KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The 2012 renditions by first-time calypso singer, reigning Soca Monarch, Deroy “Fireman” Hooper and seasoned veteran Fitzroy “Brother Ebony Joseph generated the most responses when the picks for this year’s Calypso Semi-Finals were discussed on state radio Monday morning.
While some callers felt thatFireman should have been among the 22 bards too face judges in the semi-finals on Friday, others felt that he should stick to soca, where he has excelled as the artiste to win the most Soca Monarch crowns.
And while some callers to the National Broadcasting Corporation (NBC Radio) programme felt that Brother Ebony’s “Nothing At All” is a top contender for the crown, other dismissed it as a humorous calypso unsuited for the rigours of national monarch competition.
“We are missingFireman.Fireman has a really good song. [It is] reality he is speaking about and I think he should have been in the pick,” said a female caller who described the song as “strong”.
Fireman flirted with calypso for the first time this year with “Ratatouille”, in which he begs “Comrade” — a supposed reference to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves — “don’t put de rats dem to watch de cheese”.
He sings of the “rats” that stole money from the International Airport Development Company and the Income Tax Department.
“Looks like stealing becomes ah disease,” he sings and asks Comrade to “get vex and mash up de rat nest”.
Several other callers who felt thatFireman should have made the semis said the song describes “the ills of society” while a commenter told NBC Radio via the Internet that the song has “strong lyrical content”.
(Watch one of Fireman’s performances of “Ratatouille”)
“He had to make it,” another woman said of Brother Ebony’s “Nothing At All”.
The song is a cleverly written piece that uses the names of places in St. Vincent and the Grenadines to suggest things that people possess — for example, Fabian has a pasture, derived from Fabian Pasture — even as “Brother Ebony ain’t have nothing at all”.
(Listen to Brother Ebony’s “Nothing At All”)
The song is possibly a lamentation by the bard of his failure to capture the calypso crown after many attempts.
“I would like to know that guy personally. He has some talent he is a real, real thinker,” the caller further said. “The first time I heard it, I called [the announcer] to play it over because I didn’t get the gist of it; but when he played it, I got it,” the caller stated.
“The calypsos have really improved this year,” said another caller who lauded Fire Empress’ “Woman”.
“Persons have described it as a woman’s anthem,” the female caller said of the song that speaks of the virtues of women, from Creation onward.
In the rendition, Fya Empress, who is also a prominent soca artiste, says that woman was tempted when left alone in Eden and without proper context was labelled “the weaker sex”.
(Watch one of Fya Empress’ performances of “Woman”)
And while a caller said Brother Ebony’s “Nothing At All” is “colourful”, she said she was “really expecting Fyahman Hooper to make it because … it is a really strong song.
“I am not a soca fan, so I wouldn’t say I am a Fyahman fan, per se. … I was impressed … with the song — the content and everything … — and most people were expecting it to make it to the Semi-Finals,” the caller said.
But not all callers saw the artistes’ rendition this year as meriting the judges’ nod.
“The putting together is good … but to me this is a humorous calypso. To my mind, it is not to real stiff, up-class calypso in terms of sending a powerful message,” a caller said of Brother Ebony’s song.
The caller identified what he suggested were contradictions in the song.
He noted that Brother Ebony says that in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, it is possible to earn anything but later says that even the clothes are not his but belongs to his brother.
“He keeps on saying that he owns nothing. So, I wonder the crown that he got some time ago if he doesn’t own that either,” the caller said in an apparent reference to Ebony’s winning of the Best Calypso New Song Competition when Vincy Mas 2012 officially launched in May.
“So, in terms of the way I analyse the lyric from beginning to end, the putting tougher, I give him some marks, … original and so forth, but for competition to send a strong message to people out there, to me, it’s just humour because everything I hear it I laugh … but I will not pick that as a powerful calypso,” the caller said.
But another caller disagreed, saying the song “is a very classical calypso … and … is one of the better calypsos for the year.”
That same caller, however, agreed with the judges that Fyahman had not done enough to proceed to the Semi-Finals.
“I was there the night (of preliminary judging), the crowd response in itself spoke and I was man enough to say at the end ‘Fyahman, I don’t think you will make it. I don’t think you were strong enough’,” the caller said, adding that he had advised the artiste to stick to soca.
“I like Fyahman … but I … think the calypso arena, he isn’t quite ready for it… I don’t think he did well enough to proceed to the next round,” the caller said.
Yet another caller said that while Fireman’s song has “good” lyrics that “relates to what is happening currently with government workers, other calypsos are stronger” such as FyaEmpress’ “Woman”, which the caller said is balanced off by Sunny Banks’ “Husband Abuse”.
The ‘lucky’ and ‘bad-lucked’
But other callers also felt that some bards who advanced to the semi-finals should not have made it beyond the preliminaries, including former monarchs Vibrating Scakes and I-pa.
“I think Observer and Fyahman are very bad-lucked not to be there. And I think Vibrating Scakes, he is very, very lucky [to have been picked],” a male caller said bluntly.
Callers also said that Defoe — who along with Sulle, is reserved in case one of the 22 artistes cannot take part in the show — should have been among the first 22.
Defoe’s “Woodlice In My Pocket” has been a hit from the time it is released and has become one of the theme songs of the opposition New Democratic Party’s daily radio programme.
“I really thought … that he should have made it,” a caller said. “But Fyahman, I was surprised that he did not get picked. But watch that Brother Ebony; I figure Brother Ebony is to win it this year…”
Another caller spoke favourable of Shortman’s “Sit Down And Wait”, which documents the response often given to visitors to the emergency room here, many of whom go there for what medical professionals say are non-emergency conditions.
“Sit Down And Wait” has “good lyrics,” the caller said.
“I don’t really want to call names, but … I-Pa, I don’t think he should have been there,” a female caller said.
“The final has one set of names every year and they need to judge honestly and let carnival lively up because it’s like one set of people they keep picking. You can name the people they are gonna pick on a five-year [stretch],” the caller said, adding that Shortman and Fyahman should have been among the 22 there and that Queen B should not have advanced.
“I was there (at the preliminary judging) and I don’t think so,” the caller said.
The caller was also disappointed that Poorsah’s “Oneness”, a “very strong” song, did not get the judges’ nod.
“I heard Ron B’s own in relation to rhythm. I am not too sure that is strong enough for the competition. “Read More” by I-Pa’s — while again we should read more — I am not too sure that is strong enough …”
Callers also felt that Aunty Bab’s “Saboto”, a folk-like song that heralds the efforts of newly installed Agriculture Minister Saboto Caesar to revive banana here, should have it to the semis.
They also liked the renditions by former monarch and former Queen of Calypso Joy-C and defending monarch, Tajoe.
Ten bards will advance to the National Calypso Monarch competition for a chance to defeat Tajoe.
Following is a complete list of the semi-finalist and the tents they represent:
Dynamites Calypso Tent
- Ras X
Graduates Calypso Tent
- Man Zangie
- Sunny Banks
- Bump I
P/tani Calypso Tent
On Tour Calypso Tent
- Zion I
- Queen B
- Vibrating Scakes
- Brother Ebony
- Joy C
- Fya Empress