If one wanted a contrived syllogism for the Crop Over season, one could perhaps go with calypso tents with ten kings and queens are a big show; De Big Show has ten kings and queens; De Big Show is, well, a big show.
Fans were spoilt last Friday night at the Sea Rocks Dome of the Barbados Beach Club when De Big Show pitched tent with a who’s who of Barbadian calypso and collectively representing about 200 years in the business.
Pic-O-De-Crop, Party Monarch, Sweet Soca and Road March standard-bearers really couldn’t come better than RPB, Gabby, Serenader, Adonijah, Edwin Yearwood, TC, Biggie Irie, Natahlee, Mistah Dale and Mikey –– with veterans Classic and Pompey thrown in for good measure.
Adonijah was the first former monarch to hit the stage with Blues, a well-crafted selection with a deliberate bluesy influence but not straying from a kaiso core. It is a tribute song to the late Selwyn “Blues” Knight, who was killed by a policeman’s bullet back in March.
The melody and tone of the song were precise for the subject matter, as Adonijah urged the audience to give their loved ones a kiss whenever they leave home, since it might be their last opportunity to do so. He explored too other elements of the incident and the import for society.
He received an encore for his second number –– just after intermission –– entitled The Marching Song. Adonijah’s strength has always been his avoidance of long-winded, cumbersome calypsos, and he has remained true to form. The uptempo song, with Opposition Leader Mia Mottley as the would-be drill commander and Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, perhaps, the unwilling cadet, urges the latter in military terms to turn “left, right, left, right, left, right; left right now”.
The fans loved it. And, judging by her waving and moving, Mottley, who was in the audience, loved it too!
Serenader, arguably, brought the sweetest melodies to the stage for the night in his Mortar Pestle Man and Sardines. The brass section in the former was absolutely fabulous, and the veteran enjoyed himself with them both.
Calypso is not only about sombre or deep themes; it is also about fun; and Serenader, a calypso treasure, brought lots of fun and enjoyment to the stage. Whether Mortar Pestle Man was considered for the Sweet Soca competition is unclear, but if it was, and ignored, those responsible should be confined to a certain Black Rock residence.
Biggie Irie’s Singing Competition kept up the standard of the night. Blessed with a voice and range that make him a favourite with many, Biggie Irie sang: “If you don’t have
the voice or the rhythm, stay far away from this competition.”
His suggestion –– true or untrue –– was that one will never be a true calypsonian without the ability to sing. Trinidad and Tobago’s Shadow might disagree, though.
Biggie Irie’s second selection was a sweet, uptempo, zouk-influenced number entitled Sweet Kind Of Way.
Unlike some of the transitioning occurring globally, Mikey’s has been a straight, positive one –– from strictly party man to serious social commentator. His tongue-in-cheek Fronts was a melodic tour de force that looked at some of the “fronts” or pretence which people put forward –– with his obvious pun. He sang that when one saw “Mia [Mottley] hugging up Owen [Arthur], that is a whole lot of fronts”.
His Some Things Never Change, a sweet party number, completed an excellent night.
It is unclear whether Gabby will compete this year, but he gave his appreciative fans a taste of his quality with a typical Gabbyesque selection entitled Reparation, which, as the title suggests, makes a case for compensation to those of African heritage for previous colonial misdeeds. It is a theme that he has explored on previous occasions, but that did not detract from Friday night’s offering.
Classic might or might not ever win a national calypso crown, but he brings quality to any tent. And his In Bed Together not only got him an encore, but perhaps the most rapturous response from the audience on the night. The medium tempo song highlights several strange bedfellows in Barbadian society.
What also captured the imagination of fans were some verses of the song that ended with a specific word that connoted an element of sauciness before Classic cleverly “cleaned” it up at the start of the following line.
He also rendered Something Fishy, which, thematically, was not dissimilar from his first song.
On the party front, Mistah Dale sizzled with Celebrate. It epitomized a happy song, full of melody, verve and vitality, and an invitation to dance. Its line “Life is great, let’s celebrate” best summed up its flavour.
TC’s Under The Influence was another sizzler, performed with much aplomb by a class act. Natahlee was also impressive
with Bacchanal Zombies, as was Don Trent with the sweet soca number When Tomorrow Comes.
Damien Marvay enjoyed himself onstage, and the crowd enjoyed him during his party number Survive The Weekend.
Edwin Yearwood brought further quality to the soca blast with I Don’t Feel Like Leaving.
Also contributing to the excellent package were Jamal Slocombe and Pompey with Mother’s Love and Yuh Get Wine Pon.
Fittingly, the island’s national calypso treasure RPB brought proceedings to a climax with his Spontaneous, some fans taking to the dance floor.
Emcee was Mac Fingall, who provided his own comedic show within a show, while the backing band provided high-quality musical accompaniment throughout the night.