This Friday night 18 hopeful calypsonians will take to the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex seeking to be among the nine that make it out of the semifinal and into the ‘Big Yard’ of the Pic-O-De-Crop Final.
The 18 are Cave Shepherd All Stars’ Charisma, Colin Spencer, De Announcer, Donella, Jude Clarke, Kid Site, Raheem and Structure; The Big Show’s AC, Chrystal Cummins-Beckles-Holder, Mr Blood; House of Soca’s Amazing Dre, Billboard, Doyenne, Miss Sammy G; Stray Cats’ Apache and De Doctor; Super Gladiators’ Smokey Burke and The Big Show’s Classic being the reserve.
The 18 will enter Friday night’s competition confident that on this big stage all calypsonians are equal but some might discover on Saturday morning that some calypsonians are more equal than others. Veteran calypsonian Colin Spencer fluffed some of his lyrics on judging night while performing The Bees Are Back but in the estimation of the discerning judges who one presumes were all sober and had their auditory perception intact, he was still worthy of advancement.
This is Amazing Dre‘s best chance of making it to the final. He has two worthy songs in Asphalt and We Have progressed and perhaps simply has to perform them without blemish to ensure he finally breaches that barrier that he threatens to cross annually. He is an excellent and consistent artiste and perhaps in 2018 ought now to be considered as one of those calypsonians who is more equal than the others.
Billboard has a terrific song in Sex Change and should be grateful for the furore it has created. What great pre-semifinal advertisement! The song is topical with some uncomfortable truisms for some but which he is entitled to relate. There is no hint of phobia in the lyrics whether homo, lesbo, xeno or any other ‘o’. It does not promote any form of hatred but simply gives his opinion that the gender at your birth is the gender that you are. In terms of rendition he was excellent on judging night and the song has a pleasing melody. However, his second selection Running Away is somewhat humdrum, even if the subject material is important. The dangers of someone absconding from their home has been treated perhaps previously by Methuselah. But he should still make the final.
Smokey Burke beats almost everyone on the inventiveness of his writing. This year he has two interesting pieces in Conversation With Bussa and Where De Money Gone which he performed well on Super Gladiators’ judging night. He has made the final in years when the competition was stiffer than what is palpably missing this year. Two solid performances on Friday night should see him into the final. But he must concentrate on simple clarity of diction while deemphasizing the stylized vocal modulation that he likes to play around with.
All Stars’ Raheem oozes promise and on their opening night, he was good with his De Bus Ride and Why Vote. He was even better when the tent judged and if this trend is continued and he exceeds what he has done before he could be among the nine to go forward. But the lad has talent in abundance.
Structure is one who always enhances a competition and after a problematic opening night when he and the band went their separate ways on a few occasions he tightened up significantly on his tent’s judging night. He is an experienced performer and would love to replicate the form he has shown in Canada where he has won multiple crowns. But this is calypso country, a bigger stage than Canada’s, so he will have to up the ante if he is to make the final.
Mr Blood is perhaps the odds-on-favourite to win the crown this year or at least be Ian Webster’s biggest thorn in the side. His Sexual Harassment and Stars and Stripes are quality songs without being overly spectacular. But where Blood kills is in his rendition where he has few equals. He displayed this quality on judging night and if patrons have been paying attention over the years he hardly missteps on big occasions. None is expected on Friday night.
Of the others, Crystal Cummins-Beckles-Holder has had an excellent year and should never be underestimated on the big occasion. Adrian Clarke makes ordinary material sound great and might do the same this year. De Announcer has been better and not made the semifinals or finals in previous years so perhaps this year evens the score for him.
Of those watching from their seats or listening at home who can consider themselves unlucky not be in the mix are the Super Gladiators’ Jah Stone and Shirley Stewart. They might be more equal than other calypsonians with greater effort next year.
My anticipated nine to be smiling on Saturday morning are: Amazing Dre, Mr Blood, Crystal Cummins-Beckles-Holder, Billboard, Smokey Burke, Donella, Raheem, Adrian Clarke and Colin Spencer.