Judging Jitters

Oh what a night!

Regardless of whatever results are announced in the semis call, I had a ball on Sunday night at the ADC/Digicel Big Show’s judging. The band was really tight for the whole night and everyone was on best performance.

This isn’t a review, since the tent has already had one in this publication, and a good one by someone who has credibility in the music arena. Still, there are a few things I’d like to note. Regardless of results, again, I was very happy with the performance of Dijah. That young lady is a born calypsonian. There are some people who may be able to sing well, go through the necessary moves on stage and all that but you can still tell it’s a learned skill. Some others just have it instinctively; Dijah belongs to the latter category.

I hope she doesn’t get distracted by the lure of soca and really spends time learning all she can about the craft of calypso. With the right songs, that’s a future calypso monarch of Barbados right there, mark my words.

Like everyone else in the place I really felt for young Leah, who missed some lines and then was further thrown off. It can happen to anyone, especially on a big night like judging night. I was sorry she didn’t do her second song but I understand exactly how she feels. It isn’t easy to build oneself up for a big performance then cope with your feelings when you make a mistake; it can be a shattering thing, especially for a young performer. Just look on this as a learning experience, Leah; next time around you will be stronger.

Listen, judging night ent easy, hear? It makes no difference how many years you have in this thing, you still feel the nerves fluttering and butterflies jumping bout in yuh stomach. That is the night the throat sprays, lozenges, honey and lime and all kinds of different tinctures come out. Fellas that are normally cool sometimes turn icy, keeping everything inside.

I must admit to being one of those fellas. When I’m about to sing I don’t talk to a fella. If you come up to me and start talking, when you pause for a breath chances are you’ll see me walking away. I’m not being rude but at that point I want nothing else in my head except what I’m about to do. By now most people know that and will keep away. Often, when people approach me, I signal to them that I’ll talk later.

I suspect that stage managers who don’t know me must be very stressed when dealing with me, since I’m not one of those performers who can sit or stand and listen to the person on stage. Understandably, stage managers like to get the next person up right there in position. Not me; I walk around outside or in the corridor until the person is done and coming off stage then I’m right there and ready to go. I know it drives them crazy but that’s my way. People are different and I’ve never missed my cue on stage.

Last year I was pretty much cool right throughout the competition. I had been away from the scene for six years and in some ways was almost like an onlooker. This year, pardner, slightly different story. While I haven’t been a bundle of nerves, it’s been an experience. Keep this a secret, OK? Between Friday night and judging Sunday night I must have had about five hours sleep. I had a lot of rest, but little sleep.

It wasn’t as though I was fearful of the judging night; in fact, I was welcoming it. It was just that the thoughts, and lyrics to my songs, kept swirling all bout my head. I prayed, (yes, I do that; I don’t close my eyes, though, because when the Africans closed their eyes and prayed with the missionaries, when they opened their eyes again the missionaries had the land and they had the Bible) watched TV, read, all kinds of things. Still, sleep wouldn’t come and food tasted awful (no reflection on the cooking at my home).

That’s not a good combination for me health-wise, I know. I managed to get about two hours Sunday midday or so and by the time I got to the tent about 6, I was running on fumes. I sat in the car and thought I would take a snooze but realised that once I went to sleep I wasn’t waking up again til bout 9 the next morning. I had visions of being shaken awake with “Ado! You on now!”

That was so real that I just sipped on water, walked around and kept myself up. About 10 minutes before stage-time I always get a rush and this was no different. So when Mac introduced me I was ready, the band and backup singers were ready and it was on.

Somehow the second song for the night, for me at least, is never such a challenge. It’s as if the ice has been broken in a room full of strangers and it comes relatively easily. What one has to look out for is getting so relaxed that one gets out of the zone and in the second song there has to be a build-up to the vibe of the first one.

I think all my readers know by now what my feelings are about competition. I really don’t think works of art should be pitted against one another but I understand the competition vibe. What one can’t deny, though, is that competition can bring out the best in performers, as everyone tries to raise the game and give the best performance possible. It’s amazing how people who have average or below-average nights in the tent can suddenly on judging night bring an A game that catches some by surprise.

