Quality not quantity
This year is not the Last Time you will hear Ian Webster singing sweet soca songs or blazing a party tune. And even though he will be asking What Is Calypso? be assured he intends to go out to all with his music and make it as All Inclusive as possible.
The reigning Pic-O-De-Crop monarch, who is again entering the Sweet Soca and Party Monarch competitions, sat with EASY at Sky Mall two weeks ago to talk about his plans for this year, his iWeb brand and what he is likely to do after Crop Over.
“I have four songs this year. For me, I realised that sometimes especially when it comes to competition, you find yourself doing a whole host of songs and then you’re asking people which ones you’re going to do for competition. I felt that what I would spend the time doing this year is making sure I put in a lot of effort into the quality of my songs and cut down on the quantity.
“In terms of the party songs, I will push those songs on social media and do what I need to do to market them. Then from there, I will concentrate on my social commentaries. It is a matter of cutting cost as well because it does cost money to produce a song. It is a matter of competing against myself and also cutting back on unnecessary spending,” he said above the din of the patrons in the food court.
Ian said that after forking out thousands of dollars, “in most instances” the songs do not live beyond Crop Over.
So what is his social commentary about this year?
“What Is Calypso? That is the question,” he said cheekily as he burst into laughter in response to the question posed about the song. “I am looking for answers to the question. What is it and I’m hoping that somewhere along the line someone can explain it to me”.
“I expect that people will come at me. It is calypso. Everybody sings about everybody, I sing about people so I expect people to sing about me. Just know that I will sing back about you,” he said in good humour.
He added: “I guess that’s the advantage of being in the finals: you have the opportunity to assess your competition and measure what you need to do and how much of it you have to do and execute.”
Ian – the musician – co-wrote the song along with Cheyne Jones – the poet – and after reconnecting in 2013, they started working together.
“He brings poetry, lyrical content, literary devices. I bring melody and I also contribute in terms of lyrics but my job is structuring melodic form and making sure the melody is nice and doesn’t sound like anything we’ve done before,” Ian shared. He declined to give details about the second one.
A year after retaining the calypso monarch with De Karaoke Song and Barbados Is Still My Home, debates are still ongoing about whether the former – which was arranged by Roger Gittens is calypso.
“It was very, very difficult to put together
so when I saw people talk about the lack of creativity if there is one person who can vouch for the degree of difficulty involved in writing that song, it is Eric Lewis. I wrote that song with Eric Lewis and it was one of the hardest songs I have ever written in my life.
“You had to know which song to put in and how to set it up so that everything stays in the concept of the theme. That was tough,” he said.
The idea came from broadcast messages his manager Alvin Toppin were sending about karaoke, He was recording his WWF song at Blood’s studio and he stopped to write a few lines. He later called Lewis and asked him to help. It took them two months to write.
Music is what stimulates Ian during the festival.
“I like good music and that’s what I look forward to mostly at Crop Over. Seeing the perspectives, angles and new tones where the music is going. I look forward to the music.
“Being in a tent is an opportunity for me to learn because I believe that education or learning is a lifelong process. So, in the tent you learn different things even if it’s not related directly to music, you learn different personalities.
“ The tent environment is different from when I started in that obviously the audiences are smaller. It’s not as magical, it’s not as grandiose as it was back in the day.
“Even Pic-O-De-Crop, when I started, the eldest to the youngest would tune in to the Pic-O-De-Crop to see who would win the crown. Winning Pic-O-De-Crop was a big thing. Now Sweet Soca is the big thing even though it’s less money,” he said.
The defending monarch said that after winning the Pic-O-De-Crop the music is not heard beyond Barbados and they’re fewer opportunities to travel with the songs but at this juncture he was in it for the long haul.
He continues to get involved in this competition because of his love for it.
“There’s a business side to it so I would say there’s a combination of loving the culture and wanting to contribute and in my own way help the culture to live on. And two, to make a few dollars,” he said matter-of-factly.
He wants more though and would like to perform his social commentaries outside of Barbados.
Ian said he has heard the comments related to him pushing his party songs whereas people prefer him in commentary, but he said winning the Pic-O-De-Crop title was it.
There was no opportunity to travel to another country to perform or promote his music and he believes that shouldn’t be so.
Last year, he launched his iWeb brand and to date it is “going nicely”.
“The clothing line is coming along. We’ve got a lot of good reviews; lots of people are interested in purchasing. Now, I’m at the stage where I’m going to look to do some mass production and get the hats and shirts out there . . .
“Financially, it is a little cumbersome but if you have people on your team who know what they’re doing it makes your life a whole lot easier. Right now, I’m working with a guy called Jamal Pumpydoo Belgrave. I ask different people to do different things. I take my craft seriously and I invest a lot of money in it. I can’t just be spending money willy nilly and not getting returns or the value from my spend,” he said.
So after Grand Kadooment is over and the festival comes to an end and life returns to normal, he plans to take in some of the carnivals in the United States and Europe.
“I think this year I’m probably going to do some travelling. I’ve been home for a little while so I’ll probably get out and head to Eastern Parkway [for Labour Day], maybe Miami Carnival, maybe Nottingham but I definitely want to do some carnivals and take in the experiences and see what it is like. I will initiate some contact with some influential people in the industry who can help me to develop,” he said. (Green Bananas Media)