Friday night’s Sweet Soca and Party Monarch semifinal judging at the Kensington Oval showed up something which many Barbadians probably already knew – there’s a significant amount of great, well produced music so far this Crop Over season.
What was also evident at this event, which formed part of the Brewster’s Road Crew (BRC) themed party for the festival, was that the executive producer of both competitions, in this case the National Cultural Foundation (NCF), had somehow missed the mark.
This year, the two competitions took on a new format in terms of the judging, with the semifinalists being chosen based on the final cut of the song.
This did not quite work, though, since a lot of what was heard on the stage that night left some patrons wondering what went wrong. There were instances where the performers seemed out of their depth as they tried to get the crowd worked up. Some also sounded as though they were screaming the lyrics at the estimated 1,000 plus patrons who came out in anticipation of a great night of entertainment.
Back in 1995 Krosfyah had a track – Ultimate Party – in which it declared that No rain cahn stop dis jam and this was especially true with early intermittent showers looking to put a damper on the night.
The show had been advertised for a 10 p.m. start but in true Barbadian style it didn’t get underway until half hour later. The first set of competitors to go before the judges were the Sweet Soca semifinalists, led off by Basil.
He rendered Show Them Your Beauty but drawing position number one is not easy. And it was evident that patrons were not really feeling it. Neither did they catch the vibe of Serenader’s Outta Wuk. In fact, the veteran artiste seemed a far out to sea in his performance which generated limited crowd response, only helped by Peter Ram’s chant of a few lines in the song.
Next to come to the stage was Pic-O-De-Crop Monarch Ian Webster, going by the moniker this season of iWeb. Smoke filled the stage. There was also confetti and flashing lights as Webster was simply Doin’ Me. He was able to earn himself a spot among the lucky eight who have advanced to the final stage of the competition.
However, Carnival Addiction, though enticing, was not enough to carry Leadpipe all the way to Bushy Park, St Philip on July 27. This song could be considered one of the sweeter compositions of the season. However, on the night, neither the crowd at Kensington Oval nor the judges were feeling it.
Arguably the biggest let down of the night was Edwin Yearwood. The General’s performances were not enough to get him into the top billing in either competition. P.O.L.E., his Sweet Soca entry, barely had the crowd going, even as he urged them to take a selfie. It was as though he didn’t want to be there, especially in his second number for the Party Monarch semifinal judging Unarrest Me. His diction was not the best and as for the lyrical content, that too was a bit questionable.
Another upset was Imani, who was expected to make it through to the finals but did not. Earlier, she sang Get Over with Biggie Irie, a performance that got them both a reserve spot, but she fell down in Bacchanal Road.
At times it sounded as though her voice was failing her and as if she was shouting.
Lorenzo’s performance was three things – impactful, although it didn’t have all the flair and razzmatazz; clean; and left an impact, especially on the judges.
Coming back to Biggie Irie, Pankatang was one of the few that on the night got patrons moving and singing along, so too Red Plastic Bag, who took the crowd on the soca Rollercoaster.
Honourable mention must be made of Sanctuary. After years of writing for some of the big names in the business, he is making an even bigger name for himself with his Mega Monday. However, some more work has to go into his performance, especially his diction.
In the Party Monarch competition, the judge’s picks were Kirk Brown, Mikey, Blood, Mr Dale, Ian i-Web Webster and Khiomal, Chrystal Cummins-Beckles, newcomer Shaquille and Gorg. These eight will go up against the Soka Kartel combination for the title this year. The reserve is another newcomer, Faith Callender.
Standing out was Chrystal Cummins-Beckles, the lone female in the bunch. Her Pantuk, a melodic change from what most people would expect in the party – de juk a bumpa, wine down, wuk up, scab out – is about pan and the fusion between Trinidad and Barbadian culture.
Mr Dale, forever the consummate entertainer with his with De Dawg, did just that as did Blood. But undoubtedly the star of the night was Gorg with My Rum. From the time he emerged on stage, carrying his “gorgy bundle” the show was over. The response of the crowd to him was phenomenal, much in the same ranking as Red Plastic Bag and Biggie Irie in the earlier Sweet Soca Competition.
Later this week, the 18 Sweet Soca and Party Monarch finalists will draw for positions.