All hail, Queen Aziza!
By Wade Gibbons
Melody won the night!
And it came in the form of Aziza.
On a night when there was not much to choose among the artistes in terms of lyrics and rendition, Aziza’s Bring Back Respect and One People, One Nation were melodic tours de force that garnered her “114 points” and the 2016 Pic-O-De-Crop calypso crown.
Much hullabaloo has been made over the years about a woman winning or not winning the crown. But about 2 a.m. this morning it was about the best performer taking the crown at Kensington Oval before a huge and excited audience.
In the first half Aziza was solid without trying any fancy vocal theatrics with Bring Back Respect. She kept it simple, was clear in her diction, and the catchy melody of the song did the rest. She sang about the declining discipline in homes and wider society and the necessity to turn things around with better codes of behaviour. It was not a new theme but judged on its own merit it was quite a satisfying offering.
She sealed the monarchy in the second half with a captivating rendition of One People, One Nation. There have been a number of songs this year created with Barbados’ 50th year of independence taken into consideration. Hers is the best of the lot. Written by Ewatt “Viper” Greene, arranged by Ricky Brathwaite, and extolling the virtues of post-colonial Barbados, Aziza just needed to deliver and let the song’s beautiful melody win over judges and fans alike. The 21-year-old young lady nailed it with precision. And for those who have been counting, she became only the second woman to win the crown since Rita won with Woman Respect Yourself and Can’t Party in 1988.
For her deserving triumph she took home the main prize of a Mazda 3 worth $83 000 and an assortment of other bounty.
Taking second position with 98 points was Ian Webster. He performed Rights in the first-half and returned with Big Up in the second half. Both songs were excellently arranged and he would have done well by accumulating a significant number of the 35 points for melody and the 25 for rendition that were on offer. But lyrically, Big Up was okay without being special, and Rights marginally ahead His second place was grudgingly acceptable but still flattering.
Perhaps the judges might have to explain publicly what they look for in terms of lyrics. Are they looking for creativity, use of language, the ability to use literary techniques to paint vivid pictures and highlight themes without being long-winded, clever turn of phrase? What ever they were looking for, they will have to do much to convince that they found it in Blood’s Female Monarchy. His rendition was special as it always is and the song had a creditable melody but it was lyrically weak and mainly listing a series of female names for a proposed competition. His second-half offering of How To Get Away With Murder was a fair effort with his rendition again being top class. It would later prove quite lyrically prophetic, as his third place finish was an excellent example of just that – getting away with murder. He tallied 88 points.
Donella deserved better than fourth position for Questions and De Vision. Some have complained that her songs come over too much like elegies. But if that is the case, her lyrical lamentations are awfully sweet and she was in excellent voice on both of the melodic selections. They were lyrically potent and demanded keen listening. It would have been interesting to be a fly on the judges’ table to discern from them what she lacked in comparison to what was provided by Webster and Blood.
Donella’s 84 points saw her sharing fourth spot with Crystal Cummins-Beckles who was efficient in her renditions of That’s What Barbados Means To Me and Hall Of Fame. In the year 2016 one can hardly find fault with the proliferation of songs dealing with what Barbados means to its citizens or how the country can be improved. The treatment, though, of these songs is what could have set some of the artistes apart and there has been little difference generally in how this has been done.
Cummins-Beckles sang well, the melody of the song was fine, and it was lyrically okay, but as a complete package that almost indescribable oomph was missing. Her Hall Of Fame was much along the same vein as Blood’s Female Monarchy and Webster’s Big Up and was quite adequate. But Cummins-Beckles of 2016 lacked that oomph of her previous outstanding years.
Adrian Clarke did not finish among the top five and deservedly so. His 49 Not Out was delightful at many levels. The melody was infectious, juxtaposing Barbados’ arrival at the 50-year landmark with a cricket innings was excellent treatment of the subject and his rendition was top notch. But his second number De Bagger appeared almost as though it had been created during the intermission. Its major fault seemed to be the melody, which came over as contrived and at war with itself. Even Clarke’s expertise at vocal modulation could not rescue the song and give it that catchy melodic pattern.
Classic did not perform as an individual defending a crown. He had very interesting concepts in both War In the Alphabet and Technology, perhaps the best of all the competitors, and if it was simply a recitation contest he might have retained his crown. But on the night Classic came over as the reluctant calypsonian, almost caught in the headlights of a speeding car while crossing the road. Why he was this flat was a mystery.
Adonijah had a solid night with both Dat Is A Bajan and Bashment Commentary. He is one of the few calypsonians in the island that still sees the importance of humour in the art form. His former selection was a refreshing deviation from the strait-laced “praise Barbados in 2016” parade, but he still managed to highlight ‘Barbadiana’, albeit in a witty way.
Colin Spencer, another proponent of jocularity in calypso, was one of the stars of the first half with Toilet Paper where he looked at some of its other possible uses. He really charmed in the first half. But for whatever reason, he did not take that excellent momentum into the second half and simply fizzled with No Trussing.
TC did enough to make it perhaps into the top four with That Golden Age and Tek Wuh Yuh Get. Melody – check; rendition – check; lyrics – check; presentation – the category is a waste of time and should be dropped from the competition; judges favour – x-ed.
The musical accompaniment provided by the band was excellent and was in sync with the performers during the night. There were a few slight technical issues at the very start of the competition but they did not detract from a great night of entertainment.
Mac Fingal was terrific as emcee but one issue needs to be rectified, whether by the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) or by whoever has the task of being the emcee. If ten artistes have competed, the paying public deserves to be told at the end of the show the placement of all ten. It is their right to now through their patronage and their purses. It is not a favour to be bestowed to them by the NCF or the emcee. Get it right next time.
Perhaps the explanation for this was previously made by the powers that be but missed. But in a competition where according to the judging criteria, lyrics and melody were worth 35 points each, rendition 25 points and presentation 5 points, for a total of 100, how did Aziza arrive at 114?