By Wade Gibbons
Ian iWeb Webster was winning the calypso crown from the opening night of the De Big Show Calypso Tent in June. Last night at Kensington Oval he merely formalised the result.
This year’s Pic-O-De-Crop competition was one of those rare occasions where an artiste has two songs that only laryngitis, amnesia or emotional meltdown on the night of the contest, would have prevented the inevitable. This was a fait accompli in many ways. Thirty-five points were up for grabs for lyrics, a similar number for melody, 15 for rendition, 10 for arrangements and five for presentation. His material and his performance were impressive in every category.
Webster rendered Salesman and Pray For The Souls which were both well written, and thankfully unlike some of the other material on the night, had different themes. Some finalists last night had different titles, rejigged lyrics and varied musical arrangements but a few were actually singing sequels in the second half of the competition.
Salesman, which dealt with the universally common, but dishonestly denied practice of politicians buying votes, was an example of a serious issue handled with a degree of humour, but not losing the reality and import of the message. Good use of language and the metrical pattern of the song’s lines were positive features that enhanced the end product. Webster is an excellent vocalist and his rendition was high class. The melody of the song was also quite pleasing.
Webster’s second half offering of Pray For The Souls evoked the usual discourse of whether it was a calypso or not. Perhaps, there were some listening to Webster’s mesmerizing vocalization without paying attention to the foundation on which the song was structured and arranged. The “whether it is calypso” debate has previously surrounded Edwin Yearwood’s Voice In My Head, John King’s How Many More and even Ras Shorty I’s Watch Out My Children. The arguments are useless really. What should have been the focus was the sweet melody of the song, Webster’s tremendous rendition and the number’s potent lyrics. His presentation, especially in the first-half, must have also contributed something to the eight-point differentiation that separated himself from Edwin Yearwood.
Edwin was terrific on the night but his strength – rendition – would have been matched note for note by Webster. They are both excellent vocalists and must have gathered the majority of the 15 points on offer in that category. Both Edwin’s Tax-He and Beggar were good offerings, though thematically they weren’t miles apart. However, lyrically, neither outdid Webster’s pieces and with Tax-He, one could argue that the treatment of the subject with respect to hardships was slightly conflicting. After all, one could scarcely see the disenfranchised depending on a “taxi” as a regular mode of travel. But that’s nitpicking. However, for all Edwin’s excellence on the night, he was second best and the judges got it absolutely correct. He copped 100 points.
Donella’s Virtual and Make A Change got her 89 points and third position. Again, like several in the final, her strong vocals was her strength and her rendition in both halves had little with which one could complain. But while her first song was quite entertaining as it relates to how technology has taken on most of our traditional modes of social interaction, her second selection smacked of the déjà vu in the competition that saw crime and the current political status quo being the focus song after song after song. And in most instances there was little ingenuity in how the two subject matters were treated.
Chrystal took fourth position – 40 points off the winner – with Too Big Fuh De Horse and Claim Barbados Back. Her rendition of both songs was terrific, with the melodies of the two nothing to scoff at and the arrangements quite professional. However, the disparity in points between first and second place and her fourth position could relate to the lack of creativity in the lyrical construction of the latter song in particular. The 21-point disparity between herself and Donella was somewhat confusing, though, as there was little to choose between them and that third and fourth spot placement could have easily been interchangeable.
Last night’s final was one that Colin Spencer might want to forget. He seemed to have problems with his voice during his rendition of One Last Vote and it affected his rendition. He just appeared ill at ease on stage. The true professional that he is, Spencer returned in the second half with Belated Birthday Greetings and seemingly tried to get through the song without too much vocal theatrics. He succeeded in doing so and though his position was not announced it could not have been what he anticipated coming into the final.
Sir Ruel impressed in the first half with the Mighty Gabby-penned Run For Cover that was one of several of the songs on the night that reviewed the current Government’s performance or lack thereof. Whether his handlers decided that his other song from the preliminaries and semifinal judging – Not My Vote – was merely Run For Cover II, the decision to change to The Printer was an example of an individual shooting himself in the foot. The replacement was forgettable to most by the time he returned to the dressing room area.
This was perhaps Adrian AC Clarke’s weakest outing in a Pic-O-De-Crop final. Some might argue that he was in the final in the first place because he was Adrian Clarke. While his rendition of both songs was good – as he always is – neither selection had a melody that lent itself to any reason to attempt to remember it.
Both of Classic’s songs, If Yuh Don’t Know and Divorce were very melodious. But so too are most nursery rhymes. The latter song is unvaryingly jingly in its rhythm and pattern of pitch. With the fifth place performer garnering 63 points, it would have been interesting to learn last night how many Classic received. His rendition was so-so, the lyrics were so-so, the melodies were so-so and the arrangements were so-so. But so-so was not enough to get him out of the bottom half of the line-up.
Aziza was dethroned but certainly not disgraced. She has a beautiful voice and her nation-building number We Still Standing Tall was a good effort in the first half on most of the judging counts. However, the quality of her rendition noticeably dropped in her second offering, The United Caribbean. This was a shame as once again the selection was quite pleasing in terms of its lyrics and melody.
Observer’s first half performance of Patriot was pure quality. But it seemed almost predictable that he would have issues with Socio-Party in the second half. Several listeners have had a problem with it from the start of the season and the genesis of that is in the writing. Perhaps, rather than use three or even four-syllabic words or just too many words in some of the lines, he could have used other shorter, less verbose options. This would have assisted in the rendition of the song, as that was the main problem to the ear. At times the lyrics were lost as he raced to keep in sync with the band. But overall, Observer could feel quite pleased with his return after a hiatus of more than a decade. He is a class act.
The musical accompaniment provided by the band was brilliant and emcee Mac Fingal kept the show moving adequately. However, his [or whoever’s] decision it was to transform the waiting period for the results from a calypso night into Q In The Community was ridiculous. If he felt in a nostalgic mood, maybe some Jack, Count The Cost, They Want To Know, Bag Of Riddles or Mr Harding would have been a wiser move. But an interlude of Una Mas from Daniel O’Donnell, Your Man from Josh Turner, and songs from other country and western crooners was utter nonsense, perhaps only outdone by the cramped and ill-conceived positioning of accommodations provided for the media.