by Wade Gibbons
There was much to please a full house at Solidarity House on Saturday night as Cave Shepherd All Stars pitched their first tent this year.
A commendable mix of youthful and veteran entertainers in a tightly packaged show that went for about three hours, had something for everyone – social commentary, party music and the De Duke thrown in for a bit of comic relief.
Every occasion Ian Webster goes on stage it is easy to agree with the many who consider him the future of Barbadian calypso. His is not just about singing but he has commanding stage presence that often eludes some of the best in this genre. He delivered two selections The Things We Do For Love and One Blood.
While the latter was somewhat anthemic with familiar themes of unity and brotherhood, it was the former selection that really caught the ear. Humour in calypso often escapes many Barbadian artistes but Webster, thankfully, seems to have a penchant for it. Referring to a popular radio call-in programme, Webster went through a number of scenarios to demonstrate the hilarity of some of these matters of the heart that reach the airwaves.
Adrian Clarke quietly dropped a selection on the audience that in terms of arrangements was arguably the best of the night. His Sociable Jam which takes some shots at, if not cracks the head of, Minister of Education Ronald Jones and evangelist Lucille Baird, borrows rhythm patterns from classical works of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky and others, to illustrate his criticism of Jones’ comments on aspects of local culture associated with Crop-Over.
While the brass section breaks seamlessly into these works from the song’s overall stylings, Clarke also includes some fleeting operatic tones to enhance the point of the minister wanting to bring “high culture” to Crop-Over. It’s a song of some finesse.
Smokey Burke delivered three selections in Pan Pun De Sand, I Wid De NCF This Year and Bajans Too Like A But(t). He is perhaps Barbados’ only true calypso satirist as he hardly writes anything that does not expose much of the foibles of human relationships at several levels. His I Wid De NCF This Year which, among other things, looks at the treachery among his fellow artistes last year, could be stamped on many other social relationships.
He has lyrically strong material this year, as he always does. Unfortunately, sometimes it takes those that matter most a year or three to wake up sweating in the middle of the night with the realisation that they might have missed something very special. The only criticism would be levelled at a bit of the structure of Pan Pun De Sand. Perhaps, if Smokey scanned the lines of some of the verses, he would realise if he shortened the number of words it would enhance not only the song’s rhythm but also his delivery.
Chrystal Cummins-Beckles was in good voice with Woman Again and especially One Day. Her powerful vocals carried both songs but lyrically there is the feeling of déjà vu, though to be fair, there is only so much lyrical variance available on social issues after 80 or more years. Frankly speaking, the idea implicit in Woman Again that a female is owed a crown or should win a crown because she is woman just doesn’t cut it. If a woman hasn’t won the calypso crown since Rita in 1988 it means that the judges didn’t think their songs were the best – full stop. It’s a battle of songs and performances, not vaginas versus penises.
The youthful Mandisa continued to impress with a piece called Care which examines some of social issues around her in which she has an interest. Her diction was excellent and the song’s melody was also quite appealing. But despite her encore and the audience warming to her, she sometimes came over as somewhat of a “reluctant performer”, an impression brought on by insufficient eye-contact and general kinetic interaction with her audience. But the junior monarch is definitely one for the future.
Colin Spencer delivered I Done Singing About Politicians and Parang and generally had a good night out. With the former song the suggestion was that he had paid his dues but was not getting his due. On the flip side of that lamentation, he suggested, were those making hay while the sun shone. His second offering was arguably the most melodic piece of the night, indicating that all types of genres had been brought into Crop-Over and he was now bringing Parang.
Hee Haw came with Still Necessary a piece that spoke of the necessity to have God in our lives, a worn theme worth repeating, perhaps. He also rendered A Man of Dust but had difficulty with the third verse which he has not yet committed to memory. Also in the line-up were the promising Windchaser, Scribz, Queen Ashe, former policewoman Juliana Trotman and Dragonslayer.
Jennifer Walker did a great job as emcee. The All Stars band was also one of the highlights of a generally enjoyable evening. [email protected]