It was an all-star night marked by some sterling performances as Headliners faced the judges at Hilton Barbados last Sunday.
By the end of the treat, the likes of Blood, Crystal Cummins-Beckles, Smokey Burke, Colin Spencer and Adrian Clarke had done no harm whatsoever to their chances of advancing to the Pic-O-De-Crop finals.
Blood injected much humour into his How To Win, another melodic ditty on ways to take the coveted calypso crown. He mentioned one ploy of former monarch John King to take a break from competition only to return a few years later to the stage and emerge as monarch. Blood suggested to Ronnie Announcer Clarke, though, that that particular strategy didn’t work for everyone. Blood completed an excellent night with Hold On Together, an up-tempo selection that preaches unity at all levels as the way forward.
Burke is refreshingly different from most calypsonians in Barbados, and this is brought out especially through his writing where humour tends to be the foundation of his material even when dealing with the most serious of subjects. His God Is A Bajan is a lyrical delight with a catchy melody. In juxtaposing a number of situations, Burke suggested that if God were a Bajan, then Satan was one too. He also noted the presence of men of the cloth in society who were quite adept at removing the clothes of others. His other offering, Crop Over Done, examined the possibility of Barbados without its annual festival and completed a solid night for the veteran.
Adrian Clarke, over from the All Stars Tent, was also in fine voice with Constituency Of Calypso and I Apologise. His former tent boss Eleanor Rice was at the show and must have squirmed in her seat during the former selection. Indeed a number of the “departed” All Star cast, now in the Headliners camp, touched on their exodus without using any invective. Clarke was especially practical when he suggested there was absolutely nothing wrong with a change of diet and queried who would want to eat rice every day.
Cummins-Beckles’ moving commentary on domestic violence in Enough Is Enough went over well with the audience. Hers was a plaintive plea for help from authorities and recognition in society generally that domestic violence was nothing to treat lightly. Rice, whether she was still in the building by this stage, got tacit mention in Another View, where Cummins-Beckles suggested that fans patronized calypso tents to hear calypsonians and not back-up singers. Such a confusion of importance, it appeared, led many to “Pick up and gone with Bo”.
Colin Spencer’s Government From Mars and Bullying were among the best of the night. Both were delivered along traditional melodic lines that would not have been out of place forty years ago. Spencer tends to keep it simple structurally, and it works. His former selection could be adopted by regional governments faced by a populace expecting miracles in the prevailing economic climate. He suggested in song that some of the things which people enjoyed in times of plenty and expected in the current circumstances could only be provided by a government from Mars. His second number highlighted that not only wasn’t “bullying” a new phenomenon, but it was prevalent in every nook and cranny in the island.
Bumba should perhaps try singing verse rather than prose, or at least add some wit to his selections. Lyrically, his We Must Change That and Don’t Give Up have been delivered every year by someone, anyone, everyone, perhaps even by himself, for the past 25 years and were as exciting as watching grass grow. Most damning was the absence of strong melodies likely even to be hummed after the show concluded. That said, the veteran former monarch finding a semi-final spot would not be the strangest thing that has occurred in Pic-O-De-Crop judging history.
Reigning monarch Ian Webster had an excellent night with Still My Home, a sweet selection that is basically an ode to Barbados, and the hilarious Karaoke Song that must be commended for its inventiveness. It is not an easy selection to perform but Webster handled it with much aplomb.
Also performing well were Crystal Austin with Fire One, carried on an infectious melody, and The Sponsors; the highly promising Mandisa with Scandal and We Will Rise; and Brett Linton with the party number, Again. Emcee was Adrian Boo Husbands whose repartee with the audience was a highlight of the night in itself. The band, dubbed the Juckers and Juckettes, provided first rate accompaniment.