Top Ten crop over Songs of all time

Crop Over is a summer festival held in Barbados. Originally it was a post-harvest festival held after the sugar season, but it was re-introduced in the 1970s as a carnival-like event.
Since its re-introduction, the festival has grown considerably to where it is now one of the main cultural events in the Barbadian calendar. Over the years, many songs have been released for Crop Over that fall into two genres:

  • Calypso
  • Soca
    The calypsos are usually written for the calypso competition while the soca songs are for the parties and the street celebration known as Kadooment.
    I will now give a Top 10 Crop Over songs of all time where I seek to narrow down the thousands of songs that have been released in these two genres. To get on this list, a song had to be:
  • A prototype of a particular period
  • A song that went on to change how music was being made in Crop Over.

So here is my Top 10 (not in any particular order).

Tek Off Something – Stiffy – 2016
1. Tek Off Something is the newest song on this list. It gets its place because it represents the Bashment Soca form of soca which is the favoured Crop Over genre by the current youth in Barbados. Bashment Soca is really a re-emergence of Bajan Dub from the 1990s, and the music was then re-branded and given a competition within the Crop Over Festival. Stiffy won the first-ever Bashment Soca competition with this song. Tek Off Something gets on the list, therefore, because it is a prototype of Bashment Soca. I actually call it Bashment Soca II because the original Bashment Soca I is different to this newer form.

Hard Wine – Lil Rick – 1996
2. Hard Wine is a song from the mid-1990s sung by Crop Over giant and Bajan cultural icon Lil Rick. This song gains its place because of the influence it had on later producers and singers. It was raw in its production and had Lil Rick chanting/singing in Bajan dialect. It started a whole sub-genre, Bashment Soca I, where bed-room producers came to the game with raw production and songs sung in Bajan dialect. This type of Bashment Soca was popular for another ten years and formed part of the soundtrack to Crop Overs of the early 2000s.

The Country Ain’t Well – RPB – 1989
3. The Country Ain’t Well was part of the calypso competition, called Pic-O-De Crop in 1989. It gets on the list because it represents the calypso writing style of RPB, who had the most success in Bajan calypso competitions. The RPB style is based around simple, singable melodies and lyrics that display the use of metaphor. This song is a prototype Bag and helped him win the competition in 1989.

West Indian Politician – Gabby – 1985
4. The other influential way of composing calypso is the way it has been done by the Mighty Gabby. Unlike RPB, the Gabby method is full of melodic complexity in comparison to other calypsos. Gabby loves chromatic notes, and he also varies the rhythm of his melodies between verses as well. This way has also been very successful at the calypso competition, with Gabby being the second-highest winner. Basically, Bajan calypsonians either utilize the Bag style or the RPB style in making their music.

Ragamuffin – Square One with Alison Hinds – 1996
5. Alison has been one of the leading female voices in soca, a genre that has been male-dominated since its inception. Ragamuffin represents the type of fast soca which emerged in the mid-1990s that was more sung when compared with the Bashment Soca I. This type of soca, like Bashment Soca I did not feature a lot of instruments and was considerably quicker than the other types of Soca, which were popular in the 1980s. Although Obadele was the first to win the most popular on the road with this type of soca, Raggamuffin because Alison Hinds sang it, is not only a prototype of this quicker soca in the 1990s; it also is the prototype female artist within soca and thus an automatic entry on this Top 10 list.

Pump Me Up – Krosfyah with Edwin Yearwood – 1995
6. The slower type of soca, known as Ragga Soca, is very popular at Crop Over. Though it has been renamed under the influence of Trinidad to Groovy Soca, it still forms a critical element of modern parties. The first soca of this type is Pump Me Up by Edwin Yearwood, which fused dancehall with soca music. This slower tempo, plus the way Edwin sings, was imitated by many and went on to have considerable influence in all carnivals in the English-speaking Caribbean. Pump Me Up was this a no-brainer inclusion to the Top 10 list.

Mr T – Grynner – 1983
7. Before the considerable changes in soca music in the 1990s, Grynner was the dominant sound of soca music in Barbados in the 1980s. Grynner’s sound was built in Eddy Grant’s Blue Wave Studio, and it basically involved a backbeat which is found across many genres as the drum pattern and then calypso percussion on top. In addition, Grynner’s unique Bajan voice carries the melody. This combination was very popular, and Mr T. represents this sound to a T.

