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EVERYTHING BUT: Song for charity

Ridley Greene

EVERYTHING BUT: Song for charity

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Let it be known: I would pick a fair. And David Popsicle Hall should be pleased he influenced me.
Of course, the one thing for me that could come before a fair is a calypso tent – where people actually sing calypso.
Truth be told, I have not experienced a calypso competition so electric, energetic and emotive since 1982, when Red Plastic Bag tuned in, as last Friday night’s.
Say what you may, Popsicle was able to address the seriously harsh and frightening economic times in his piece Don’t Sell Cornwell in a manner that, though dramatically comical and witty, spoke firmly to dependability, thrift and living within one’s means.
And as to I Would Pick A Fair, apart from its title beckoning for attention, its theme speaks to the intruding violence and lawlessness at public social events and the recommended withdrawal of Barbadians to the less popular and more sedate happenings – like the school fair – in equally humorous and witty terms.
I have learned to accept the judges’ decision as final, even when I may have worrying concerns – like how some songs with no melody whatsoever and rambling dissertations make it to the Semi-Finals some years.
Calypso is not about the lecture and the treatise; it is about protest, lamentation, humour, wit and storytelling with melody – and in the simplest effective style possible. Popsicle brought a freshness to this calypso season.
This is not meant, of course, to play down the efforts of the other nine contestants in Friday’s Pic-O-De-Crop Finals. For, apart from the too many long, overbearing preambular presentations, the artistes’ offerings were of a very high standard – even with Kid Site apparently momentarily slipping up in Ain’t Saying A Word and AC not as full of spirit with We Need An Answer as in the Semi-Finals.
I cannot share the claim of the “critics” that Khiomal’s songs were weak. Weak ought not to be confused with simple. At worst, Khiomal’s first song My Opinion suffered from a 1970s Mighty Dove melody.  
What anyway is a “competition song”? Calypsos ought not to be written specifically for judges; they should be for their musicality and for ears cocked toward melody and a story.
As for the nonsense that the Mighty Gabby’s Tribute To Tassa was morbid – this from a people who listen with as much intensity to the morning radio death announcements as they watch Days Of Our Lives on evenings, or who pore over the SUNDAY?SUN obituary section, or who mourn at the funerals of people they do not know.
There hardly could have been the presentation of turning water into wine in Tribute To Tassa.
And what is this about Obama Killed Osama being trite? Lyrics and melody? I insist that people who set themselves up as critics of lyrics and melody ought to be able to write good lyrics and construct strong melodies themselves and be able to stand up to the same scrutiny they hold others to.
Other than that, these critics ought to be themselves versed and known to be competent in the analyses they proffer. Otherwise, their comment is merely an opinion like any other of the uninformed, bigoted, biased and bungling.
The arts, calypso included, are too integral a part of the nation’s life to be so ruthlessly and unsmartly dissected, and our artistes too integral to our musical sustenance and development to be so savagely and offhandedly dispensed with in the name of the much misunderstood “criticism”.
Festival Stage and Fireworks do not escape this madness: the lunatic rush every year to lay bare calypso and its artistes; tear them apart with the prejudices and personal biases of the programme hosts.
No other genre or its artist is so emasculated, aided and abetted by call-in “experts” even less wise.
Worse yet is the arrogance with which these people pronounce on the art form. Some charity needs to be extracted from these destroyers of calypso – even if painfully. With apologies to St Paul we could bring them to Christian understanding that charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up . . . .
Believe me, calypso needs all the charity it can get!