Opening night at De Big Show was very much of up-tempo fare, but in the midst of the pulsating party, there were some social commentary offerings that whet the appetites of those at Sea Rocks Dome, Maxwell Coast Road, Christ Church on Saturday night.
Much has been said behind closed doors about the relationship, or lack thereof, between the two main political powers at play in local culture. But whether any angst exists between the National Cultural Foundation (NCF) and the Ministry of Culture, or not, Classic’s tune of the night, One Song, was poetic justification to assume that there might be.
Notwithstanding the song’s sweet melody and Classic’s delivery, the calypso’s construction was the quality that truly stood out. Several titles and/or excerpts from former calypso monarch John King’s songs were woven into Classic’s selection to add spice to the ongoing perception that all might not be love and kisses in culture. Whether fact or fiction, the fans lapped it up and called for three encores.
Needless to say, one can expect a few rocking-chair experts to question the “cleanliness” of a few of the rehashed lines, decades after they first appeared. But after more than three decades in the business, Classic is entitled to take poetic licence where he pleases.
Also doing credit to her immense talent was Chrystal Cummins-Beckles with One Song and There is a God. Both were well crafted, melodic and delivered in impeccable fashion. The former stood out in particular and looked at the new ‘one song’ format introduced and adequately explained by NCF boss, Carol Roberts-Reifer. Cummins-Beckles’ clever contention was that many of the calypsonians had been entering the Pic-O-De-Crop competition with only one song long before 2019.
J-Slo (Jamal Slocombe) is a special talent with some ‘pipes’ to admire. His Elephant In De Room, in terms of its tone and his range, was one of the most beautifully rendered songs of the night. He gave an up-tempo selection in the second half entitled Alive that completed a good opening night for the youngster.
He is going by the sobriquet Skung Yung in the tent’s lineup but most know Ian Alleyne as one of the region’s finest bass guitarists and a standout in the now defunct Coalishun band. This year, he is entering the festival for the first time as a singer and he did an excellent job with So Happy, a selection somewhere between medium and up-tempo. His vocalisation was simply sweet on the ear and demonstrated that fans have been robbed of this side of him for many years. For those in the audience who were surprised at his vocal ability, they surely have never heard him give his interpretation of Prince’s Purple Rain during professional gigs.
The decision to turn the Pic-O-De-Crop competition into a one-song situation has encouraged many to take the social commentary plunge. And bashment boss Stiffy is no exception. He showcased commendable vocals in Leh We Pray, though lyrically he might need some earnest prayer to convince those that matter that his foray into social commentary should extend far into the season.
On the party front Adrian Clarke’s I Like It, TC’s Iron Lady, Mikey’s Energy, Biggie Irie’s Magic, Mr Dale’s Millions and Nathalee’s Why We Live in particular, were among several songs that should be rocking calypso shows and fetes throughout this season and beyond.
Also appearing and adding to the enjoyable night out were Adonijah with his catchy Bumpa, Kirk Brown, Pompey, Mighty Grynner, Blood and Marvay. There was also an appearance by national treasure Serenader who took fans down memory lane with some of his old hits. Emcee Mac Fingal kept proceedings running smoothly and the backing band was in a word – fabulous.
The night’s proceedings were dedicated to the late Don Sir Don Marshall.