Month: May 2014

What is Bashment Soca? Crop Over Blog 1

lil rick

For those of you that have never heard of Bashment Soca, it is one of the most divisive forms of Soca coming out of Barbados, and thus Crop Over; people either hate it or love it, or in some cases hate themselves because they love it.

Bashment Soca, like many other types of Soca, does not have a clearly defined date of creation, because as I have argued, a genre only happens when others start imitating the prototype recording.

In this case, the prototype recording was “Hard Wine” done in 1996 by Lil’ Rick, who at the time was known primarily as a Bajan Dancehall performer and DJ*.

From this recording a number of traits become clear:

  • Rick’s prominent use of Bajan dialect.
  • The lack of harmony.

As this prototype was copied due to its overwhelming popularity, artists too copied the subject matter (wukking up) and added another one of their pressing issues, drinks.  Here is Fraud Squad:

We can once again see the strong use of Bajan dialect and the generally “odd” harmony.  Here is another classic Bashment Soca hit, “Boom Tick Tick.”  It sings about dancing, wukking up, which Hard Wine did and it is also mixed very raw in comparison with other professionally produced songs.

In summary, most of these Bashment Soca songs are from the early 2000s and it is my view that it is a sub-genre that is quickly disappearing as Bashment Soca artists get more “musical” (see Gorg ). However, for better or worse, it remains one of the clear sub-genres of Soca to come out of Barbados. **

* The input of Eric Lewis and his work with MADD was also important. Lewis employed heavy use of Bajan dialect throughout his compositions see “Tribute to Grynner.”

* * See my Stabby post to come for another example of Bashment Soca in action!!!

Crop Over Blogs coming to www.stefanwalcott.com !!!

Crop Over is a Bajan festival held every summer.

20140513-095103.jpg

To celebrate, I will be turning over this blog to musical topics related to it.

Stay tuned and tell your friends!!!! Also look out for the pins

 

at http://www.pinterest.com/hstefanwalcott/

PS – There will be no posts on fashion, sorry!

 

 

Juan Formell RIP

Juan Formell

There have been a number of notable deaths this year and in Caribbean music none more significant than the recent one of Juan Formell.

As this blog’s readership is made up of mostly English speakers, (the global stats indicate this), many of you may have not heard of Juan Formell before.

Formell was the founder, composer, arranger and leader of the most popular post-revolution music group ever to come from Cuba, Los Van Van. This group, which has been around since the late 1960s is to Cuba what Bob Marley is to Jamaica, Kitchener to Trinidad, Blades to Panama and Red Plastic Bag to Barbados.  If you doubt me, take a brief look at minute 20 when they managed to get 270 000 people to a concert in Santiago de Cuba.

 

 

In short, Formell was immense.  Thanks for the music Juan, a Caribbean music great. Music aLive, now and forever more, Amen!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Save Our Musical Language! Stop the abuse of musical terms now!!! Crop Over Blog 2

As the title shows, this post is intended to diminish the absolute abuse of musical terms which happens every Crop Over.

Unlike some, I am not against non- musicians engaging in musical discussion, I actually quite enjoy the debates.

Barbados Crop Over

Barbados Crop Over

However, pretending to use musical terms to sound knowledgeable when you don’t have a clue what they mean is not cool.

So here are some definitions of common musical terms so you (I) can have a more enjoyable Crop Over season.

1. Instrumentation is the texture of musical sounds in a performance and here is a list of instruments commonly seen or heard on Crop Over/Carnivals stages:

  • bass guitar
  • voice
  • guitar
  • keyboards
  • drums
  • mac laptops – which play sequences and background vocals, frequently seen on stage in Soca
  • drum machines – although they are becoming more and more extinct.
  • horn sections – trumpets, trombones, saxes

Here are instruments not heard on Crop Over/Carnivals stages:

  • that thing that you blow
  • aguitarIthinkitis
  • a piano
  • a mother fiddle

2. Rhythm/Time
Rhythm is a common musical term. In its strictest definition it is sound across time. In other words, once sound is played by whatever instrument and time passes (which it will) it displays rhythm. So for example, the bass guitar player plucks a string and whatever pattern or notes he is playing form a rhythm. The other more common use of rhythm refers to the beat and the way that beat is organised. So for example, the calypso beat is referred to as the calypso rhythm and that rhythm is played by the drums.  What must be remembered is that each individual instrument has a rhythm which in turn combines to create an overall rhythm (beat).

3. Melody

Melody is the standout sequence of pitches heard in a song. Melodies are the things that you remember in your head and sing in the shower. At Crop Over and all over the world, it is the thing lead singers produce when they sing. In addition, instruments which produce pitch also play melody. So in a calypso tent band for example, in the areas where the singer stops singing, a band chorus happens where the trumpets or saxes take the melody.

4. Harmony

Harmony happens when two or more pitches are played at the same time. This is a very musical concept and musicians spend a lot of formal and informal education dealing with this area which can get very complex. At Crop Over, the keyboard, bass guitar and guitar provide the harmonic bed. In calypso bands that have horn sections, harmony is also provided when the different horns, trumpet sax and trombone, play different notes together.

5. Key/Pitch/Scale

These terms are probably the most misused in Crop Over by non- musicians. The understanding of key, believe it or not is based on harmony and even though many people do not understand harmony, they definitely perceive key. However, perception and being able to explain it are two different things and the following terms heard frequently this time of year, all refer to key in some way (these terms are in Bajan dialect for my international audience).

  1. He is out of key
  2.  He sound bad.
  3. He out of key with the band.
  4. The band is out of key with she.

What people refer to when they make these statements is the relationship between melody and key centre. A key centre is established through harmony or through the melody itself where certain notes create a ‘home base.’ What is also created is a set of notes which ‘should’ be heard. When someone is out of key, it means that they don’t accurately hit the notes which should be heard. What usually makes this worse is when this person sings with musical accompaniment, as these instruments hit the right pitches leaving the singer sounding even more ‘out there.’ This is of course the science behind it and perception of pitch is done quickly by those good enough to hear the home base and accompanying right notes.

So that is it. Feel free, in fact, be compelled to use this information throughout the season and don’t hesitate to shout me back here if you want any further clarification. Also, pass it on to your friends having carnivals this summer, like those in St. lucia and Grenada…this is the only way we can stop the abuse!

 

 

 

 

Don’t They Look Similar? – Caribbean And Latin American Folk Music

Caribbean Folk Performers

In Peter Wade’s book, “Music, Race and Nation,” he makes the observation that many of the Caribbean and Latin-American countries have very similar types of “national music.”

I never realized how similar they actually were until I read this, and with the intervention of that great illustrator, YouTube, I was able to see this as well in living html video.

Here they are:

First up is this lesser known Big Drum style from Cariacou.

Also bearing some similarity to this is the Tambú tradition from Curacao.

Not to be left out, here is Bomba from Puerto Rico with none other than Big Bird in attendance.

From the South American continent, here is festejo from Peru.

This list can go on and on, not indefinitely of course as the region is limited, but we can also add merengue tipico from Dominican Republic,gwo ka from Guadeloupe and Rhumba from Cuba. All of them are:

  • Acoustic based
  • Clearly polyrhythmic
  • Have women in flowing skirts and men in straw hats
  • Have call-and-response songs

In short, it is ironic how these expressions which are so closely linked to parochial nationalism are less unique than the states which promote them like to say. In fact, there is a strong argument for a Latin American and Caribbean culture over a nationalist one, but alas, difference is far too appealing, but don’t they look similar?