STEDSON “RED PLASTIC BAG” WILTSHIRE’S competition days might be ending.
In an interview ahead of last Saturday’s MQI/Banks/LIME Pic-O-De-Crop Finals at Kensington Oval, the ten-time calypso monarch said he was at the stage where he had to start thinking about getting his music “far and wide”.
“Of course I’m going to still make my contribution here with regards to Crop Over. I’m not sure of my continuation in competition. I think that the competitions are going very well, they’re quite keen and I hope that we can continue to do all the right things to make these competitions great, if we’re going to be continuing with them.
“My view on competitions however, is that competitions are great for the festival but not necessarily good for the music. It is okay for a guy who wants to be part of the competition to enter but he has to know what he wants to do with his music.
“If he wants to just make music for competition or if he wants to make music for the world because most of the songs we do in competition are songs that are very parochial. A lot of them are, and in terms of marketability they don’t have the legs to go beyond our shores.
“It is either we’re thinking competition or we’re thinking music for the world and this is something that is very important,” he said. RPB added that the music had to evolve and “we should not be resistant to change” but “start viewing growth and stop keeping ourselves back”.
He added that young people were not going to “warm towards the Pic-O-De-Crop” as much as they were going to get involved in the Sweet Soca and Party Monarch competitions simply because the music in Pic-O-De-Crop “has not changed a whole lot over the years”.
“I’m saying that music has to change to attract young people. I always ask the question: if we didn’t have a Junior Calypso Monarch competition, how many young people would get involved in singing social commentary? I don’t think they gravitate towards it naturally.”
Youth not interested
“One of the things we need to do is look at the music and how we present our songs, even social commentary. It must be attractive enough for the young people to get excited about it. Right now I don’t think that musically young people like what they hear. The vast amount of young people are not interested in what happens with social commentary, the music that we’re using, and the whole approach to the songs.
“The songs are long, the songs are just different so I think we have to look at the way we present our songs in terms of the structure, and the use of language,” contended the former Sweet Soca Monarch.
“For argument’s sake, I’ve had songs that were seven minutes long. A lot of these songs are over five minutes. No song on radio these days plays for more than two minutes; people don’t have the time to listen to all that. So you have to find a way of getting your message in a simple but effective way and musically interesting as well.
“It is just a reality. It is okay to talk about tradition – it is there, yes – but music has to evolve, it has to evolve, we have to embrace change within the context of competition. Different music, within the genre of course, a different approach to the music and not let it be the same old, same old all the time.”
He said that over the last couple of years when he competed in Pic-O-De-Crop, one of his songs was at least 120 beats per minute, such as Something’s Happening. The last song he sang in the 2012 competition – Royal Visit – was not as slow as some of the others he did over the years. He reiterated that the presentation of the music had to be attractive to young people in order to sustain it, and he was “thinking growth because if young people are not involved, when the older people die and gone where is it going to go?
“I know that we need to embrace change and let the music evolve. All genres of music have evolved, why can’t we allow this music to evolve? The music is going to change.” The veteran calypsonian also noted that the presentation of this genre, particularly social commentary, had people saying the art form was dying.
“[It] is not dying, we are killing it,” he argued. He also said that because of the limited pool of writers in Barbados, the music remained “within a certain appearance, a certain feel”.
“For argument’s sake, look at Pong and Contone. Contone’s songs are serious social commentary for the most part. The song about two Sir Grantleys and an Errol Barrow is a serious song. Look how many young people sang that and identified with it as compared to some of the songs that we sing in this competition. That song will never be done in a competition. Look how many people were attracted to it,” he said.
RPB said the reality of the situation hit home to him when he travelled, including to the MIDEM music festival in France where he “got to realise I have over 300 songs but I only had about 30 songs that I could present to the world.
“A lot of my songs were parochial, dealing with things around Barbados. Nobody international wants to hear it. Nobody ever called me outside of Barbados to sing social commentary like the ones I did in competition. My work comes out of these party songs and we have to be real about this thing.” (Green Bananas Media)