Calypso monarch looking to leave his legacy on entertainment scene
by Latoya Burnham
Reigning calypso monarch Ian Webster has a plan. In fact, the 29-year-old king is very much looking forward to leaving an indelible mark on the entertainment and calypso scene – he wants to leave his legacy.
“I want to create a legacy,” the young man told Bajan Vibes. “You always hear about the legends in the artform like Gabby and Bag and Edwin and these guys have a body of work that they can show you. I want to get to that stage and I think I am now in a good position to work towards something like that. I want to be able to leave something behind that is memorable.”
This, Webster said was a goal he saw himself working toward over the next couple of years certainly, with a heavy emphasis on social commentary though he has not ruled out involvement in the party elements as well.
He swept aside his competition little more than two weeks ago to emerge as the Pic-O-De-Crop winner – Calypso Monarch of Barbados with One Blood and The Things We Do For Love.
From the beginning, Webster said he knew he was in with a chance, once he came with good quality material – which he believed he had succeeded in doing with both songs. With One Blood, which he came up with the idea for after a lecture on the challenges faced by some of the island’s persons with disabilities in the education system, Webster said he knew that was the issue he wanted to deal with this year.
So he spoke with Janine Odle, one of the young women mentioned in the lecture and whom he knew; conducted interviews, with among others, the Barbados Council for the Disabled, and with the help of John King began to put his lyrics together.
His greatest challenge, he said, was getting the song recorded – an obstacle he was eventually able to overcome to get the music out there into the public domain.
“It came to me then that everybody listens to this thing, from the old to the very young are listening to this programme and that is where the idea came from. I tried to piece together some things and I spoke to Colin Spencer and I spoke to others and they all told me that it could work.
“Gabby actually gave me the first four lines and it took me a while to get around to it but I started to write from there,” said Webster.
He sang it for his colleagues as well and he said that was when he started to get excited personally about the song because he realised that if someone other than him was singing the song, he would still have enjoyed listening to it immensely.
But then came the live performances – and the audiences in the tents loved it.
During the tent, he said he added a fourth verse when he started to get encore after encore, to test the crowd’s response to another verse, but he decided not to make too many changes to it until he got to finals. Then, he admitted that it was all about pacing himself for the ultimate round.
“I think I had planned what changes I would make about two weeks ahead of the finals because then I was also preparing for Sweet Soca. So even as I was preparing for that I was still preparing for the Pic-O-De-Crop competition. Sometimes you need to look at doing something more, something to improve your portfolio, because it is a work in progress.”
Webster said being a part of the soca aspect of competition this year had opened his eyes to a lot of different elements of that area and he would have to think of ways he could still be involved in soca, even if he does not compete.
There is a lot of finance involved in the party competition, he realised, and while he had performed two songs at Pic-O-De-Crop, more money went into the soca performances at Bushy Park than at the social commentary end, though his song Moving/Enjoy Yuhself was well received in the St. Philip-based party event.
“So these are all things I have to consider. I plan to write and see how that goes,” he said, adding that he was already looking at his material for next year.
“I have one idea for a social commentary already that I will either start writing soon or that I am planning to write, but social commentary is my love. That is where it is at for me.”
But his win has still given him a boost of sorts. After returning to the calypso arena two years ago following a nine-year break, it seemed the time away did him good. He came second on his return and claimed the coveted title this year, something he said gave him a “tremendous feeling”.
“It is a tremendous feeling really having come second last year and then having won this year is a tremendous feeling after a nine-year break, coming back and doing that in consecutive years is a tremendous feeling. I am thankful to God. I’m happy with my team and all the work they would have put in to making this year what it was. I am very pleased right now.
“The crowd response has been overwhelming, that’s the truth. Even on Saturday at the motorcade, there were so many people that the police had to ask me to leave so that Broad Street could return to normal, but I really want to say thank you to the people of Barbados for the support, for the love, for the way they have really embraced me since my return into calypso and I want to say to them that they can look forward to a few more years. I will continue to work hard to bring some quality music to this festival,” he said.
While the Springer Memorial School teacher of music and from September also of Religious Education said he has received invitations to Brooklyn for Labour Day, he said he might have to disappoint this year.
“I doubt that they would see the king. I will be returning to school pretty shortly. There are a few engagements that will be coming up for me on island and I will be dealing with them. I am supposed to perform on Saturday at the BARNOD fair and there are a few engagements as well.
“This year I don’t know what will come but whatever comes I will certainly look at it and see how best I can work with my school because I am a teacher and I just can’t pick up and go like that. So I will see how best I can work around my job situation presently to get the maximum benefit, go around the world and meet people and share some of the music of the festival with people.
“We are dealing with children here and we have a set curriculum, we have lesson plans and things that need to be implemented on a day to day basis. It is a little easier for someone who works in an office job, but when you are dealing with children you are dealing with relationships, with teaching style… It is a tedious process so there will have to be some collaboration between the Ministry of Culture and the Ministry of Education so that things can work out smoothly,” he stated.
One of the things he is hoping that can happen within his year as King is his work again with juniors at his school to get them involved in the Junior Monarch competition.
It was something he said he got involved with last year, but studies to secure his postgraduate Diploma in Education over the last year prevented the same level of interaction with the girls, who were able to get into the semifinals stage last year.
“[I] am going to push a little harder and see how much more I can do to get some of the girls involved in the Junior Monarch. I believe it is a good thing. It is good for the social commentary, that genre and I am king now so I can use my influence to help persuade some of the children to show them what I have been able to accomplish. Mind you I never got out of the preliminary in Junior Monarch.”
Overall it has been a good season for Webster, who said his own tent Cave Shepherd All Stars helped prepare him for competition as every night was like a Pic-O-De-Crop final. While he added that he was not concerned overly with who comes up against him in competition, he would like to see his mentors and stalwarts return.
“I would like to see people like Bag and Gabby come back. I still believe they have a lot to offer, but I also still want to be able to come on top one year with both of them in the competition, with full entourage – Gabby, Bag, John King – and it is not that I’m throwing out a challenge, but for me personally, I would get a sense of achievement coming up against mentors and winning. It would feel really great and I don’t know that my mentors would feel bad if their student one day was able to top them.” firstname.lastname@example.org