Judges got it wrong
by Wade Gibbons
Perhaps the most prophetic line from any of this year’s calypsos has been delivered by the consistently good, but under-appreciated veteran Adonijah.
In his song Congratulations he paid kudos to the National Cultural Foundation for encouraging and giving opportunities to those in our society with disabilities, and bestowed top marks on the NCF for including the deaf and the blind on their calypso judging panels.
As one who once sat and innocently overheard a now deceased judge say that as long as she had a say, Red Plastic Bag would always be in her Pic-O-De-Crop finals, this writer is convinced that many of our judges have long stopped judging the performances and are judging the performers.
Having been exposed to such classics as Jack, Westminster Politicians and Culture, there are many of us who are saddened that the Mighty Gabby has dropped to such twaddle as CBC Pornography. It is even more disheartening that despite its catchy melody, the song’s juvenile lyrics convinced a panel at Friday’s Pic-O-De-Crop semi-finals at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex that it was worthy of being counted among the 20 best songs – in the categories outlined – for this Crop-Over season.
Perhaps when one wins crowns too easily and becomes, understandably, lost in the designation of being a cultural icon, personal standards can sometimes be sacrificed with the knowledge that past glories will lure allies into jumping to one’s defence in the face of criticism. His Popsicle, I Coming For You was marginally better, but again, on a level playing field, must have scored poorly for lyrics, even though his rendition was, as always, excellent, and there could not be much quarrel with the melody.
But, Gabby, a 2012 finalist? Please! And my shirt will remain in tact.
Adrian Clarke is one of my favourite calypsonians and I was disappointed that this year he brought some of his weakest material in years to the competition. I do not know if the judges were ‘scurd’ about a deficit in perceived drawing cards at Kensington Oval next weekend, or they didn’t want him “to dun singing commentary”, but Clarke’s excellent rendition on Friday night was the only thing that stood out in both songs.
Gay bashing in some jurisdictions is frowned upon. In others, it is simply illegal. More importantly, somewhere in my previous flirtations with religion I once read or heard that God hates the sin, not the sinner.
Someone needs to tell that to Announcer. His Boxieologists was lyrically offensive, and ironically, if he wanted a melody to epitomise “drag”, that was it.
Of those who made it into the finals special mention must be made of Smokey Burke, Adonijah, Crystal Cummins-Beckles and Ian Webster.
The NCF should utilise the skills of Smokey Burke and Adonijah on how to write calypso. The two are simply brilliant. It is evident that Adonijah understands that there is a rhythm to writing and his mastery of scansion comes out in everything he produces. He is never long-winded, his melodies, despite any enhanced arrangement tweaks or improvisations, always flow. And it all starts with his writing.
This was apparent in both Congratulations and Something Left In The Bottle. I haven’t heard if BARP has adopted the latter, but if they haven’t, they are wasting time.
Smokey’s strength is his turn of phrase and skilful use of pun. There is so much going on in his Alexandra that one discovers some other element at each listening. But the strength of the song rests in the lyrics. It is beautifully put together and the melody quite pleasing.
Crystal has about the best chance of winning the crown as any woman has had since Rita. Her Why You Take Me For Sandra Though and especially Fly On The Wall should, barring hiccups on Friday fortnight, ensure that she at least finishes ahead of Gabby, Announcer, Adrian Clarke and RPB – even if NCF acknowledges that this is an anniversary year for some of them.
Her other rivals will take a bit more beating though.
Webster was outstanding on Friday night, especially with Hollywood Tree. Along with Crystal, Smokey Burke, Blood and Adonijah, he has looked a certain finalist from the time All Stars opened its tent to the public this season. He touched on the major issue which Announcer looked at in Boxieologists, but his treatment of the subject did not conjure up images of gay crucifixions.
Of those who did not make it Troy Special should feel particularly aggrieved. He has seemingly ditched the person who used to write those boring, long-winded theses for him, or, has stopped writing them himself, and has produced pleasing material this year.
Unfortunately, the NCF judges slotted him into the spot that should have been reserved for Gabby.