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Proving his point

by Latoya Burnham

Skeptics beware – Gabby is out to prove you wrong this Crop-Over.

In a telephone interview this morning, the nine-time calypso king told detractors that they might very well be up for a surprise next week Friday night when he hits the stage in position number one to do a repeat of 2010, where he shocked the audience to pull off a win.

Gabby maintained that he had proven himself at the Pic-O-De-Crop Finals in 2010 with Ol? Ash?, which received much criticism locally, but which was strong enough to bring him his ninth monarchy, since winning his first one in 1968 at age 19.

“They dismissed the music, as recently as 2010 with Ol? Ash?. They were all saying I was not in their top five at all,” he said of his critics at the time. “I gine call names, Elizabeth Watson, Cleve Scott, Admiral Nelson, Larry Mayers and so on and so forth were all skeptical and did not have me in the top four or five at all. I knew and the musicians knew that was a joke, and so did the judges.”

He said the key to it was the criteria behind the judging of the Pic-O-De-Crop, something he had been doing long enough to know how to handle.

“There are things called categories. So if you are judging my music in the categories, I have to score high in melody, I have to score high in rendition, which accounts for 75 per cent of the marks. In lyrics, I have to score high as well, because lyrics is not about lots of words and they are missing the point.

“I want you to examine a song, the lyrics of the most popular song in the history of music. Happy Birthday.

Happy birthday to you;

Happy birthday to you;

Happy birthday, happy birthday;

Happy birthday to you.

“We sing it every day and I consider it to be a brilliant piece of work. They are missing the point. In the calypso medium, the most famous is Arrow’s Hot Hot Hot. They are missing the point. The most brilliant song in calypso in the last 20 years is Horn or Looking for Horn by Shadow.

You working? No!

You joking? No!

You dealing? No!

You stealing? No!

You looking for horn – song dun and these idiots who criticise my work are not near the ballpark at all,” Gabby argued.

The musician of folk, ring bang and calypso maintained that it was not a case of needing a lot of words to prove a point, but focusing on what words could be used to get the point across as quickly and succinctly as possible.

“They do not understand what I am doing. I am working on something called ‘economy of words’. So these elongated sentences and talking bout de lyrics hard. What lyrics hard? De lyrics long and they become letters to de editor because these are things that are regurgitated from having read Barbados TODAY or the Nation or the Advocate or some other newsprint or watched some television channel.

“It is not creative. What they are is cumulative. So most of those songs will be dealing with 19 subjects at one time because the song is not a real song, it is an accumulative effort to retain in some form of musicality the thing that had passed before. Very few of them are able to deal with one subject.”

Instead, looking at his fight for the crown this year with CBC Pornography and Popsicle, I Coming Fuh You, the veteran kaiso man asked: “Do you know how hard it is to sing on Popsicle? First of all he is not a famous guy; he is not there every year like a Bag or Kid Site or Sparrow, he is not there. So to create on him, you have to create.”

So, he told his critics to “just shut up” instead of criticising and gloating each time he did not make the finals. He challenged them instead to come talk to him about his material.

Rather than facts, he charged that most critics brought their own opinions to the fore and disguised it as fact once they did not grasp what an artist was trying to portray.

Gabby said he would not dare to talk cricket on a live programme with Sir Gary or boxing with Muhammad Ali, and the same thing applied to his critics.

“They do not know, they have not spoken to me, they are not experts and people should take them for what they are, comedians making comments. They do not know.”

He said definitively: “I know I am a genius, but Barbadians do not like people to speak out for themselves. They think that you should wait and let somebody say it for you because we have grown up in a society where we are very, very, very careful of not wanting to seem arrogant. So we step with careful steps on the coals, just in case there might be still a little fire burning underneath it as opposed to smoke.

“I don’t ever step on the coals with caution. I step with authority, knowing that I come to control those coals and therefore they can’t burn hard enough, bad enough, strong enough, long enough to deter or distract or destroy me.”

In fact, Gabby said he was extremely relaxed heading into the finals next Friday and better yet, to be able to show the crowd and judges what he could do with a first position appearance.

“I have not been more comfortable in 20-something years. I deliberately half-sing both songs knowing that I did not have to put out 100 per cent effort to make that final. So I will sing my songs for the first time this year next week Friday.”

The problem, he maintained, was that the strength and worth of his songs were often not realised until later – something he said happened with some of his songs including West Indian Politician, Wind Force, Black Man Wake Up and Wacky Wacky, which he claimed the critics ripped apart before they realised what the songs were saying.

“Even when I won [with Wacky Wacky] they said it should not have won until they heard it and they had banned the song on the radio because it had dared to attack the church and the leaders. I said how dare Gabby not to. I have kept quiet for a long time because sometimes I did not think it was necessary.”

This year though, the gloves are off and the former monarch said he had proven that regardless of whether he was loved or hated, one thing his critics could not afford to do was ignore him.

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