10 Things You Probably Did/n’t Know About Wuk/ing Up – Wuk Up and Wukking Up

To join in with the overt nationalism this time of year in Barbados, here is a blog feature on what I consider the national dance,

the Wuk-Up.

1. Wuk-Up is a dance from Barbados with roots in Africa.

Wuk-Up  is said to have come to Barbados via Sub-saharan African where isolation of the limbs and movement of the hips are part of the dance tradition. Here is a traditional one from Africa and then a Wuk-Up video.

 

 

 

2. Only Bajans are said to Wuk-Up.

In Trinidad they wine, Barbados however is the Wuk-Up capital of the world.  The difference comes from the hip movement, see if you can spot the difference between a wine and a wuk-up.

 

 

3. Wuk-Up has evolved.

Like all things of nature, Wuk-Up too is Darwinian and as the music has evolved, so too has the Wuk-Up.  I believe, and you are hearing it here first, that there are 3 distinct periods * of Wuk-Up. These changes remember correspond to musical change.

1. Pre-Independence

2. Post Independence 1966-1994

3. 1995-present

 

4. Contemporary Wuk-Up varies.

While there is a general post-90s style Wuk-Up, it does vary between sub-genres. Bajan Dub/dancehall requires a different wuk than fast soca. So in the former you find jucks, stabs, bend-overs etc. and while these exist in latter, the difference in tempo means Wuk-Up variations are found.

 

 

 

5. Wuk-\Up music is in duple time.

The Wuk-Up occurs in a duple-metre environment. No one Wuk-Ups to 3/4 waltzes, or 7/4 experimental Soca pieces. The hips sub-divide the main pulse, either in half (Bajan dub, Soca <120 beats per minute),  or in quarters (Bajan dub, Soca <120 beats per minute) or with the pulse (soca>135 b.p.m).

 

6.  Men and women Wuk-Up

Wuk-Up in Barbados is not gender specific. It was not always this way but in the mid 1990s the Grass-Skirt possee popularised male wuking up making it even more socially acceptable.

 

 

7. The Wuk-Up has 3 variants.

These are:

  • female on female
  • female on male – most common
  • solo

Male on male wuking up is hardly ever seen in public spaces. This is because Barbados continues to be conservative when it comes to public displays of male homosexuality.

8. People touch when wuking up

As said,  wuking up can be done in pairs between males and females.  When this happens the male is behind the female similar to perreo in Reggaeton. Like perreo, there is physical contact thus making the Wuk-up different to other sexualised dances such as rhumba, tambu, bomba etc. where touching does not occur.

Here is Tambu from Curacao where there is no touching.

 

See Example 4b for Wuk-Up.

 

9. The female dictates when the dance is over in the male-female Wuk-Up.

In Barbados a female decides when your Wuk-Up is over. She does not have to tell you this but her gradual moving away means it is done. This is not meant as a “pursue me” courtship practice a la kangaroos; when she leaves it is over.

 

10.  The average Wuk-Up is between 10-20 seconds.

Unless the couple wuking up is romantically involved, the average Wuk-Up bewteen strangers is 10-20s (per one Wuk-Up round). This research was done totally unscientifically of course but I stand by it. If you are a male be sure to pay attention to this as well as #9 and if you are a female it is better not to linger beyond this time. *

So those are 10 things to note on the Bajan dance. Thanks for dropping by and Happy Independence weekend if you are in Barbados.

 

* – Check out my Slideshare on Wuk-Up Music.

Also please note the soon to be released work of Cultural Studies dance scholar John Hunte on the dance.

* A number 11 could have been, the church does not like the dance.

 

 

 

 

 

8 comments

    1. My friends have been commenting. Here is what one said

      “you forget the male-female-male wuk-up variant commonly referred to as a sandwich.
      the one round wuk-up between strangers is actually false… the length of thw wuk-up depends on many factors including music, mood and the skill of the male. this is because wuk-up is a dying art due to the influence of the jamaicans and their pechant for ”jucking/dry humping” and women appreciate a man whom has expert waist control.”

      1. Ha ha Stefan, your friends speaks truth 😉 I like it. Always appreciate a good wine / wuk up and walk away at the slightest hint of daggering

  1. Love the write Stefan. A few additional offerings if I may:

    1. Male-Female wukkup length is a merit based system. The length of time the female maintains the engagement is strongly correlated to how well the male is wukking up. The more skilful the partner is, the female often extends the engagement beyond the 10-20s mark.

    * Other factors which influence engagement length can be – social environment; relationship status; familiarity with the male and friends etc.. The defining principle among most scenarios is to maintain joviality and cordiality in non-romantic scenarios. So a female (males often choose to disengage as well for similar reasons) often breaks the wukup after a short period to ensure that the wrong impression is not conveyed to the partner, their partners, others etc.

    (My personal observation is this short wuk scenario has increased in the past 15 years. Perhaps influenced by the Trini ‘tiefing a wine’)

    2. While male-famle wukking up is most often with the male in the rear, it can often occur with the male in front. This can be common when the male and female are familiar friends etc., and can even be driven by certain musical songs even. Less common when the male and female do not know each other but it can be socially permissible for females to initiate this on males (known or unkown) as occurs when she is displaying dancing prowess and bragaddacio.

    Roughly agree re: the time periods and love to work with you to expand this formally. i believe there is a symbiotic relationship between dub/dancehall etc and calypso/soca when it comes to the evolution of wukking up. I believe wukking up is heavily influenced by both forms. Just my opinion

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