innate talent and assisted him in nurturing it even further.
Hunte’s sister, Juanita Commissiong, shared this and more intimate details to the attendees who gathered yesterday at the St John’s Anglican Cathedral to pay their final respects to the cultural icon and calypso legend who died on November 28, 2020.
Commissiong said “Joe”, the fifth of their parents’ 10 children, was encouraged by his former principal of the Johnson’s Point Government School to participate in the school’s choir and drama group which resulted in him winning a lot of competitions for the institution.
“His passion for music, acting and performing followed him to the Princess Margaret secondary School. He was among of the first batch of students to attend the school and was placed in in the Business Division,” she recounted.
“While at Princess Margaret, he studied hard. But classes were an interlude to recess when he would regale his classmates to with his compositions,” Commissiong said.
From school, she said, Joe organised his own band in Johnson’s Point and they went on to win the very first talent competition in the country.
“He convinced, our father and more surprisingly, our mother, to fund instruments for the band and our front steps were converted to a practice venue and the entire village would come out to listen,” his sister continued.
The creation of the band and further contributions propelled his entrance into the calypso arena.
Hunte’s former colleagues at the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) Water Business Unit and others in the calypso fraternity were among those who paid tribute in song.
His colleagues at APUA spoke highly of his leadership and how well he performed his duties, thereby providing an example for others to follow.
Calypso Joe has left behind a legacy of music through his most popular nation-building calypsos, to include “A Nation to Build, a Country to Mould” and “A Tribute to VC.”
He will also be remembered as the winner of the country’s first Road March competition 1970, with his hit, “Bum, Bum”.
Hunte was crowned Antigua and Barbuda’s Calypso Monarch once, with that title coming in 1971 for his rendition of “Educate the Youths” and “Recorded in History.”
Calypso Joe was also a frequent performer at local hotels, often making appearances with his signature Hawaiian print shirt, guitar and straw hat.
5th of 10 children