Stepping out of the spotlight
It is never easy walking away from something that you love. Calypsonian John King knows this only too well.
This is his final year competing on a calypso stage and for all the naysayers who are going “he said that before and returned in 1994”, he has plans that will take him out of the spotlight.
“I announced to people last year that this year would be the final year of me being on stage. After 32 years, there’s not really a lot that I want to accomplish in Barbados. I think there are more things I’m interested in offstage and so, that decision being made, I decided to go out for the last. I would again participate in all the things I’d sporadically been involved in over the years like the calypso contests.
“You notice that I went into the Party Monarch this year. I don’t really get involved and for me it was like good fun and preparing myself for that transition,” he said when he sat with Easy magazine on a rainy Tuesday morning.
Speaking with The Lodge School alumnus who shared his plans for the arts, Bajan culture, De Big Show and his future, it was clear to see his passion and drive for what he aims to achieve.
“I am definitely going to be involved in the promotional aspect of music. I want to be involved more in the levels of policymaking, where the arts and culture are concerned,” he disclosed.
He is passionate in his belief that there is a wealth of culture and arts in Barbados and the region that has to be brought to the fore.
“[You] are missing your potential to have stories, gifts, talents that are comparable with the rest of the world. You spend endless money buying American movies, American music. What they are selling you, you already have but you are not selling it to anybody else.
“We are missing the boat and do you know what it stems from? An inferiority complex where we do not believe our creations like the steel pan, our music like calypso and reggae, ring bang, jazz and R&B, have any merit,” the 50-year-old entertainer argued.
That complex, he contends, stemmed from slavery and colonialism.
But John does not intend to let this mindset shackle or inhibit him from pursuing his goals in this regard and he is adamant there is a need for people to be re-educated so they too could see the possibilities and talents that exist.
He said that people were living in fear – False Evidence Appearing Real – refusing to step out of the shadows and do things that mattered in order to bring about the necessary changes that would redound to everyone’s benefit particularly for those at the grass roots level.
There are so many facets to the calypsonian who brought you songs such as I Want A Plantation, How Many More, Family Ties, Black Box, Coming Fuh King, I Am Calypso, Tribute To The Skipper, Congratulations and Jump And Wave which earned him his second Pic-O-De-Crop monarch title in 1994.
Apart from his plans in the arts, he will be pursuing a degree in clinical psychology now that he has returned to the Government Industrial School.
“As soon as I finish offstage, that is my first priority before anything else happens. I’ve got to do all the studying I need to do to get the credits to build up towards doing that. Once I get that out of the way then its full steam ahead with the other things I need to do.
“I plan my things very carefully, piece by piece, time frame by time frame. I always plan. You just can’t wake up a morning . . . . I planned when I left Government Industrial School in 1991 when I reached a certain age I would go back. So said, so done.
“I think the ups and downs of a career in music are great when you’re young and you don’t have a lot of responsibilities. When you have responsibilities, you cannot be in a situation where it is too unpredictable for a very long time and because our music industry has not grown at the rate which I would have liked to see it grow, you have to ask yourself, ‘Is this what I want to spend the rest of my life doing?’” he said matter-of factly.
“On stage as an artiste, flying here and there to make a dollar [and] not being able to really have any real quality time with family and friends, how long do we do that? Thirty-two years for me is enough. The next half of my life I want to be able to do more within the community, do more within the region and those are the things that make me happy.
“For me, everything in life has to be about happiness. I don’t care what other people think but for me happiness is optimum to everything. When you’re happy, you think straight. When you’re happy, you’re fearless, you take on more responsibility you do things.
“When you’re scrambling or when you’re concerned about where the next set of money is coming from you can’t be happy. One affects the other. Thank God for Pharrell’s song Happy ’cause people are now beginning to pay attention and understanding what happiness is,” John said with a laugh.
Money doesn’t equate to happiness though, he said, noting that emotion was a state of being.
Describing his “pipe dream” as having an “excellent season”, he said he was now beginning to see De Big Show come to fruition.
“I beginning to get the doubters around me to see that it can be done, so more than anything else that is so pleasurable nobody in the world can understand how I feel,” he said with a smile.
Although his voice is not the best this year, John made it to both the Party Monarch Semifinals and the Pic-O-De-Crop Semi-finals and he is a reserve in the Finals.
“I’m in a such a great place that it really does not matter. I went through the freaking out part where you start thinking, ‘Without my voice what am I going to do?’ Once I got past that I said ‘But hey, John, you’ve never been a one-dimensional person. There’s so much more to you than just having a great voice’. I said to myself I would sing and if it sounds bad, I will sing,” he stated.
To relax John dives into the pages of spiritual, historical, educational or self-development books. Nothing fictional for him. And he loves movies.
“I love all types. The only things I do not watch is what people pass as comedies today. I don’t find a lot of them very funny. I find them obnoxious and people just have to be cussing and carrying on to get people to laugh. I think the little DNA in me that’s British [he was born in Britain] likes British comedies; I would watch [those]. There’s a sense of humour there that cannot be matched by the Americans.
“When I watch movies I don’t just watch them for the stories I find myself in awe of the actors’ ability to deliver lines, the sets, the lighting, the graphics. Every possible thing about the movie excites me. For me it is an event and I’m in awe and I don’t think any my friends really understand when I’m in front of the TV watching a movie what zone I’m in,” John explained with laughter.
Any Sunday when John gets the chance you can find him playing basketball with his friends.
“I can’t describe this either. I don’t think it is about the basketball. It’s about the camaraderie and you can’t really beat that. When you’re among people you really appreciate and like a lot, you can’t beat that; you can just be you. Nobody is interested in John King the entertainer, or this is the infamous John King that everybody always got some rumour about. This is just John King who comes to play basketball and if he plays foolishness we gine cuss he.
“You can’t beat genuine people who when we’re done playing basketball will lime and share food and chill out. I don’t know how many people get to really enjoy this aspect of their lives. When I get these opportunities I enjoy them. I love people and I say this without reservation. I love people but I am not the kind of person that because I do I will deal with everything they do. If you’re doing foolishness I will tell you . . . ,” he said as the rain continued to pour and drench the parched earth. (Green Bananas Media)