Ragga Ragga – RPB – 1993
8. Although Pump Me Up was the most influential of the Ragga Soca songs, the song that opened the door of Jamaican dancehall mixed with soca was Ragga Ragga. This song gave Ragga Soca its name and is a definite inclusion on this list. It is on this, however, to represent the regional influence of songs released in Crop Over as Ragga Ragga was very popular in the Caribbean region of Colombia and Panama. It probably remains one of the most recognizable songs from Crop Over in that region and has a redone Spanish version (reggae en Espanol).

My Car Brek Down – Contone – 2006
9. Contone was a car-washer and part-time singer. His song My Car Brek Down was the most popular Bashment Soca I song ever and marked the end of that particular era. Some may consider this song a strange inclusion, but in my time on stage, I have never seen such a reaction from an artist as Contone received at that time.

All of We – Peter Ram – 2015
10. In 2021, the other sound that dominates Crop Over and Bashment Soca II is the sound of Red Boyz soca. The Red Boyz are a production team of Scott Galt and Mikey Hulsmeier with a garrison of hit songs since their 2006 debut album. In 2015, Peter Ram’s All of We, which was written by Shaft Bishop, a close associate of the Red Boyz, completely dominated 2015 Crop Over. The Red Boyz sound is based a lot on the re-introduction of 1980s style production of soca with live instruments frequently featured.

So there it is, my Top 10 Crop Over List to date. Do you agree with mine? Which other songs should be included?

SERIES ON CARIBBEAN MUSIC PRODUCTION

In Barbados and the Caribbean, we struggle to tell our stories.


Of late, there has been a real uptick in digital content, which makes me happy.


This series is an example of this where producer Randy Eastmond talks about how some famous Barbadian songs are created.


It’s called Behind the Riddim.


Check out this episode featuring John Roett.

Handel’s Caribbean Messiah in Halle Germany

Look what came through yesterday.

The program to Handel Festpielle in Halle with Handel’s Caribbean Messiah as a featured production for the 2021 run.

I wrote and was executive producer on this work since its inception and what a ride Handel’s Caribbean Messiah has been. Here is a clip of me going through the process of composing for the debut show.

So here are the THANK YOUS!!!!

  1. Thank you Fran Wickham and Ronald Grant, for really believing in that first show at Frank Collymore Hall in 2017.


2. All of the Barbados Museum crew especially Kevin Farmer who brought us over in 2018. BCIDA for supporting the album production in 2018.

3. Jewel Forde and everyone at the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation for the success of the 2018 run.


4. The Caribbean Export Development Agency National Cultural Foundation for their support in 2019.


5. The original management team who assisted in the growth of the production, the original Bajan cast and our expanded cast in 2019.

This started as an idea on a page and ended up being accepted by Handel Haus, I am truly personally humbled and I have learnt soooo much.


We might not get there as a group but the production shows there is a global demand for what we do in these tiny islands once there is co-operation.


Eventually, I will be writing and blogging on this experience outlining where we can improve as cultural industry people.


But for now.

Thank you Barbados for allowing me to create Handel’s Caribbean Messiah.

Barbados National anthem

Hello everyone! 

Here is my orchestral re-arrangement of the Barbados national anthem to celebrate what has been a challenging year.

On vocals is the amazing Allison Norville!

A .pdf version of the arrangement is available to download under my Books and Arrangement tab.

Thank you, Barbados for everything. 

Happy Independence.

The Battle of Bronze Nelson

The statue of Lord Nelson is about to be removed from its prominent position in the centre of Bridgetown.

The debate which led to the removal has been fierce with the Nelsonexiters, those that wanted him gone for years, the Remainers, those that don’t want to see him budge and the Penny-savers, those who think that the money to remove him could be spent elsewhere, all arguing and venting on social and traditional media. 

So before the bronze man disappears into the museum, I want to try to make sense of what has been going on in simple language to show that the Battle of Bronze Nelson can tell us a lot about meaning and how it works in modern Caribbean societies.

  1. Symbols do matter to people, just ask the Egyptians.

Despite what the Penny-Savers think, symbols matter to many Barbadians, because Bronze Nelson HAS mattered.

If we were to look at all human communities throughout history, we will see that symbols have always counted. Every community has objects that serve no functional purpose towards the survival of members of those communities.  The Egyptians built pyramids when they could have used holes in the ground. 

 

nations have flags when bar-codes would be cheaper; all modern states put up statues that they cannot eat and have to clean.

