Veteran calypsonian Peter Adonijah Alleyne today announced he would no longer be taking part in the annual Crop Over competitions, while taking issue with the judging format used by the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) to select Sweet Soca and Party Monarch finalists.
Speaking to Barbados TODAY on the heels of last night’s announcement by the NCF of the 32 performers who have made it through to the semi-finals stage of both popular contests, the former Road March king, who has competed in the calypso arena for the past 37 years, expressed concern that the selections were made based on CD recordings and not “live” performances which he said were the only true reflection of the performing ability of the competitors.
“The semifinalists for Party Monarch and Sweet Soca are judged by CD. You submit your CD and there is a panel that listens to it and then choses the people,” he explained, adding that “it is almost embarrassing sometimes when you see people get to the stage and they have to perform live.
“They cannot make it,” he stressed.
The veteran calypsonian, who currently performs in the Big Show calypso tent, has therefore suggested that the NCF needs “to go back to the times when you could watch and hear someone singing and see whether the person had a good song and could deliver it well.
“A CD does not give you that. With a CD you have all types of technology that can make you sound perfect and what makes it equally unfair is that it depends on the quality of studio that you are in and the quality of the engineer.
“If you go to a studio in someone’s bedroom who does not really know what they are doing, when your thing comes out it is not going to sound like someone who went to [veteran producers] Nicholas Brancker or Stefan Walcott or Chris Allman or the Red Boyz,” he further explained, while expressing hope that the current Minister of Culture John King, himself a former calypso monarch, would address this concern.
“I do not usually have much confidence in politicians, but I am very hopeful that John will do the right thing as [he] knows from personal experience some of the undesirable things that can happen in the competition.
“He has been there himself so I am confident that John [can do it]. It is a beautiful thing to have someone who is the minister of creative economy,” he said, adding that “some of them before did not have a clue about cultural activities but John has been there as a performer and a manager and he knows the business inside out and he has some very progressive and workable ideas”.
Adonijah, who won the Road March competition in 1981 with the popular song Rock In Ethiopia, however told Barbados TODAY that he was officially retiring from all forms of competition.
“It has nothing to do with the contributions that I have this year. You know in life for everything there is a season and a time for everything unto heaven and this is the end of my season for that. I am retiring from competition altogether,” he said, adding that several factors influenced his decision, not least of which is the fact that he has grown “tired” of competing.
“I started doing this thing 37 years ago this year. I have not competed every year but I have sung every year, except or two . . . . The competition really does not do anything for me anymore and I have become aware of the fact that there are elements in the competition that I do not like at all. But there are things that I have seen that convince me that this is not my place to be.
“I will produce the music as long as God spares my life and gives me the ability to do that and perform it and if people like it, they like it,” he told Barbados TODAY, adding “it feels good and like it is the right time. I did not make any big fuss about it before because I did not make any big fuss when I came into kaiso. [However], in reference to people who support me, I feel it is only good manners that I let them know”.
When contacted, NCF’s event producer Adisa Aja Andwele was not prepared to comment on the Sweet Soca and Party Monarch concerns.
However, he told Barbados TODAY, he was surprised to learn of Adonijah’s retirement from local competition, describing him as one of the first performers to bring cultural liberation to the calypso arena with his song Rock In Ethiopia.
Over the past three decades, the dreadlocked entertainer has also delivered several other classics including Woman, Barbados by Two and In-de-pen-dence and has come close to clinching the coveted Pic-o-de-Crop crown on several occasions, but is calling it day having been let down by the judges’ decision on numerous occasions.
“The NCF will make an official statement as he was someone that has contributed to the art form for so many years but I personally would comment that Adonijah has made a tremendous impact in the development of calypso.
“I always say that Rock In Ethiopia was a signature piece in the history of Barbadian calypso,” Andwele said, adding that Adonijah provided inspiration to his own artistic development.
“He would not have mentored me but it would have been a symbol of that surge for Barbados and myself as that cultural liberation from colonialism and to move outside of the box,” the rhythm poet said.
“Seeing Adonijah there and not only as a monarch but he went on to be the president of Barbados Association of Journalists that was another tremendous achievement that a Rastaman could rise against the grain and that would have impacted on me.” he added.