With the bacchanal at City Hall and Mayor Rob Ford gaining momentum recently, songwriter Carlyle Bailey made a last-minute switch, penning a new piece for defending Calypso Monarch champion Macomere Fifi to capture the controversial and sometimes comical moments.
“I had already done the two songs she was going to perform in this year’s competition, but when the Ford hullabaloo was making daily headlines locally and internationally, I knew that was newsworthy and something people would be interested in,” said Bailey, who has been Macomere Fifi’s exclusive writer for the past three years. “That was a big topic and I knew it would win the competition.”
Macomere Fifi agreed and last Sunday night proved Bailey correct by winning her fifth Organization of Calypso Performing Artists (OCPA) crown. She joins Structure and Beginner – who did not compete this year – as the only calypsonians with five titles.
The dominant and inspiring performance with her second rendition, ‘Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde’, fully captured the attention and votes of the judges and audience, leading to a clean sweep of the individual prizes – Best Lyrics, Best Melody, Best Presentation, Best Vocal Rendition, Most Original Calypso, Best Composition on a Local Topic, Most Humorous Calypso, Best Arrangement, Best Background Vocals and the People’s Choice Award.
Each finalist presents two songs.
“When Carlyle sent me the lyrics, I told him to come and watch me capture the crown this year,” said an elated Macomere Fifi after being crowned by former Member of Parliament Jean Augustine. “I knew right away that I had a winner. With everything going on with the Mayor, I knew I had hit the jackpot when I saw the words. That was the most creative piece I have ever sung.”
Macomere Fifi dedicated her second successive win to her eldest granddaughter, who moved to Newfoundland last November to live with her paternal grandparents.
“I relished having her for the first six years of her life,” she said. “One of my lasting memories was when she came home last year and told me she was being bullied at school. She said she told the other students that her granny was a queen and she was going to bring her to school. When I heard that, I dressed like a queen with a crown on my head and showed up at the school. That made her day and she was so proud. I miss her.”
In addition to writing the award-winning lyrics, Bailey composed the melody and co-orchestrated the arrangement with Michael “Skel” Redhead.
“We have a great working relationship,” Bailey said of his association with Macomere Fifi, who was the only female among the nine finalists. “She leaves the writing to me. All she says is, “do something and I will be your critic’. She’s so easy to work with, she could really perform and she breathes life into lyrics.”
Macomere Fifi won a $5,000 cash prize and another trip to next year’s Notting Hill and Georgia carnivals in England and Atlanta, respectively.
Macomere Fifi’s celebration was overshadowed by Panman Pat’s decision to abruptly pull the plug on his performance midway through his second presentation, ‘Get off the Fence’.
To the consternation of the fans, the two-time winner handed the microphone to Ossie Gurley & the Truth band bass player, Estaban Carvalho, before nonchalantly leaving the stage.
“I walked off because there was a technical problem with the drum machine and I was getting an audible feedback,” said the veteran calypsonian, who was the only finalist to use his own drummer. “It was too distracting for me and I just could not continue. It was my hope that I would have been allowed to come back at the end and redo the song as has happened in the past with other performers who had encountered technical problems, but I was not allowed to do so. I think I did the right thing by aborting the performance.”
To add to the confusion, Panman Pat finished fourth, much to the dismay of the audience many of whom felt he should have been disqualified.
“We could not disqualify him because that’s not in the OCPA guidelines,” said a judge on condition of anonymity. “He was judged to the point when he walked off.”
OCPA president Colin Benjamin said an investigation is underway to determine why Panman Pat left the stage in the middle of his performance.
“We owe it to the paying customers and calypsonians to find out what really transpired,” said Benjamin. “As a board, we are concerned and we want to get to the bottom of this. As part of the investigation, we will also review our rules.”
Structure was the first runner-up followed by King Cosmos, Panman Pat who won a $1,000 cash prize awarded to the fourth-place finisher, Dennis James, Connector, Dynasty, Spivey and Redman.
Reigning Notting Hill Calypso Monarch Sheldon Skeete made a guest appearance at last Sunday’s event. The T & T-born singer is a member of the Royal Air Force.
BY RON FANFAIR