Ridiculous you say — then why?

The short answer is because we humans think in signs, and it is the MEANING we get from these symbols that makes us act together.

Every communist regime understands this just ask North Koreans how many statues of the Kims are erected or how their country does a military parade.

A government even makes sure its citizens use the same symbols, they are called letters. This is because letters, like statues, are symbols they STAND in for things and are essential for communication.

In short, whether it be a statue or an alphabet.

Symbols are not just important, they are ESSENTIAL to human life!

  1. What society thinks of a symbol CHANGES over time!

One argument the Remainers put forward in keeping the Bronze Nelson goes like this,

“You take down Nelson, what’s next? You remove Sir Gary from Kensington you stop teaching British history, where does it stop?”

The answer to that question is no one knows and frankly unless you plan to live to 1000 years old, you shouldn’t care. 

For the Nelsonexiteers of 2020 Bronze Nelson was no longer ACCEPTABLE as a public symbol. 

The same thing will happen to other symbols we now consider sacred. 

For example, there is no white or brown in the broken trident. 

However, as the Asian descended population continues to grow and inevitably become more publicly engaged, they might see this as an issue and demand removal of the BLACK broken trident from the national flag.

If something like this happens it will not be the first time.

One only need to look at post-war Germany to see the mass removal of symbols by the following generation as the symbols of the previous Nazi regime become unacceptable.  

In short,

Nothing last forever, statues included.

In summary

The Battle of Bronze Nelson is ultimately a battle of meaning. And at this moment in Barbadian history, he represents an oppressive form of colonialisation which is not acceptable.

Who knows, he may return as racial politics changes and who controls those meanings changes.

But for now, he is on history’s page and in the Barbados Museum.

 

XX Bajan Folk Songs with Audio

Heah,

Take a look at my latest project:

XX Bajan Folk Songs with Audio.

Available now on amazon.com.

XX Bajan Folk Songs is a compilation of twenty Bajan folk songs from the now out-of-print Folk Songs of Barbados book.  The book also comes with audio as the name suggests so you can sing along.

Check it out!

 

 

Bashment Soca ain’t about Dat!!! – Looking for music in all the wrong (right) places –

There are few sub-genres in Soca at Crop Over that are as divisive as Bashment Soca (both 1st and 2nd comings see my article).

To refresh, Bashment Soca (the I and the II) makes heavy use of Bajan dialect with speech as melody.

Most with traditional musical training usually dismiss it as sonic drivel sighting its harmonic simplicity and melodic monotony.

But are they looking for music in the right places?

Let’s take a look at “Go Stabby” to try and answer that question.

“Go Stabby” is a typical Bashment Soca song.

Here is it below.

To my surprise, “Go Stabby” was popular outside of Barbados despite Stabby being unintelligible to most non-Barbadians. Why may you ask? It is because “Go Stabby” connected on a different musical level to other pop and carnival soca songs; it is was all about the RHYTHM!

Believe it or not “Go Stabby” is quite interesting rhythmically. “Go Stabby” has something called rhythmic tension and release with the “Go Stabby” repeated line, the tension and the “Stabbyyyyy,” the release.

Net result?

INTEREST.

It also helps that these two parts of the song are the ones most clearly understood by non-Bajan speakers.

In short, there is a reason for everything under the sun, and though some might claim the reason for “Go Stabby’s” popularity was because of duped and ignorant audiences, that’s not the case.

One has to look in the right places.

* Side note, I performed this song as part of the backing band at Bacchanal Calypso Tent in 2008. The initial reaction was tremendous, but in performance, Stabby didn’t realise that the verses were not what people wanted to hear, and he chose to perform it like the recording. Of course, the verses fell flat, meaning the live performance was lukewarm at best. Which brings us to a future blog, performance of Soca, stay tuned.

10 Rum Songs I like – For Carnivals and Beyond – English

Caribbean festivals (including Crop Over)  are propelled by spirits with the biggest fuel being rum.

Over the years many artists have dedicated songs to this deity. Here are 10 of the best:

10.

Chutney Soca is possibly the rum genre of the Caribbean. This one by Ravi B from 2010 also manages to include the marriage scenario, another common theme.  One of my favourite songs period.

9.

