If the Pic-O-De-Crop competition were a horse race and one had attended all the training gallops and done the homework on the mounts, one could not be faulted for picking a thoroughbred called Ian Webster to win the feature event by at least a half-length.
The First Citizens Big Show opened on Saturday at the Sea Rocks Dome at Maxwell, Christ Church and there was a buzz from start to finish. But it was Webster who put his signature on the night’s proceedings. He was that good.
Webster blessed the night with two pieces entitled Salesman and Pray For the Souls. The language of the art form speaks to a calypsonian having a “second” song in the local competition but this year Webster has two ‘first songs’. Salesman is crafted along traditional lines, short verses where every word is impactful, makes its point and avoids some of the elongated verbose with which several writers bore the hell out of listeners annually. Then there are some catch phrases in the song with social context that are easily recognizable and creates the desired image without meandering.
There has been a political outreach to Barbadian voters of late and Webster dismisses it with his suggestion of “no rubbing shoulders, grease my hand”. It is the theme that runs throughout the song and provides a shot across the political bow that the days of rhetoric, loyalty and patronage are over. Webster sang “votes selling” and whether it was an indication of things to come or a reminder of things past, by the song’s end many in the packed Dome were repeating that line with gusto. The irony of it is that every general election votes do sell but both parties deny selling. The song’s melody worked, it was beautifully arranged and the genesis of Webster’s excellent output was that the song was well written.
His other first song gave him the opportunity to switch to a new subject matter, namely fatal accidents and the pain and suffering they bring to bear on families. The song gave him the opportunity to express himself vocally, even emotionally, and in terms of tone and delivery, Webster was simply and unequivocally special. In this current form the bets on Webster down the stretch are on.
Adonijah also impressed with his Song For Boo. It was clear that much effort was put into arranging the song. If Adonijah and his arrangers’ intention were to create a melody that was simultaneously celebratory yet somewhat doleful, quietly reflective yet expressive, regretful yet acceptive, then they succeeded spectacularly. The horn section outdid itself in creating a texture that though paying homage to the deceased Adrian “Boo” Husbands was bursting with life. This is the second successive year that Adonijah has done some experimentation with his calypso melodies and it is the second successive year that it has worked.
He returned in the second half with a number entitled De Woman Don’t Belong To You which was an anti-abuse song that beseeched men not to turn their promise to their wives/women [of love and affection] into a curse since they were in a union for better or worse. He gave a lesson on what “I do” means and suggested it didn’t mean “purchase”.
Continuing along the social commentary line was Classic with the two worthy selections If Yuh Don’t Ask and I Want A Divorce. In the former he outlined a number of social issues for which he told Barbadians they would never get answers from those in authority if they don’t ask questions. His other offering indicated a desire to split from certain politicians who had not lived up to expectations. The 2015 king had a great night and should feature as the competition heads down the home stretch.
Crystal Cummins-Beckles-Holder was in excellent voice in her rendition of Claim Back Barbados, a song that as the title suggests is exhorting law-abiding citizens to reclaim all the positive things that made Barbados what it used to be before the crime, violence and drugs. However, Beckles-Holder has to guard against creating a feeling of déjà vu as her themes seem to recur too frequently. But in terms of rendition and the arrangements of the song she could not be faulted.
TC performed a selection entitled Stand Up, which, thematically, was not dissimilar to Beckles-Holder’s offering. Mr Blood rendered the very interesting The Memo well and promised to bring another social commentary next week. That might be his ‘first song’.
Mikey offered up You Are A winner which was a creditable performance without being spectacular. The message was important in the song, though, suggesting that one could not please everyone and that how one viewed one’s self was more important than to be preoccupied by what others said about you.
The party element in the tent was sizzling with Marvay in tremendous voice with Antidote and Stars Align. If there is a better male singer in this genre in the island, he should desist from being an apparition. Marvay is pure star quality.
Mikey returned with I Like That, and others such as Biggie Irie with In Rehab, Blood with Look For Me, Grynner with Road Boss, Mr Dale with Right Here and De Thing Start, TC and Buggy Nhakente with Paradise and Nathalee with the sweet soca number Never Let You Go, added to the thoroughly enjoyable occasion.
Emcee Mac Fingal, as has come to be the norm, kept the show moving smoothly and was highly entertaining – even when he sang. Special mention must be made of the musical accompaniment – the brass section especially – which was terrific throughout the night.