It’s all over.
As the calypso curtains came to a close on Saturday night, Dice and Caressah stood neck to neck wondering who would take the crown. I felt relaxed knowing that whichever one was crowned King would have been just fine. At first, judging along was hard, and then it became easy–too easy. In other words, as is too often the case, it was a one-round competition. The show proved to be a night of contrasts, a battle between elaborate and simple, less and more, highs and lows–a entertaining trip through bipolarism.
Standards were set when the defending monarch opened the show with simplicity. Simplicity in props and in delivery–simple, easy, beat me, teach me. A message to mama, or a message to his fellow competitors: Beat me, I dare you, teach me, that you can do better. Standards became even tighter when Ras Kelly, took the challenge, opting for elaborate, greatly elaborated in presentation and brilliant lyrical detail that Papa, it’s you.
Elektra, task at hand to prove that she was a Woman of Worth, worthy of the crown, was even more convincing than the semis. She showed ease, confidence and class in her impressive rendition, despite the sing-screams. Karessah, the theatrical maestro, thrilled with his Rogers and Hammerstein musical, Gentle Rest, complete with a hospital, coffin and funeral. As with Karessah, the focus often becomes the act than the song. As with Karessah too, the song is often enough a stroke of genius, and that’s just what Gentle Rest is, genius. We were on a high.
Coming off that high, Soul Puss, accompanied by the All Star Band, was brave enough to step up in the unfortunate absence of Ghetto Prince, but his bravery, or eagerness, was eclipsed by the obvious lack of preparation. Simplicity, not by choice but by circumstance. All he was able to execute was a first verse and chorus. From there, Money Masters became a schizophrenic mix. Sadly, we will never know the true possibilities of that song. Webb compensated though and rose to expectations. His Legacy was well delivered as the spirits of the Congo ancestors were called by the drum and by the dance to uplift his performance even further. The crowd, usually just appreciative towards Webb was pleased. The hit of the high was back. Deros’ performance of The Country too Free also proved to be quite formidable–simple point, simple lyrics, simple flow. There was no telling that this was his first trip to the big yard.
But with every high comes the inevitable crash. Daddy Chess, despite his smooth style failed to resonate with the heavy whirlpool of Diasporan requests and suggestions. Likewise, Black Diamond’s Power of Calypso, left us still waiting to hear just why calypso is powerful. The first round ended with Bob’s Find a Way. Elaborate in many aspects, but especially in presentation, musical production and vocals, there is no doubting that he delivered with skill although there has been some questioning the total purity of the song as a calypso. Nonetheless the power of his voice brought a fitting end to Act One.
The second round easily accomplished the task of ranking. Usually a more upbeat experience, the tensions of the first round disappeared, the pressures of the tight race loosened. Dice’s Dominica Story, and his usual wardrobe changes, again set a standard that only Karessah, despite a more vulgar in-labour presentation, would challenge. Ras Kelly contributed The Shoe Squeezing Me. A nice storyline, a fair effort at a mask but not enough ammunition for this final battle. Elektra’s vast, expansive Dream could not come true when stacked against the solid realities of Kung Fu Politics and Blanc Balen. Web’s Kung Fu Politics was entertaining in presentation, and interesting in composition although there were some minor obscurities that many felt needed clarification. Blanc Balen sealed any naysayers that Deros does have the required fire for a big stage. Daddy Chess’ Madness, without question is a powerhouse that justifies itself, but something just seemed to be missing. Soul Puss wisely decided to just have fun with Not a Dictator but truth be told, he never truly recovered from his first appearance. Black Diamond seemed lost, and not even totally convinced that he himself Wanted Black Diamond for King. Bob, playing the magician, used all the magic he could to show that Nothing plus Nothing is Nothing. To drive home his point, he too vanished into nothing on stage. But magic is an amazing thing, because he reappeared in the top four.
Just as last year, the judges saw Bob and Webb copping 4th and 3rd place while Dice outranked Karessah to claim a 6th crown. Overall, the patrons seemed satisfied. Perhaps Deros many thought could have inched his way in, but considering the mysteries the judges had designed in earlier shows, we could accept their decision this time. No bipolar reactions, we were finally balanced.
The season was a short but curious one with many twists and turns along the way. The controversies proved more fascinating than some of the calypsos. Certainly not a year that resembled the glory years of calypsos gone, even as recent as 2010 and 2011 which brought hit after hit, but still a rather good year. The Mc’s, Val, Alex, Peter Pros and BaBa ransacked their minds to keep us entertained. Swinging Stars regardless of the quality of the song, or type of song was excellent, often elevating a calypso by their accompaniment. Their brass will live with me for the next twelve months. Going into 2014, my wish list for calypso is seven wishes strong:
-that judges be fair and consistent from eliminations to finals
-that issues can be resolved without always resorting to litigation
-that calypso association will be more proactive and less reactive in setting guidelines
-that the experts would decide if calypso is a song (voice) contest or not
-that the introductions/presentations would not be too long and calypsonians wont be distracted by their own presentations
-that the must-have back up dancers would no longer be a must-have for every calypso unless appropriate to the act
-that calypso not become over-intellectualized so the simple grassroots feel won’t disappear
That’s my list, what’s yours?