by Wade Gibbons
About 2 a.m. on Saturday morning, William Classic Waithe achieved what seemed inevitable from the start of this festival season when he was crowned the 2019 Pic-O-De-Crop monarch at Kensington Oval.
Hailing from De Big Show Calypso Tent, Classic gave a sterling rendition of One Song, a witty piece that utilises some hook lines from songs once performed by former calypso king and now Minister of Culture John King, and hints at discord – albeit nonexistent – between the minister and National Cultural Foundation (NCF) head honcho Carol Roberts-Reifer. As the selection suggested, he dealt with the departure from the traditional two-song competition this year. On the night he might have slowed the tempo of the song fractionally but that did not detract from its lovely melody. With lyrics worth 30 points he would have gained considerably in that category because some significant thought was obviously put into constructing the song.
Classic has been one of the too few calypsonians to pay attention annually to injecting humour into their work. And as usual this set him apart from several of the finalists. His bugbear was once rendition where he would make a meal of enunciation but he has long overcome that weakness and on Friday night would have taken a good chunk of the 30 points allocated for that category. The arrangements of the song could not be faulted. It was an occasion where, with 128 points, he was a deserving winner of possibly the easiest $100 000 he has made in his life.
Tied in second place with 113 points were Adrian AC Clarke and Terencia TC Coward-Thompson. On any other given night, there could have been no quarrel if either had won the crown, Clarke in particular. His Christmas In Crop Over was, for its satire, one of the most enjoyable pieces performed. His reference to a business mogul in the island and a venue shift exemplified what the writer did with the song. As did the lines that referred to the change in command at the NCF and how that change went down with the power that be at the Ministry of Culture.
“Tell me about the move from Bushy Park, was it to save money or left a mark, baloney, is what you do…”
And, “Since Cranston out the NCF, carolling, Me, uh (or pronounced Mia) wonder what the minister feel about carolling…
In essence, just like at Christmas time, AC went through a list of the many “gifts” that have been recently given away. Enhanced by the Christmas element – Santa Claus, singing elves, et al – AC was terrific.
That she has yet to win the Pic-O-De-Crop title after more than two decades trying is not a reflection of weaknesses in TC’s craft. She is a class act and on Friday night she again delivered with Iron Lady. Though it might not have had the lyrical adroitness of AC or Classic’s offerings and was more straightforward prose, the message was still extremely impactful. Not only did it convey her toughness and perseverance as an artiste but it also served as an inspiration for other females to stay the course, irrespective of their aspirations. Her rendition, as it always is, was excellent and the song was a melodic tour de force. AC and TC split $60 000 for their efforts.
Chrystal Cummins-Beckles, the fourth of the De Big Show calypsonians to take the top spots, rendered One Song and again performed extremely well. Great diction, nice melody and adequate lyrics were on display during her time on stage. But she is yet to bring that oomph to her overall performances to take her over the top, especially as it relates to lyrics. Perhaps she needs to inject more humour into her songs, who knows? She comes with a very a polished act each year, a perennial finalist, one who can always be counted upon to deliver. But at the end of her act, one does not instantly say “that’s the queen this year”, though she is an exceptional talent.
Anderson Mr Blood Armstrong had surrendered his crown long before the second half of the show started. His rendition of Another One was of a high quality but if he managed to garner anywhere close to the majority of the 30 points on offer for lyrics he would have to be Merlin the Magician. If he [or his fans] truly wanted another crown, as he suggested in the song, a bit more effort could have been made with pen or laptop.
Teri Williams-Niles and Jamal Jslo Slocombe were among the young brigade in the final and their respective offerings of Bajans Up In Arms and Elephant In the Room were pleasing reminder that there is continuity for the art form in the island. The play on “up in arms” by the young lady worked very well and she generally rendered her song professionally and oozed confidence on stage. Slocombe is a great talent for the future but must remember that though vocal modulation has its place in rendition, overdoing it and theatrics can affect timing and flow in a competition environment. But he is destined to go places.
Omar Sammy Dello Odle’s return was not the best with his Elected To Serve. There was insufficient imagination going into the lyrical construction of the song and one was left with a predictable, déjà vu feeling before its completion.
Edwin Yearwood’s vocal prowess stood out in his Conversation and he might have been surprised that he did not at least make it into the top four. But as one is often reminded the competition is not only about sweet vocalization. On reflection he might notice that though the lyrics of his song worked in terms of the message he was trying to get over to young people about the futility of thug life, its construction did not set it apart from similar themed songs one has heard before. But, this gifted performer enhanced the night’s proceedings.
Completing the line-up were Rameses Brown, Samantha Sammy Jane Williams, Faith Callender, Eric Granny Lewis, Donella Weekes-Oliver, David Kid Site Piggott, Dale Mistah Dale Rudder whose Daddy perhaps has the best post-Crop Over regional and international commercial value of those performed at the Final, Samantha Miss Sammy G Greaves and Jude Clarke.
The night saw the contributions to the festival of the late Sir Don and former Festival Band leader retired Superintendent Keith Ellis recognized.
The band on the night was excellent. Emcee was Mac Fingal.