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The is Bag Back!!

August 10, 2007

IT’S BEEN JUST over a week since seven-time calypso monarch Red Plastic Bag announced his return to competition, but already it’s like he never left.

As he settled in on the steps outside Queen’s Park Gallery, a fan tore himself away from viewing the Spartan/St Catherine’s cricket match in progress to ask Bag how his preparation was going for the upcoming Crop-Over season. This is how it has been ever since he let it be known he was going to be competing again after a three-year hiatus.

“Once you’re in competition, there’s more of that. The whole drive behind you is different. Already the mere fact that I actually said that I’m keen on getting back into competition, that has already started. People are calling my house, people are calling my cellphone, people are seeing me on the streets and want to know what’s going on,” he said.

One thing they all want to know is – what prompted him to come back?

“I’ve been away from the competition for over three years. I felt all tired and needed a rest just to recharge my batteries. I think three years is pretty reasonable in terms of time away from the competition. I feel pretty good, so I decided to come back,” he said.

While he has recorded in the intervening years and been involved with the music industry, competing is a much bigger deal.

“It takes a lot more. Your whole family is involved; there is a whole circle of people who are involved. It is a big undertaking and once I go into it, I go in a big way. I don’t take competition lightly,” he said.

It also just so happens that this year will be the 25th anniversary of his 1982 debut in national calypso competition, singing Sugar Made Us Free and Mr Harding.

However, Bag said the landmark had not really crossed his mind until someone else mentioned it and suggested he should do something to commemorate it.

“As a matter of fact, I didn’t even think of the number of years. I’m not into records at all. Someone mentioned to me that perhaps I should do a 25th anniversary concert. I thought about it and I believe it would be a good thing to do. It’s something I’m looking at,” he said.

Focused

For now, he’s focused on this season. He will be performing at the Plantation Garden Theatre with De Big Show, which is made up of other former calypso kings John King, Gabby and Ras Iley. Interestingly, since De Big Show is not registered as a competitive tent, Bag will be competing as an unattached calypsonian.

Additionally, he will be teaming up once more with his long-time musical partner and fellow Philipean Mac Fingall, putting out five songs on a joint album.

He has a practical reason for sharing an album rather than putting out his own and it is all down to the economic difficulties the music industry faces “because of what technology can do”, as he wryly puts it.

“I think in terms of the economics, it makes sense to put out compilations like that and hope that we can sell enough to at least break even. It’s not going to be easy because the market has changed in a drastic way and it’s really difficult,” he said.

It is an even greater challenge for someone like him who is a full-time calypsonian. Even in the years he was away from competition, he wrote songs for calypsonians here and in other islands and performed overseas regularly. Still it is by no means a profession for the faint of heart, as Bag made it clear.

“I think I’m surviving. But I don’t know if it would have been easy if I was not married to a woman who’s working,” he said frankly.

Still, he is sticking with the music industry and his return to competition is part of that.

“It’s difficult for me to move away from music completely. I love music, I love writing.”

He has been keeping an eye on the state of calypso competition during the time he was gone and had this to say:

 

Keen contest

“I believe the competition for the last few years has been keenly contested. However, I didn’t see the number of people getting involved in singing commentary as in previous years. Calypsonians are choosing to go with party songs; quite a few are not competing.”

While he has no objection to party songs, having won a few Road Marches himself, the dearth of social commentary troubles him, for calypso is his true love.

“I always had a love for calypso. I was always amazed at how you can actually learn the history of a country through a calypso. It’s a very versatile artform. It can educate, it can make you dance, it can make you think.

“I think my love for the art-form came from the number of things you can say in a song and you don’t have to go stand up in Parliament. The beautiful thing about it is you’re representing the people when you do it – you become their mouthpiece. You get to say all the things they want to say.”

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