For decades, the Parang Queen of the World as her fans lovingly call her, has proven popular on local airwaves around the festive year-end season. Her parang hits and music videos are a heartwarming reminder of lasting local talent that stirs feelings of nostalgia, and the poignant melodies continue to capture the hearts and ears of longstanding admirers and new listeners alike.
Trinbagonians and foreigners alike, continue to comment on, share, and critique Sharlene’s work through social media outlets. The responses are always positive, with many persons recalling the feelings and cultural happenings associated with Sharlene’s era of parang in Trinbago. The popular “they don’t make them like this anymore” rhetoric holds true for her authentic and timeless work.
The entertainer says her parang roots are deeply tied to her hometown of St Joseph. Her accompanying band, Flores de San Jos?, holds its namesake as well.
“Growing up in San Jos?, the capital of parang, and being exposed to the most affluent musicians of the art form, I was always intrigued by the beautiful voice of the late, great queen of parang, Gloria Alcazar,” Sharlene says of one of her biggest inspirations in the genre. An introduction between the two, facilitated by one of Sharlene’s friends, “was to be the beginning of my career.” In fact, one of the singer’s most striking memories is “that fateful night when Gloria Alcazar fell ill and I was called upon to lead the great San Jos? Serenaders unexpectedly at the old Arima Grand Stand.” The Serenaders was founded and led by Sharlene’s husband, Wayne Flores – musician, arranger, songwriter and parang pioneer. Upon the dissolution of the San Jos? Serenaders, Wayne decided that the band and his wife’s talents “should not fall by the wayside and so was born the legendary ‘Sharlene Flores with Flores de San Jos?’,” shares Sharlene.
In addition to the many public gigs across the country during the 90s, Sharlene Flores with Flores de San Jos? also released their widely popular self-titled record. On this compilation are many of the band’s known and loved hits.
Of the time making the album, she shares, “Sharlene Flores and Flores de San Jos? have been extremely blessed and fortunate to have worked with the very best in the music industry [such as] Earl Crosby and renowned Joe Brown.
It was not an easy task producing a CD of international standard, there was always a level of stress, excitement, and exhaustion.” Of a standout memory from the recording process, she recounts the studio recording of hit song “Burbujas De Amor” (Bubbles of Love) – a heartfelt and passionate ode to someone dear.
“I remember while recording this song, I became quite emotional. I remember once playing the original version for my parents; they both fell in love with it and felt that I would do justice to it if I were to record it.
“Unfortunately, my dad, having heard us perform the live version, passed away before it was recorded. During a recording session in the studio, four month’s after my dad’s passing, I found myself so highly emotionally-charged with thoughts of him that I was unable to continue with the recording of ‘Burbujas’. Our producer, Joe Brown, decided I should stop, being pleased with the _ rst part of the recording, describing it as ‘magical’.
“The following day, I completed the song in the same shade, tone, and emotions. Joe was blown away as he continued to speak of never experiencing anything of the sort with any other artiste, locally or internationally.” In the past, she says she has been known to become emotional during the performance of ‘Burbujas’, “bringing not only myself to tears but people in the audience.” The music video for this song is also iconic in local lore, and Sharlene says of many of the band’s music videos: “[They were] fun, exciting, exhausting, but pro_ table in many ways. It certainly kept us in touch with our fans!” Another standout music video, the upbeat “Spanish Confusion”, was _ lmed at the old TTT building on Maraval Road, Port-of-Spain, and includes shots of Sharlene and band members grooving to the addictive instrumentation.
Earlier this year, Sharlene was honoured on a national level for her contribution to local art, culture, and entertainment, when she was the recipient of a Hummingbird Silver Medal. If the love and respect from her fans was not enough, Sharlene says this award “epitomised” her and her band’s contribution “to a great art form” and she acknowledges it as a milestone in her long, and continuing, career as a performing artiste.
Soon after receiving this prestigious national award, Sharlene was also honoured with a Sunshine Award in Performing Arts in the sphere of Latin/Parang music at their annual prize giving ceremony in New York City. The Sunshine Awards mission statement reads, “To uplift and enhance the pride in all people of Caribbean, South American, Central American and African heritage while preserving and promoting values and culture through the recognition and rewarding of excellence in the various art forms, sports, cultural programs and education.” “The Sunshine Award in itself speaks volumes of the international appeal of parang music,” Sharlene believes, “and the recognition that ‘Sharlene Flores with Flores de San Jos?’ has given to the world of parang music.” Sharlene also highlights many of the band’s hits that “our fans grew up with, so they look forward to hearing that at our every gig”, including “Vamos, Vamos, Vamos”, “Parang Soca Fun”, and “Spanish Confusion”. She says members of the citizenry who are excited to see her perform this season should keep a close eye on her Facebook page for updates on public appearances. She is also grateful for the outpouring of love and support she receives on such pages, and is heartened that the work she and the band has created will continue to live on in the hearts (and through speaker boxes) for decades to come.
And at the heart of parang music, in her words, “One is not always mindful of it, but in essence it’s all about the birth of Christ, which is what Christmas really is all about.”