The final nine
by Wade Gibbons
The die has been cast.
After deliberations that were potentially difficult, the judges arrived at Adonijah, Donella, Adrian Clarke, Classic, Biggie Irie, Crystal Cummins-Beckles, Hee Haw, Colin Spencer and Enobong. They will now head to Kensington Oval on August 1 to challenge Ian Webster for the 2015 Pic-O-De-Crop monarchy.
Of those left behind at the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex early Saturday morning, Dre and Sir Ruel would be justified in seeking answers about where they went wrong. Of those who made it to the final, perhaps only Biggie Irie could raise some question marks.
Classic is a throwback to a time when wit in calypso was an important component in storytelling –– an ingredient that has made the likes of RPB, Chalkdust and Sparrow great. Not only did Classic tell of the duplicity to be found in certain professional Barbadian relationships in his In Bed Together, but he treated the subject adroitly, especially in his choice of words at the end of each verse, leaving the audience to be the part of the interpretation of the first word of the succeeding verse.
While theirs might have been a saucy riposte, Classic “cleaned up” their interpretation with his accompanying rhyme. He completed one of his best performances in memory with Something Fishy. A repeat or possible improvement, come final night, could see him finishing among the top three.
Adrian Clarke’s vocal ability gives him an advantage in most competition situations. He was simply sweet on the ear with the melodic Too Soft which was an indictment of calypsonians shying away from their responsibilities as social commentators. His second selection Not Studying Uranus was well rendered, but likely to lose impact once Announcer did not make the semi-finals. And it did somewhat.
It is one thing to have the object of one’s criticisms sharing the same stage, taking blows, and being able to respond in kind immediately. But there will be no Announcer in the final, and Clarke might very well have to change the song to something with more lyrical relevance and impact come final night.
People have been clamouring for a female monarch for some time and they might get one in Donella, with her Rise and Leh He Go. She was a virtual certainty after two flawless renditions of melodic numbers that were strong lyrically. The latter, in particular, was well scripted and looked at a situation where several parents wear blinkers with respect to the criminality of some of their offspring.
Another who looked a sure finalist –– barring laryngitis –– from the opening of his tent was Hee Haw. He got every male at The Gymnasium in his corner –– and many women –– with his Respect De Man. His rendition was flawless –– akin to reading the words from his mouth –– and would have scored well with lyrics and melody.
His Not Me Liver Gall was another beautifully rendered, melodic piece that would have got the nod of even those who imbibe the spirits he decried.
Adonijah got the biggest response of the night from the crowd with his The Marching Song. Apart from the top arrangements of the song, there is an element of call and response to the lyrics which the veteran –– a quality writer –– has injected and encourages the audience to get involved. It might be a sign of the political times, but when Adonijah queried whether a certain leader was doing a good job, the response from fans was the loudest of the night.
He completed his examination with Blues, a foundation calypso with an experimental bluesy riff that captured the essence of his subject –– the alleged slaying of a civilian by a police officer earlier in the year.
Enobong’s Crop Over Without Canes and Join De Army were among the best lyrically constructed selections on the night, and they were performed well. The former, in particular, looked at what can only be described as the irony of the festival with sugar cane production becoming more and more irrelevant while Crop Over is simultaneously celebrated. Indeed, it might very well be a case of the crop really being over.
Crystal Cummins-Beckles was in good voice during the excellent rendition of Wake Me Up and Music To My Ears, and deserved her place in the final. However, she must guard against a degree of sameness in her annual themes and messages, and could in the future look to inject some wit into her lyrics. But hers was a commendable showing.
Biggie Irie performed both Singing Competition and Sweet Type Of Way excellently, and both would have scored high on melody. But it would have been interesting to see how much he scored out of the 40 points allocated towards lyrics.
Lyrics do not have to be deep or philosophical to be strong. The Merrymen’s Big Rock is a classic example of a simple subject being explored brilliantly. But references to a loved one being akin to the bubble in Sprite or the sugar in mauby, et al, was risking at those 40 points somewhat. It wouldn’t be a surprise if Biggie Irie changes the song for the final.
Colin Spencer was the consummate professional in both It Ain’t Only Me and The Oceans Are Rebelling. He must have scored more than most of his colleagues with the latter song which was among the strongest lyrically on the night. His delivery, as usual, was impeccable.
Dre’s time on stage was well spent with Pic-O-De-Crop and I Am Barbados, and though he must be disappointed at not making it to the next stage, that time cannot be too far off on his current path.
Sir Ruel also performed his Young Stars and Dreams well, and his omission surprised many.
Gabby had his worst outing in the competition in memory with Reparations and Jack Warner. That he had to change
14 lines in the latter song before Friday night’s semi-final was not an indictment of him but of the judges.
They placed him in the semi-final with that song, despite its lyrical weakness and defamatory texture. Surely, with their experience, exposure, long list of academic qualifications and possible legal directions from the National Cultural Foundation on defamation, even an amber flag should have been raised in their initial considerations.
Mikey came into the semi-final with worthy material in Fronts and Some Things Never Change, but seemed to be affected by hoarseness or some other vocal discomfort, and it played a part in his rendition, especially in Fronts; and he did not reach the level of De Big Show’s judging night.
Others in the mix were De Doctor –– almost a Sugar Alloes sound-alike, Mr Blood –– undeservedly the reserve, Billboard, Sammy G and Mistah Dale.