All Stars shine brightly
by Wade Gibbons
Irrespective of the judges’ decisions and who makes it or who doesn’t, a packed Plantation Garden Theatre was treated to five hours of fabulous entertainment last night as the Cave Shepherd All Stars faced the annual nemeses of all calypsonians.
By the time the last note had been played by the excellent band, the likes of Crystal Cummins-Beckles, Ian Webster, Colin Spencer, Adrian Clarke, Smokey Burke and Mandisa had done enough, and in some cases, more than enough, to impress those sitting with pen and paper in judgement.
Adrian Clarke presented a performance that was riveting. Again, the arrangements of Sociable Jam are among the most refreshing this year, borrowing slightly from some classical strains to make the point of “high culture” and meshing well with the band’s return to the selection’s overall rhythm pattern. Clarke’s vocalisation, important to make a fleeting operatic transition during the chorus, was key to creating the effect he wanted.
Minister of Education Ronald Jones might not have sought to introduce any form of snobbery into the Crop-Over festival, but by the end of Clarke’s song, neither he nor anyone else would dare to. He created a ruckus with his second number Leave Them To Me which was a response of sorts to Colin Spencer’s earlier I Aint Singing ‘Bout Politicians where he basically suggested that all the subjects or personalities that Spencer didn’t want to deal with, he would.
Structured with a sprinkling of the sans humanité style, the song was delivered with clear enjoyment by Clarke and the crowd fed off his mood. It was witty and caustic all in one with one line where he said: “It wasn’t about Mia on a jet-ski, it was the sight of her in a bikini”. The song was what kaiso should always be – making a point, and doing it humourously. He got two encores.
Clarke’s two selections were worth the admission fee. Ian Webster was not far behind Clarke with his One Blood and The Things We Do For Love. His was a mix of the serious and the humourous. In his first selection, he highlighted the often preached need for unity and the acknowledgement that humankind are all one. His second number looked at a popular radio programme hosted by broadcaster Ian Cupid Gill that exposes much personal details of love or sexual relationships. It was hilarious, made even more so by Webster’s assortment of laughter, tears and screams.
Spencer’s political commentary went down well and whether he was referring to St. Andrew MP George Payne or not, one line which brought thunderous response from the crowd was yet another dig on the Opposition Leader when he suggested that there were some in her BLP party who hoped she had encountered a shark while on that jet-ski recently. But it was his Parang which was particularly impressive. It is not a style in which one often sees or hears Spencer. It is an uptempo number which bridges party and social commentary. He suggests that so many musical genres have crept into Crop-Over that no one should be overly critical if he adds parang. The song’s melody is about the best one is likely to hear this year.
There will be some who will be on their annual “She sounds too much like Singing Sandra” trip again – which is becoming a bore quite frankly – but Crystal is once more in good form this year with I Ain’t Giving It Up and One Day. Ironically, what she is criticized for is really her strength – rendition, and she was superlative in both. In the former song she says that she will never give up the art form and suggests, correctly so, that calypso is bigger than the calypsonian.
It was a timely reminder to some prima donnas who make the now mandatory national spectacle of not competing in a festival that has made them. Her plaintive rendition of One Day was terrific. The theme was familiar, looking at a host of negative social issues that will hopefully one day be overcome, but her delivery made it so refreshing. Hopefully, she will retain this her natural sound and not be cowed into sounding like Jerry Butler. Barbadians seem to be accepting how good a writer Smokey Burke really is, and he is not the worst performer either. He had a great night before the judges with two witty songs in I Wid De NCF This Year and Bajans Too Like A But(t) [my addition]. The first number looked at the unity among his colleagues, manifested mostly in them often unified in going in different directions. The second song suggested that Barbadians’ praise, love, salutation, irrespective of how seemingly genuine, is frequently followed by a negative ‘but’.
The youthful Mandisa accredited herself well with Care and Modern Slavery and could certainly interest the judges but once again she seemed afraid of her audience. . .and they loved her. Also appearing before the judges was Hee Haw who was on a God trip with Still Necessary and Dirty Man. He was solid but unspectacular. However having mentioned the Creator on a few occasions that might be enough for any church-going, Bible-carrying judge on the panel to give him a semi-finals nod. But that is highly unlikely.
Also turning in solid performances before the Pic-O-De-Crop judges was Juliana Trotman, Queen Ashe and Windchaser. De Slayer and Scribbs were the best in the tent appearing before the Party Monarch judges, while Bert Panta Browne made a return to the party stage with Push It Back Again. Statement also performed a number entitled Take A Wine. Special mention must be made of emcee Jenny Walker who continues to grow in stature and did a excellent job in the role last night. email@example.com