by Donna Sealy
Stalker is back.
After seven years away from the Crop-Over stage, he is back with the Kingdom of Super Gladiators and he is loving it.
“I decided to take a break because every year I would spend $4,000 maybe $5,000 to produce songs for Crop-Over and you don’t make back any thing. I don’t usually go for sponsorship so I take it out of my own money. That was a bit tough when you know you can’t make it back in the tent, if you don’t get to the semi-finals you’re just out of pocket and you can’t break even,” he said this morning during at interview at Barbados TODAY’s Warrens, St. Michael offices.
That was one reason.
The other is that his son, Kareem, who asked him.
“It was really my son who was seven years old when I stopped singing who asked me why I don’t sing so he can hear me singing,” the calypsonian whose real name is Keith Brandford, said with a chuckle.
His fans have also been calling on him to sing again and have asked why he does not so he has obliged them.
“I decided I will have to do what I was doing before, pulling my own pocket and trying to produce something. This year, the cost is about the same thing as previous years. I got a better deal with Radar Studios … most people were $1,500- $2,000 but Radar Studios gave me a good deal and I decided to come back because of that too,” he said.
His offerings are Barbados Belongs to Trinidad and Bring Back the Classics which he co-wrote with Viper and Herring respectively.
“Calypso is going in a different direction these days so I’m asking to bring back the real classic calypsos that you used to hear in the years gone by Sir Don and Viper, those sort of [songs] I want to see come back like Adonijah’s Woman.
“Both songs went down really well on opening night. Barbados Belongs to Trinidad deals with how most things in Barbados are taken over by Trinidad. …[In] the other one I’m dealing with the writers and how they have a whole year to write good songs but yet when Crop-Over starts you still get a lot of the bumper songs. There’s nothing wrong with the bumper songs but let us have some classic songs back in there,” Stalker added.
In case you’ve never heard of Stalker, he’s the calypsonian who sang the Duke of York back in the 1990’s. He started out with the Untouchables before moving on to Gladiators around 1989. He then went on to House of Soca where he stayed for 12 years and somewhere in between all of that did a stint with Battlefield.
He has been to the Pic-O-De-Crop semi-finals four times and to the Finals once during 1983 when he started and 2006 when he left.
“Going to the Semi-finals is an experience, it is a feeling that is so hard to explain. It feels so good to know that out of all these calypsonians you’ll still be able to one of the chosen 18 and then to get into the Finals it’s an extremely good feeling. Being in the Semi-finals you feel as though you’ve achieved something for your hard work. I’m hoping that I can get back there this year to get that feeling again,” he said with a laugh.
Those seven years he was away he missed everything about the Festival.
“The first year I said, ‘cheese I really out of this thing though man’ I’ve got to get back next year. Then I said next year I’ll hold off and see what happens and it went on like that. You want to come back but then you’re holding off until my seven years were out. I cannot believe where seven years have gone. It just fly, it feels like just yesterday I stopped,” he recalled with a smile.
He likes being on stage and performing in the tent and like most performers, he gets those butterflies in his stomach before he sings his first note then they flutter away.
“Everything just changes, no more nervousness at all you just want to do your best. Before that stage you’re walking up and down, sitting down, standing up, doing all kinds of things back stage but once the music starts everything just levels out itself. It’s strange but that’s what happens with most people and I always say that if you don’t get nervous then something is wrong. You could be as cool as you want to be, especially just before your name is about to be called for you to go on stage, it’s a good feeling.”
Ahead of the Waterford, St. Michael based tent’s opening last Thursday, he exercised to get himself in shape,. He also said he was trying to learn his songs and practised morning, noon, and night.
“Sometimes I came home at 1 o’clock, 2 o’ clock and I’m outside in the back yard with a piece of stick or a bottle, and practising and singing, I was driving my car and singing hard, sometimes people might have pass side of you and wonder if you’re a mad. You just have to learn the songs well and do whatever it takes to learn them. Sometimes I would go to the beach the whole day and sit down recapping, recounting, singing over lines just to remember.
“Sometimes, although you try to remember your song good, sometimes, on stage that first night you might still make a slip but you have to conscious and good enough to put in something instead of stop singing, you must put in something that makes sense too.
“It was great feeling that first night, After getting the encore every one came and congratulated you. The guys in Super Gladiators are very, very supportive, every one gave everyone else support and that was a good feeling also.
“I like the atmosphere with the guys back stage, especially this year. You’re getting a really good vibe and when sing your song and people come and congratulate you, and tell you the song is good and you did well, that makes you feel well and want to come back again and do it over and over and over. Response is very important to a song and I try to do a song that will get a response from the crowd.
“I’m really hoping that I can do well enough to get into the Semi-finals and try to push for the Finals and see what happens. I think I have the material that can go far so my hope is to do my best and make it as far as the Finals and even win the crown. You have to think big and coming back after seven years, I’ve got to think big and be positive and try to go for everything and not settle for second best,” Stalker said.
His tent mates include Apollo, Cut Loose, On Target, De Cleaner, De Torch, Tall Boy and Disciple and they will be performing this coming Sunday at the Village Gate.
His son has an affinity and a talent for music, and he is hopeful that he will be arranging his songs very soon.
But for now, the calypsonian, who disclosed he is a “home boy” who does not do anything much, is planning to enjoy Crop-Over and take in as much as he can. As he said, he likes every thing about it.
“It’s that time of year to go out, relax and have some fun and go to shows and the tents,” he added.
So don’t be surprised if you see him in a tent, or at one of the several shows relaxing and enjoying himself. [email protected]