by Donna Sealy
Soca artist Biggie Irie is making a move — to social commentary this year.
But after saying he was done with competitions last year to give youngsters a chance, he has decided to enter not just the Pic-O-De-Crop competition, but the Sweet Soca as well. He said the decision came after discussions with local producers who told him, “This is what you do”, and Crop-Over was the one time of year for artists to make some money, so he had a change of heart.
While his Sweet Soca entry, Need a Riddim is getting lots of airplay, he said people wanting to hear his social commentary, Corruption, would have to wait until it was recorded and he performed it in De Big Show.
“It is something I always wanted to do. From the time I saw the first Pic-O-De-Crop competition back in 1970-something, it was when Gabby sang Jack at the Stadium. I was a little boy and I said man, cause I always liked singing and even before then, before Gabby there was a guy called Mighty Liar, he had a song called She Want Pan and I always liked how they looked, how they used to prance around, especially Gabby. And when Gabby tek off all he clothes when he sing Jack. I was always impressed by that.
“Then later on people like Serenader. I remember Splash Band backing Serenader, when he had de song Jogging, and he had won de competition that year. I remember John King when he won with I’m Back, I always liked it and I said one of these days I would enter that competition… but I never really had the courage so to speak. I remember a finals night I went and I saw Bumba literally practising his song on the cycling track and doing all the antics and things like that intimidated me. When I see what these men go through — the backstage area at the stadium used to be real intense, you could feel it although you were not a part of it, you could feel it.
“I don’t know if it is the same way now because I guess the people who are a part of it now are more mature and more jovial, but I know back then there used to be real tension back there and I always wanted to be part of it,” he said.
He said he always thought to try it at least once and this year was the time. His song Corruption was written by Gabby and arranged by Mike Sealy and Biggie Irie said even through the former monarch had volunteered to write the second song, he had not been able to pin him down as yet to put pen to paper due to his hectic schedule.
His options now, said the former Trinidad and Tobago Groovy Soca monarch, was to sing his Sweet Soca song, or look for another writer for social commentary.
“I think now is the time because I think I have a good song… It is a very good song. It is very interesting. I think it would do well in the tent, I think the people in the tent will love it.
“My only concern is remembering it. It is a different thing altogether. It is a different kind of competition, but my concern is just getting it recorded, listening to it and learning it enough for when I have to enter the competition on judging night and so on. I feel I have been doing it long enough that I could pull it off,” he said.
He said he still believed though if the old-timers like himself Mikey, Lil Rick, Edwin and others kept going into the competition, the youngsters would not be able to make a name for themselves.
“They [producers] said if you have a good song enter it and I think that Need A Riddim is really good. It doing really well right now. Hopefully it will last through the season like Caan Be Ova and Mass did last year. I release it early so hopefully it will last the season,” he added.
Biggie Irie said the relationship between artists and producers in the region was a good thing and fostered integration.
“It is not just starting. When in the mid-90s they had the Bajan invasion in Trinidad, right after that the Trinidadians came here and started recording with our guys. They were recording with Nicholas [Brancker]. Chris Allman, some were going to Eddie grant and a lot of them were starting to sound like us. I remember Tony Prescod, Edwin wrote a song for him … and he sang it like Edwin, people said they thought it was Edwin.
“So it is definitely a step in the right direction. We have to align ourselves with our Caribbean brothers and sisters to take the music to the four corners of the world,” he stated. firstname.lastname@example.org