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Fan of festival

by Donna Sealy

cropover2013fabeeonjudgingnightFabee is passionate about Crop-Over.

There’s no doubt about that and he intends to be involved in calypso for the long haul.

Barbados TODAY caught up with him as he waited his turn to rehearse his No More Points and Campaign Speech with the Festival Band for the Pic-O-De-Crop Semifinals this afternoon in the Major Noott Hall at Combermere School. During the interview he spoke about this Crop-Over season, what got him started in calypso and about his song writing skills, among other things.

Fabee, a former Mr. Barbados, said he started in this genre after being involved in NIFCA, arts and drama “for a very long time”.

“This vibe about sweet kaiso just came into my head and I wrote it down. Wayne Poonka Willock and I used to attend the same church and I ran the idea by him. He said this sounds pretty good, come over by me and let’s work on it, I did and there was the Workers’ Union calypso competition, which he told me I should enter. I did and placed second that year with Sweet Kaiso and that’s how I got started and I never looked back,” he said.

Fast forward to Crop-Over this year, which Fabee said has been a good one for him, including being among the 18 semifinalists for the second consecutive year.

“It’s been pretty good for me. I’ve been enjoying a really good season. Thankfully I got the songs out relatively early so they’ve been on air, they’ve been getting a lot of airplay on all the radio stations and I feel pretty good about that. Hopefully I can translate having a good season in the tent to a good night on Friday so I could advance. That’s always the aim,” he said with a chuckle.

Last year, the Headliners tent member was among the 18 calypsonians who were selected for the Semifinals and although he failed to make it to the Finals he copped the Nation Building Song Award for his No Place Like Home.

And while he was disappointed as he said “everybody enters the competition with Kensington in mind” he learnt from the experience.

“It certainly was a learning curve. I honed a lot of skills and there are many things that I could take forward from it, so hopefully I stand in a better position in 2013 than I did last year,” he said.

In addition to writing his songs, Fabee also wrote for some of the Junior Monarch contestants as well as tent mate Tabitha, an experience he liked.

“I always tend to throw a bit of humour in when I write for me because that’s who I am naturally. When you’re writing for others I always have a conversation first with the person to see where their mind is, any topics that they’re interested in particularly. I wouldn’t just write a song and say ‘here you go’. I think it is important to collaborate and get a really nice feel of the person generally and what they’re interested in before you write.

“I’m not a Gabby for instance who you can give a topic to and it’s done. I write with a vibe, I have to feel it. For example, when I wrote No More Points that took me about two days. I got the idea from the Saturday after the Semifinals, Saturday and Sunday I wrote that song. I called Chris [Allman] who’s the producer who said ‘Fabee, this is brilliant’ and that was that”.

“When I wrote Campaign Speech, my second song, that took me a little while. I started in February, when elections were gong on and that took me about a month to finish because I didn’t want just any line that rhymed to be in the song. It wasn’t that type of song. The song is about calypso but it is a nice comparison to what politics is. I wanted to take everything that was happening in elections and transfer it to what calypso has done for the country, which is what the song is about,” said the 31-year-old singer.

Does he see his age as being a significant factor in the art form?

“My chances are just as good as any. I don’t know about a greater chance but I think that a new perspective is always great. Barbados at large, along with the judges may be looking for something fresh, something different. Youth in itself is a benefit, there’re great benefits to experience. So while you may be winning one battle you may be losing another, you have to find a nice marriage, a balance and make sure you combine both,” he said.

The calypsonian pledged his commitment to the genre, particularly social commentary.

“I am very passionate about commentary. A lot of young people do ragga soca, they do party music because that’s where the money is. You can go perform at fetes, you can get a lot of gigs. You’re not going to get so many gigs doing commentary but I just love commentary, you can write on any topic. If you want to write about blue chairs or somebody who has locks, you are free in your mind to develop an idea, that is what commentary is. It comments on anything that’s on your mind, it’s a voice of the people.

“With ragga socas and party music, you are somewhat limited to jump and wave, wuk up, pooch back … Not that raggas can’t tell a story but at the end of the day you have to say something in your song that makes the people party or it’s not going to be a big party song. It may be a nice song but it may not be a big party song. If you want your music to advance, and be able to get into festivals like Labour Day, you really have to think about getting the people to move. With commentary you can get the people to move without saying any of those things. You can get the people to move by singing about topics that hit home,” Fabee said.

And as he progresses, he will continue to work hard to improve his craft. He might produce other music videos similar to that of the one he did for No Place Like Home at Independence last year.

“This year I have seen the fruit of my labour. Now I don’t think I’m a household name as yet, as Bag or Gabby for example, but they’re a lot more people who know who Fabee is and what Fabee can do in comparison to last year. That in itself is progress and to be here again shows a level of consistency, that I was able to meet the mark last year and I’m here again able to do it one more time. I am very grateful and blessed for that opportunity. I think I’m heading in the right direction, I will continue to work hard,” he stated.

As for Friday night, he is looking forward to singing to the masses one more time. He said simply, “there’s nothing like being on stage”.

“Forget all the rehearsals and preparations. The ultimate calypsonian enjoys the show and standing before the people and belting out what he or she wants to say,” he said with a smile.

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