If it is one thing that Chrystal Cummins-Beckles knows a lot about –– aside from music –– is having to brave comparison.
“She trying to sound like Singing Sandra” and “She feel she is a Trini” are some of the comments she has too often had to put up with. While it might sometimes be a good feeling to be compared to one’s role model, when that is the only thing people have to say about your craft, now and again it weighs heavily on one’s mind.
And in an interview with Bajan Vibes recently at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, the reigning Caribbean Calypso Monarchdisclosed that it has.
She said this was one of her main struggles since being involved in calypso from 2006; hence her reason for singing Why You Tek Me For Sandra in 2012. This song, she explained as she laughed, was her “to hell with everything, I not even stressing about this any more” song.
“I phrase like Chrystal –– that is the truth. The thing is I listen to a lot of Trinidadian calypso so to say I sound like one particular person is not necessarily true. It is not a good feeling [people referring to me as Singing Sandra]. People say it is a compliment; but I don’t want to be known as Singing Sandra, I am Chrystal. Even she [Singing Sandra] gets annoyed when people say it,” she said.
Whilst the constant comparison has been a difficult obstacle for her to overcome, it could be said that last year was evidence she was successfully putting it behind her.
As readers would remember last season, the 29-year-old was runner-up to Ian Webster for the calypso title. Though plagued with several malfunctions backstage on that night, she still came out and put on two solid performances which would not be easily forgotten.
“I found that last year the reception was totally different. People actually appreciated Chrystal for Chrystal. Thank God and hopefully that storm has passed,” she said.
Fast-forward nearly one year later and there is no doubt that persons are realizing the young woman is not trying to be Singing Sandra nor phrase as a Trinidadian would. In fact, she stated their questions were now: “Will 2014 be her year to win the Pic-O-De-Crop Final?”, “Or will she remain a bridesmaid?”
No one can predict the future, but one thing is for sure: in spite of what ever happens the St Michael resident said she will give of her best, persevere and “be Chrystal”.
She stressed: “People believe that when you come second one year you should automatically win the following; but that is not necessarily the case. What I am doing now is just working on trying to be better than last year. This year you can expect good music. I won’t tell anyone to beware, but I’m coming out to win.
“I am looking to improve. So this year you will see an improvement in . . . Chrystal’s music, stagecraft, confidence and just taking things a bit deeper with my skills and not being seen as a calypsonian, but a musician. You will hear it in my arrangements, see it in my performance and my work. I would like it to be [my year] but everything in God’s time.”
On what type of music to expect from the artiste, she said strong, balanced material. What’s more, she said she had already begun writing songs and expected them to be completed by month-end, with at least one being released in April.
“I am Christian. I try to make sure I walk a certain way in this life; and my work will reflect that. Whenever I put work out there, I am putting it out to touch somebody or touch one person in that crowd on finals night. So that is who Chrystal is. One of my songs will be religious; something with morals, values . . . and the next will be something fun. Last year I think I achieved that with the help of David Weatherhead and Roger Gittens . . . but I believe in writing my own material; so this year I intend to have that balance because sometimes it is not about winning a crown or making it to finals for me, it is about being consistent and showing improvement. And I can say I am consistent and I am trying to have a balance,” the former Alleyne School student told Bajan Vibes.
Cummins-Beckles has also made a name for herself penning winning material for junior calypsonians, including both champion songs in the 13 to 18 and eight to 12 categories of the 2013 Scotia Bank Junior Calypso Monarch (Charice Honesty Walrond – Respect De Disabledand Quinn Quinn P Prescott – Living With HIV).
She further said: “I feel as though my journey has just begun because last year was my fourth consecutive year in the final. My first year I came seventh, then ninth, sixth and last year I came second. so I do see growth, and every year I come to improve. And this year, if I am to win, I will win. If it is my time, it is my time. If I don’t win this year, I will come back next year and keep going. I think if you are good, you will make it; just keep bringing good material.”