by Davandra Babb
Remember the name Bert Panta Browne? Name doesn’t ring a bell? Oh, but it should!
He is one of Barbados’s veteran calypsonians who gave us hits like Ah Feeling Crazy, Soak Up De Party, Honey, Yuh Hurting Me, and much more.
Panta has been around the Crop Over scene even longer than I have been alive. Recently, he hooked up Bajan Vibes, taking me back in the day, and telling of how he got into Crop Over.
“I have been around music since I was 16. Played with Twilighters. Then I went on to play for Blue Rhythm Combo, whom I played with for many years. Travelled all over the world. I was touring Canada. Was in Montreal and Quebec.
“In 1976 I decide to go over to New York; and did a degree in music.
“I started my own calypso tent РР Alien Forces calypso РР but we were having some difficulty with funding and so on, so I shut that down. Ridley Greene and Vere Browne [who were on the management team] of Conquerors Calypso Tent asked me if I wanted to help manage the tent, and I took the offer. And I work with them for like three years РР managing arranging and producing.
“I have been making records forever,” he recalled. And even when Panta was not in Barbados he was still making calypso.
“I have been involved in Crop Over all the time. Even when I was living in New York I would still put out a soca song with West Indian Records.”
But nine years ago, he decided to abandon the tent life and has been keeping pretty much of a low profile.
“Nine years ago I decided to abandon the tent because we were losing a lot of money. I could not sustain it; so I decided to close that off. That was the end of me and managing tents for Crop Over,” he said.
As to why he stepped away from being judged in the tents, Panta said: “I believe that when I write a song, it is not written for six people to judge it. Personally, I think it’s not a good thing. I write music for the people to enjoy; not for six people to decide if it’s good or bad.
“Technically, I don’t think they could. Many of the judges are not composers, or writers they don’t sing; they do nothing. I have a problem with that. This is my personal view, though.”
But Panta quickly added that he had still been taking part in Crop Over. He told Bajan Vibes that he was away from Crop Over last year, but had made it his business not to miss out on making his contribution this year.
“This year I produced two songs. I am hoping to release them in the middle of the month. They are party songs. Put The Funk In The Soca, which is persuading the guys to put some funk
in the soca, and the other song is about a friend of mine who has been coming
to Crop Over for 17 years. It is called De Soca,” he revealed.
Speaking from a place of authority, Panta said he had seen Crop Over change rapidly over the years. And he has some concerns.
“Over the last eight or nine years . . . to my mind the music is not at the level it’s supposed to be at. That’s one of the concerns I have about the compositions. The youngsters are rapping in the soca. They are not singing in the melody.
“I call it talking Bajan over the soca rhythm. I don’t know if it’s a good thing or bad thing. I don’t know if they can sell records doing that,” he said.Panta prefers to hear melody in the soca.