Calypso 2021 semis Review
This review of the 2021 Calypso semi-finals is devoted to the memory of Dominican Calypso stalwarts Alick Volaire, former Calypso writer; Wilfred "Pancho" Jno Baptiste, pannist and Calypso enthusiasts and regional calypsonian, Sandra "Singing Sandra" Des Vignes-Millington.
The first virtual Calypso finals may have been staged by the time this article is published but, no pun intended, there was a virtual absence of reason in judgement by the adjudicators who chose the final 15.
All four repeat-kings: Dice, Hunter, Observer and Karessah presented some of their weakest compositions ever in a Calypso final. Granted they performed well but let me qualify my comment. When you look at a song you look at the treatment of the subject matter. In the case of Dice his composition on "DOWASCO" calls to mind and one is forced to compare it with his own "Let There Be Lights" and Hurricane's "Utility Pressure'. Now without a doubt his 2021 composition is a distant cry from former songs which lamented the high cost of utilities.
De Hunter's song lacks cohesion and has not built up any storyline sufficiently to compare "Uncle" with "Donald" though the point is inferred. Additionally, his lyrics is reminiscent of the 70s, the last time I heard a four-lined-verse Calypso; it is repetitious and jumpy and despite the evident lack of subject development, it does have an international flavour as it deals with popular US events and is the most superior produced Calypso in terms of engineering quality. That's where Hunter beats all and sundry: performance, execution and music quality/ arrangements. Well, if he reveals "Uncle" on the night then it may be game over.
Then there is the Observer with the weakest "Gratitude" song heard in competitions when you think of Janae's same title and how the topic was treated, there is really no comparison. But if you gave him a pass into the finals as was done based on the standards presented, I would not argue with you. Rather my comments stem from his own personal standards from which he has plummeted.
Still the worst is yet to come as we look at Karressa's simplistic, Junior-monarch-styled composition. I clearly think there was no place for '" His Little Thing". There is really no depth of thought, creativity or otherwise and the four-time King is lucky.
I will admit, on the brighter side, all four kings performed creditably, almost vintage style. Their renditions were on par, but when the base which is the composition falls short, it affects the entire package as one needs good material to work with. Their compositions seemed "COVID- rushed". In the case of the latter he has been at his best, being a political watch-dog, but like Scrunter and to a lesser extent Hunter, their fortunes of a top-four place a decade ago has dissipated and that is no surprise. Calypso must not show any allegiance but to the people and the burning issues of the day. All over the Caribbean artistes' careers have been decapitated as soon as self-preservation and affiliation raises its ugly head.
I have full praises for Abiyah; a young lady with a powerful commanding voice, lyrical conviction and whose musical arrangement is superior to all this year's competition as her arranger used higher order chords to caress her voice. My only criticism is sometimes she seems too wordy.
A lady in a similar mold who should have made it is Lady S with a poetic philosophical composition. A song which calls for in depth analysis and I suspect was too intricate for some of the judges who prefer bouncy simple A, B C lyrics. David Rudder of TNT would be in trouble were he to compete in a Dominican environment, and I would not be surprised if the Sour- Sour's of this world get the nod before such a lyrical master.
So in this year's virtual show it has shown clearly that judging, as subjective as it may be, requires qualification, competence and enforcement. I will admit while qualification may not be much of a problem but the latter two are certainly lacking.
Everyone loves Sour and we are impressed by how far up the ladder he has gone, from a mere jester to a competitor. But ironically, we are now becoming jesters ourselves to think that he has now elevated himself to be a true competitor for a final spot. Who is laughing now? Not me.
Triumph, a veteran for over two decades, has to do some serious introspection as he gets songs over the past decade that suit his persona and mannerism but his lackluster performances, not necessarily his songs, don't get him past the Quarters... at least!
Less pressure on Lugarz because only about 150 patrons saw him walk his way through with another superficial composition, nothing in the mold of those he butchered in the past.
Among the perennial finalists Bobb sounds the best lyrically to my mind and of course we all know he can render.
However, Jaydee will compete fiercely in his call for Calypso soldiers to defend the art. His composition for Checker while not a competitive Calypso is a brilliant thought-provoking ballad in Kaiso, a lamentation and oxymoron of sorts structured in minor chords- "Looking for a Safe Place in an Unsafe World."