by Wade Gibbons
In the 2000 film Gladiator, Proximo tells Maximus Decimus Meridius: “Win the crowd and you will win your freedom”. Red Plastic Bag first won the crowd in 1982 and on Friday night at the Wildey Gymnasium before a packed, cheering gathering, a small but vital part of that crowd awarded him his tenth Pic-O-De-Crop title.
Did he merit it?
He sure did.
Bag delivered Royal Visit and Thank You Calypso which were lyrically adequate, if not among some of his better written works. But they were not weak. The latter selection was his new offering and was most appropriate in terms of paying homage to an art form that has done so much for him. It was an object lesson for some of the prima donnas around who believe they are calypso omnipotent and omniscient and are owed something by the genre. His decision to drop Feting was decisive and pushed him over the line
Bag is perhaps incapable of producing lousy melodies and both songs were exquisitely melodic and “sing-along friendly”. That latter quality in his music is perhaps one of the reasons he has long won the crowd and his style is probably as close as one can get to a type of “call and response” technique with the crowd basically filling in as the second musician. He would have scored mightily heavily in melody and there were no discernible issues with his rendition. Getting “Queen Elizabeth” to actually drop in on her subjects was a nice touch by St. Philip’s favourite son.
Ian Webster’s Hollywood Tree, inclusive of his opening presentation, was arguably the best performance of the night. He was dramatic, slowed the song marginally which helped with its rendition, if any was needed at all, and the song’s melody was quite pleasing. He was again solid with his second offering, Sweetness, an up-tempo number that looks at the dangers of diabetes. Why he would trivialise the song with silly lines about some of the other contestants was a complete mystery. Picong has its place but his on the night and the direction he took did nothing for the song.
To say that Gabby’s third place finish was scandalous is an understatement. His rendition of both CBC Pruhnography and Popsicle I Come Fuh You was, as usual, basically flawless. The melodies of both selections appeared to have been tweaked slightly but this did not detract from their good quality. But this writer would have loved to be a fly on the wall to see what the judges gave him for lyrics.
Popsicle wins a crown in 2011 and Gabby writes that he is coming to take back something that does not belong to him. Piffle! He “oohs” and “ahhs” his way through the ‘kindergarten-esque’ CBC Pruhnography and the judging panel tells all Barbados that collectively these catchy tent songs were the third best demonstration of calypso excellence in Barbados for 2012. Balderdash! The Pic-O-De-Crop competition must never appear to be an annual pension plan.
Adrian Clarke, with Uh Can’ Done and I Ain’t Frighten, proved once again that he is a man for the big occasion and not to be underestimated. Fortunate to be in the semi-finals of the competition in the first place, he ‘upped the ante’ considerably in the finals. For a complete package, in terms of presentation, rendition, melody and lyrics, his Uh Can’ Done was an improvement on I Done Singing Commentary. His costume switch from political to sporting personalities during the song enhanced the performance and showed how comfortable he is with a mic in hand.
Popsicle’s fifth place finish could be considered harsh. One hopes he never deviates from the writing style which he employs – usually pregnant with wit – that was evident in Bail Out and My Phone. He takes some simple objects or situations and with great imagination, tells some highly humorous tales. His second-half rendition of My Phone, together with his stage antics, created bedlam in the Gymnasium. He hasn’t quite done a Maximus as yet, but he is getting there.
The no-brainer which the National Cultural Foundation has introduced of not letting the people know the full results of what they paid upwards of $60 to attend needs to be dumped. It is insulting. There is no shame for a calypsonian coming among the last five of the best 10 from a field of over 100 competitors in Pic-O-De-Crop.
Chrystal Cummins-Beckles had two solid performances in Fly On De Wall and Why Yuh Tek Me Fuh Sandra Doah and despite not hearing her name among the top five, could have left the Wildey, St. Michael facility confident that she had turned in a top five performance.
Blood was fabulous with Suggestive Lyrics which called for concentrated listening. It basically made a number of suggestions to solving some of the problems facing the country and was very strong lyrically. Politicians’ Anthem possessed a pleasing melody and could not be considered lyrically weak if it finished below Gabby’s offerings. Blood’s rendition is always of the highest quality. The mystery therefore, is, what did these qualities earn from the judges on Friday night?
Adonijah pulled out all the stops for his Something Lef’ In De Bottle and having seen him perform it four times for the season, this was the best of those. He was solid with Congratulations and could feel pleased with his overall output, even if he did not make it into the top five.
Smokey Burke picked the worst possible time to foul up with his performances, running into obvious problems with rendition on the night, especially with Wait.
No announcement was made on the positions after Popsicle’s, but since there was not an eleventh competitor, one can only assume that the tenth position was filled by De Announcer. His was that type of showing on an occasion when the overall package was highly entertaining.
The band under the direction of Superintendent Keith Ellis was excellent and Mac Fingall did a great job generally as emcee, but needs to bring some fresh humour to these grand occasions. Barbados is a small country. [email protected]