Unfortunately, it’s also amazing how judging nights can also bring out the worst in people. I remember early in my time in this thing I was at a finals at the National Stadium and a veteran performer, who clearly saw me as a threat, and he had every right to, started dancing all around me, singing how good he was and how bad he was going to beat me. I wasn’t put off, or offset as the youngsters say. Rather, I was shocked. I couldn’t believe that a man for whom I had such respect could act this way towards a relative newcomer, whom he should have been encouraging.

On Sunday, despite competing against Dijah, I went up to her, hugged her and told her what I told you earlier, that she is a natural calypsonian and has the world of potential. That’s how I think a veteran should treat a newcomer, not try to freak them out and put them off.

Some may say that’s a part of the game but I don’t play that igrunt game. I lost a serious amount of respect for that man on that night. Sadly, he doesn’t seem to have learned much in the area of human relationships.

This kaiso thing is something else, hear?


Wuh happen to Foreday Mornin’?

My knowledge of J’Ourvert in Trinidad, the parent of Foreday Mornin’, is that it is a time for simple costumes depicting events in the news, oil, paint and mud. The costume thing, as far as I know, has never been brought over to Barbados but the paint, oil and mud certainly were.

Now this year, all of a sudden it seems to me, Foreday Mornin’ has become stylised. Nuff pretty costumes that I don’t think people will want oil, paint or mud on is de ting.

And the costumes! Lord havest mercy! I must say that this publication has brought the most exciting coverage of these bands so far. Look, they had one named the Chocolate Factory; I tell yuh! I understand a friend of mine said: “Call me Willie Wonka!” That is one set of chocolate ready to melt in the mouth.

As much excitement as these costumes are causing, though, I have to wonder if the character of Foreday Mornin’ is going through a wholescale change and, if so, what does it mean for the original concept. Of course, since I’ve only looked on and never participated, I could be all wrong and it was always meant to be anything at all. One thing for sure is that with costumes such as I have been seeing the temperature will be hot, regardless of weather conditions.

And why haven’t I taken part in Foreday Mornin’? I’ve chipped in J’Ourvert many times, keeping close to the engine room of Despers. One Crop-Over a few years ago, I decided I would try a thing at Foreday Mornin’. As I passed Starcom and approached the lights at the Independence Square junction, I saw this large crowd of young men assembled in the area of the Kentucky Fried Chicken outlet. They were close to 100 of them, breaking bottles, drinking heavily and throwing around brass bowls left, right and centre.

I told myself, but if these fellas so out of order already and dey en even hear de music yet, wuh gine happen when dey drink some more and got de music in dey head? With that thought, I took the left turn and headed East.

Now you may call me a coward but skipper, for a long time now I have reduced things to this — what will I gain from it and what may I lose. I would possibly gain a night of enjoyment and I might lose part of my head lick loose wid a bottle. That’s a no-brainer to me, literally. So it was to the East, to the East!

I don’t mean to dampen anybody’s enthusiasm, though, folks. Go on out and enjoy your Foreday Mornin’. Tek a jump fuh me. As fuh wunnah members of Chocolate Factory, mek sure wunnah don’ melt. Tings gine be hot!


I heard it announced earlier but never really gave it any thought before.

The decision to provide a two-week break between semis and finals in the Pic-o-de-Crop competition is one that has a lot of positives going for it.

Crowds usually fall off in tents after the semifinalists are announced, especially so for the tents that have no or few representatives. The tents now have that space to get creative. Their members who have recorded will have familiar songs, hopefully, which now gives them an opportunity for different marketing. This is also the time when tents should combine and hold shows, do different things, perhaps try for different audiences.

As far as contestants are concerned, it’s a blessing. When the names for the finals are announced on the Saturday morning, that gives contestants seven days, including the night of the show itself, to get their productions together. That’s what performances at finals have become, productions. Given that the technical rehearsal is the night before, it’s actually just six days. Now it’s two weeks, which gives real breathing space.

Of course, there are some competitors who can afford to be so certain that they will be in the finals that they actually start putting their productions together from the start of the season. If they don’t actually start any construction, they have plans in place; don’t let them fool you that they are now rushing to get things together. Yuh know dem calypsonians can speak wid forked tongues sometimes!

So, as far as I’m concerned, it’s a good move. The only thing left for me to say is, NCF, congratulations to you!

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