Arrow - Biography
Arrow, one of the few calypso singers who regularly courts the world music market, is best known for his song “‘Hot Hot Hot.” Buster Poindexter, the lounge lizard alter ego of New York Doll David Johansen, scored a big hit with the song on his debut album Buster Poindexter (1987 RCA), and that sparked the tune’s international fame. Arrow is one of the few modern calypso singers to tour outside of the West Indies and as a result earned a major label deal with the now defunct Mango division of Island Records. Arrow’s music has been innovative since his debut, a mix of soca—modern calypso with an R&B influence, a blend of the words Soul/Calypso—rock, rap, salsa, reggae, zouk, cumbia and more. He also runs his own label—Arrow Music.
Alphonsus Celestine Edmund Cassell—or, Arrow, as he’d become known—was born on the tiny island of Montserrat in the West Indies. He grew up singing along with the James Brown and Elvis Presley records he heard over the radio in his youth. Arrow also loved the calypso, French and African music popular on the island. By the time he was 16 years old, he was competing in the island’s Calypso King contests, but he didn’t consider a career in music until a few years later when he put out his first album, Arrow On Target (1974 Arrow). The album became an unexpected hit in the Caribbean.
Arrow followed the regional success with Arrow Strikes Again (1975 Arrow). Although the Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago, calypso’s main event, does not allow artists from other islands to compete for the King of Carnival crown, Arrow still won the Road March Crown in the smaller St. Kitts competition with, “Rummy Song” in 1975.
After many years of honing his craft, in 1982 Arrow hired arranger Leston Paul—a heavy-hitter in the calypso world—and cut Hot Hot Hot (Arrow 1982). The title track became the biggest-selling soca hit of all time. The song quickly spread throughout the Caribbean before taking off globally. It became the theme song of the 1986 World Cup Tournament; Menudo and David Johansen covered the song; and “Hot Hot Hot” became the opening music of the Miss Universe competition in 1989. The track was also used on the soundtrack of several movies, including Little Mermaid II, Bend It Like Beckham, and the teen-sex comedy, Casual Sex. “Hot Hot Hot” would go on to become a #1 pop hit in England, as well.
All of the hit song’s success led to a contract with a major label—Mango, the world music division of Island Records—and the company released three albums with him: Knock Dem Dead (1988), Oh La Soca (1989) and Soca Dance Party (1990). Despite constant touring in support of the albums, as well as a high-energy show that combined rock guitar, African drumming and the popular rhythms of reggae, zouk and salsa, Arrow was dropped from the label after only three years. Since then, Arrow has resumed releasing albums under his trademark indie label, a catalog of songs that have become identified with as classic party jams.
Even while still under contract with Island, Arrow put out albums for the Caribbean market on his own, like Soca Savage (1984 Arrow). “Columbia Rock,” a Latin-flavored track from that album, was a smash throughout the Caribbean, and “Party Mix” was a staple on the dance floor.
Arrow’s prolific output continued through the 1990s, as the artist released a CD almost every year. Beginning with an evolved album, Zombie Soca (1991 Arrow), Arrow began to push soca into mainstream clubs, as it contains over an hour of music with some dance remixes of the hit tracks. Model de Bam Bam (1992 Arrow) followed, a sexy collection with the salacious hit, “Spread Yuh Leg.” Phat (Arrow), a collection of more party anthems with a sizzling remix of “Hot Hot Hot,” came out in 1995, followed by Turbulence (1998 Arrow). Into the new millennium, No Rules (2002 Arrow) shows Arrow taking on the societal discord of the world in a few songs, a slight diversion from his usual party all your cares away stance. In 2004, Arrow released Deadly, Deadly (Arrow), which was a complete return to his signature party jams.
All of Arrow’s hits, including “Hot Hot Hot,” are on The Best of Arrow (1994 Arrow). He was given the Living Legends award by the Caribbean Song Festival and the Bahamas Tourist Board in 1988 and performed at the opening ceremonies of the Cricket World Cup in the West Indies in 2007.