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IWeb: Right now I Doin’ Me

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

IWeb: Right now I Doin’ Me

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Time has been good to reigning Pic-O-De-Crop monarch Ian Webster, and whereas some people in calypso circles viewed him as a young upstart when he first entered the arena back in 2001, today some of those same people hail him as the consummate calypsonian and entertainer and aren’t afraid to say the future of social commentary in Barbados is, well, bright.
Ian, Webster, Web-star or iWeb, whatever you prefer to call him, isn’t worried about all the talk. He will be the first to tell you he is just “doin’ me”.
He returned to the annual competition in 2012 after an absence of nine years.
In 2003 after playing third in the Pic-O-De-Crop Finals, where he sang I Know Dat, he turned his back on calypso and accepted God and headed to Trinidad to study.
In an interview in June 2012, the music teacher at Springer Memorial Secondary School said his return was predicated on the issues he was passionate about and the fact that he would “do justice to them better than anyone else could”. Ian also said that while he was out of the arena he was not “exactly twiddling my thumbs” and noted he was in fact “refining” his musical craft which had developed over the years.
“Even though I wasn’t actively singing on stage, I think I may be a little better now than I was years ago in terms of my vocal ability and my understanding of writing and what it takes to put together a decent social commentary. I have grown over the years,” he said then.
That year, the Ellerslie Secondary School alumnus sang Sweetness which Gabby assisted him with writing and De Hollywood Tree and placed second in the Pic-O-De-Crop. His time would come in 2013, at the cricketing mecca Kensington Oval and Finals night, where he won his first Pic-O-De-Crop crown with Cupid and One Blood.
But as time has marched on, things haven’t been really different, he said.
“It has been pretty much the same day to day life. [I had] a few opportunities, a few gigs here and there . . . . I did not travel to represent Barbados. There was nothing exceptional about the reign except to say I shall go down in history as being the calypso monarch for 2013,” he said during the interview which took place at St Leonard’s Boys’ Secondary School where he and some of his Headliners tent mates attended House of Soca’s judging night.
As for his very popular song Cupid, he noted it didn’t get much airplay after the competition ended.
“Social commentary doesn’t live long in Barbados and I understand that culture, so that’s not one of those things I will get upset about. I understand how the general tradition and how the general culture of calypso in Barbados works and unfortunately it is just one of those things that you just can’t fight right now. Social commentary just does not play outside of Crop Over – that’s just the way it is,” he said.
As the notes of a calypso being played on the steel pan in the foyer of the school floated across the air and into the night sky, Ian said he has nine offerings this year, some of which he either wrote or co-wrote.
Among these are his Pic-O-De-Crop songs, his Sweet Soca and Party Monarch songs which have got him through to Soca Royale at Bushy Park, as well as those with the Energy Band.
“Doin’ Me, Get On, Come Back Formula, Energy, Remy, Still My Home, Terror with Khiomal, WWF (Where We Feteing) with Blood, and Kirk and I have Fete Flow. With the exception of Remy, Come Back Formula [and] Get On. I wrote or co-wrote most of the other stuff.
“Remy is about hair. That’s one of the songs the keyboard player, his real name is Marlon Brathwaite, wrote . . . . It’s just a fun song. Women like to wear Remy so we just thought we would sing about it,” Ian said with a chuckle.
His Pic-O-De-Crop songs – Still My Home and The Karaoke Song – which he co-wrote with Cheyne Jones and Eric Lewis, respectively, have been well received in the Headliners Tent, particular the last-mentioned, which has seen him getting encores.
And no ifs, buts or maybes, Ian will definitely be there on Finals night to face the other competitors.
“I am defending my [crown]. My chances are as good as anyone else’s. I don’t ever count eggs before they hatch; I am not presumptuous. I am not one to say I will beat this body bad – that’s not my style; that’s not how I operate. My thing is all about the night, coming up with a game plan early, and then looking to execute. So when it comes to my chances, my chances are as good as anyone else’s but a lot of thought has gone into my preparing for this year. A lot of planning has gone into it; so I really look forward to defending and defending well,” Ian said.
So where does he find the material?
“It’s a process. Keeping my ears to the ground, staying abreast of current affairs, listening to the news and of course spending time among the general populace. Good ideas come from ordinary people. So my scope is far and wide. I pay attention to a whole set of stuff. I do a lot of reading. Always on the Internet, always reading some article, reading some journal or something . . . . It’s about adding to your knowledge base,” the former lead singer of Infinity, a group which competed in the Richard Stoute Teen Talent Competition back in 2000 and 2001, said.
For him, branding himself and his music is the way to go.
“Branding is something I have noticed is playing a major role in Crop Over since my return. When I had left back in 2003 the last time I competed, before coming back of course (in 2012), it was more about your song, your talent, your ability to execute on stage and so on. Over time obviously that has evolved. It’s now about your marketability, how much you are able to sell yourself, not only to people but also to sponsors and essentially to people who would be willing to put their money behind you because they realise that you are influential at a certain level.
“I have recently formed a relationship with Kirk Brown . . . . People talk about his lack of a singing voice but if you really check Kirk’s work ethic and business acumen, there is no denying that he knows how to market and how to get himself out there and I thought it was important for me to start to do that and hence I formed that relationship from that synergy with Kirk.  
“We now have the Energy Band together. We are doing some major work in terms of branding, in terms of putting our music out there. We took lots of time this year making sure the street tunes sound good because it is one thing to be marketing and pushing hard but it’s another thing to make sure you have music and a product that is also at a certain level.
“It is just a matter of trying to bring together both things and do them at an extremely high level. Bring together high levels of marketing and high levels of visibility, quality sounding music,” Ian said of the association.
As the conversation came to an end, he was asked the one thing that stood out to him about his 2013 Crop Over season.
“One thing that stands out in my mind is nerves. Finals night, both halves, I was very, very nervous before going on stage, probably one of the few times in my life . . . and that is the honest truth. That is probably something I will never forget. It is just one of those things because nerves can be both good and bad,” he said.
And with that the recorder was turned off and the all-round musician who plays keyboards, arranges music and writes, walked away into the night and towards the lively discussions calypso fans had going on around the venue. (Green Bananas Media)

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