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At a big loss


RICKY JORDAN

At a big loss

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WHILE THE MAN himself RPB must be congratulated for his stellar achievement of ten crowns in 30 years, one cannot help but be baffled at the judges, who obviously remain overwhelmed by the star quality in him and Gabby.
Neither of the two Big Show tent members should have placed in the top three; and the highest Red Plastic Bag deserved, after one strong song in the form of Thank You, Calypso, was fourth. But that’s why I’m not among the calypso judges, some of whom have been called blind, deaf, and worse.
Whether or not this description held true at the MQI Banks Lime Pic-O-De-Crop Finals at the Gymnasium of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex Friday night, the collective gasps at the result and the general feeling that it did not go down well with the public were very real.
And it must worry anyone interested in the future of the art form that these two “generals” can continue to dominate an arena with material that lacks any real lyrical effort, while other hard-working and talented individuals seem to be penalized for daring to be in such “thoroughbred” company. Simply put, one now has to be twice as good as these multi-crowned winners to gain the calypso title.
Ian Webster, for instance, must have been penalized for his Sweetness, where the lone fault was his inappropriate criticism of fellow competitors within an analysis of one of today’s most destructive lifestyle diseases. With such a sobering topic, bolstered by the introduction of one who is living with diabetes, Webster had no reason to waste lines or degenerate into a brief exercise in trivia by specifying rivals who were or were not “sweet”.
However, why would judges bring down the hammer on this offence by subtracting enough to cause him to lose the crown by nearly four points to RPB – 416 to 419.5 – since, song for song, Webster had two better lyrical pieces and would have also scored very highly in rendition and presentation, particularly via the night’s showpiece Hollywood Tree?
The judges, however, seem to have given top marks to Bag in all categories – lyrics, melody, rendition and presentation – for Thank You, Calypso which, while melodically pleasing, was merely a tribute to himself, and Royal Visit which was a good topic but not given his most crafty or provocative treatment.
But “average” seems to have been the order of the night as Gabby, with two unspectacular songs, was able to finish third on 411.5 points. His first selection CBC Pruhnography did nothing more than place on the pages of calypso history an embarrassing incident that shocked Bajans and world viewers who would have been fed the faux pas diet of “oohs” and “aahs” for weeks afterwards.
Like previous light-hearted songs, including Needles And Pins and even Miss Barbados, Gabby poked fun at this simple incident and cemented it in the annals of folklore. Such is the essence of calypso!
Unfortunately, the same cannot be said of Popsicle, I Come Fuh You, which showed that this thoroughbred was still smarting from last year’s defeat by the jackass Cornwell.
Fourth-placed Adrian Clarke of All Stars should have pocketed the $15 000 third prize after an impressively biting I Aint Frighten in which he called names involved in the Alexandra dispute and the removal of the National Cultural Foundation’s chief, among others. He painted a strong picture that goes to the heart of the veritable Bajan inability to call a spade a spade.
His other number Uh Can’ Done, co-penned by the renowned Tony Walrond, needed editing, and he could have taken a cue from Bag in terms of a nostalgic presentation since he too has paid his dues to kaiso.
Popsicle’s Bail Out was unconvincing. Though an amusing and satirical take on the frightening global economic situation, his simple props failed to convey the requisite mood of panic. The larger stage at Kensington, from which the event was moved because of a threatening storm, would have allowed him to have a cardboard aeroplane emblazoned with dollar signs and featuring dancers jumping through its doors and windows before he took over the controls and landed safely.
His performance in Not My Phone, replete with school uniform and youthful swagger, should have earned him top marks for rendition and presentation.
It is still a mystery how the other five finalists placed, but I must register disappointment at the failure of Chrystal Cummins-Beckles, whose improvement has been meteoric, to find a place in the top five with her Why Ya Tek Me Fa Sandra Doh and Fly On De Wall.
The veteran Adonijah, meanwhile, failed to punch in his well conceptualised Congratulations, but endeared himself to the audience with Something Left In De Bottle.
Blood was awesome in rendering Suggestive Lyrics, filling at once the role of teacher, social commentator and scholar with one of the competition’s better songs this year; but he muffed it all by substituting It Is What It Is with the light-hearted and trite Politician’s Anthem.
Little can be said or asked of De Announcer besides this: why would a commentator so indignant about the gay lifestyle start his song in a coloured wig and carrying pink shoes? If he, like his human props, was exorcized in the song Botsy Theology, was it by implication only?
Smokey Burke’s Dance, Alexandra, Dance was a witty view of the contentious industrial issue, but “Smokes” found himself scurrying to accommodate the long and pedantic lines of Wait. He should have waited.
My placings were: Webster, Popsicle, Adrian Clarke, RPB, Chrystal, Gabby, Blood, Adonijah, De Announcer, Smokey.

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