Contone was a part-time singer and full-time car washer from Barbados. Through the years he has scored some massive hits at Crop Over with his rum lyrics.  This Bashment Soca number, “I Like Drinking Rum,” is fairly direct. You also get a two for one in this video as he throws in, “Fire in the Hole” (Live I may add).

8.

The first of our Christmas rum songs is sung by Barbadian DaCosta Allamby speaking of how important it is to consume rum in large quantities.  *Warning, drinking a gallon of rum is never advised.

7.

Lord Kitchener, another artist from the Trinidad carnival canon, is not to be left out.  This one is another Christmas song and rum classic. The name speaks for itself.

6.

This song from 2014 comes from the biggest soca artist from St. Lucia, Ricky “One to Dem” T. As it is new, it does not have the legacy of the others on this list. However, this is still a ‘big tune’ from the Helen of the West.

5.

The Mighty Sparrow is one of the most prolific artists in Calypso and Soca.  This one is a favourite among the mature crowd throughout the English-speaking Caribbean and speaks to being drunk and disorderly. It won the Road March in 1972, showing that unruly behaviour fuelled by alcohol has always been part of carnival.

4.

USVI Soca has one of the most fascinating soca sub-genre scenes. This riddim is just called Rum and Rave. 

3.

To back up my point about Chutney’s relationship with rum, here is another one by Adesh Samaroo where he confirms his “undying” relationship with it.

2.

Gorg is known as the drinks boss in Barbados and this song from 2014 is but one in his catalogue. Borrowing from the Chutney approach, Gorg uses the rum-troubled-relationship theme.

1.

Machel Montano is another massively popular Trinidadian artist. Here is Bottle of Rum, a soca song off the hugely successful 3Zero riddim from 2012. Love and/of rum are again the themes.

Can you add any more?

* Stefan Walcott does not condone mass consumption of spirits of any kind. This post was not sponsored by any beverage retailer, the Holy Spirit or any other related product (although a donation would now be welcomed…;)

6 Things (truths) NoOne wants to say about Crop Over!

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Crop Over is at an end. And here are some uncomfortable truths about it. Note, I am not saying whether these realities are good or bad, just shedding some light.
1. Crop Over is…
not about musicians it is about music. Musicians are largely on the side when it comes to the festival. Think about many of the events, how many guys do you actually see playing music? Even in production, they have been marginalised. If not for the calypso competition, they would have died off completely.
2. Calypso at Crop Over is…
only kept alive by government and kids. Calypso is centred completely on the national festival. Outside of this, no content is produced. This competition is, however, a loss-making exercise and if the government would withdraw its large largesse, the art- form, as it is known, would have died along with the cassette tape. The kid’s competition, however, is vibrant, due to the fact that is one of the few youth art competitions that gets full national coverage.
3. The tent system at Crop Over is…
an economic failure. The tent system was developed for a certain time for certain people. With the export of carnival came the export of tents. In modern times, this system is woefully expensive and dependent completely on the national calypso competition. It is attended purely for nostalgia and would have disappeared a long time ago if not for the taxpayer.
4. Crop Over is…
a carnival..despite the packaging. Not only a carnival but a Trinidadian franchise carnival. The clever entrepreneurs in Trinidad have managed to export the bead and feather, all-inclusive fete experience to Barbados in a big way. There is even a Machel Pre bank holiday show. Some might be screaming what about Bridgetown Market and the Literary Reading? These events are peripheral at best and the fact that there are no private promoters hosting crop over dance, crop over comedy or cane cutting competitions speaks volumes as to where the emphasis is with all-inclusive carbon copy events of boats, breakfasts, paint-and-powders, all whites holding sway.
5. Crop Over should have…
left Bajan Dub alone. Bajan Dub in 2010-2013 had an energy about it. It was young, it was underground it was urgent. Enter the re-christening as Bashmnet Soca and its entry into a competition for the festival. Also cue standardization, blandness, and boredom. The artists, through their need ( and rightfully so given how expensive the country is) for short-term cash, have killed the pig to eat the ear. Or killed the pig to have Lil Rick eat it.
6. Crop Over has….
killed any form of US type of industry forming in Barbados. The US type of music industry is the holy grail for many. From politicians to artists to technocrats, all of them want the glitz glamour and more importantly the US dollar from what goes on north of Cuba. In the early 70s, Barbados had the foundation for this. However, Crop Over killed that for instead of having music created and consumed all year round, all creative activity through Crop Over became confined to a six-week period where 300-500 songs compete for public space.
So there are 6 unpopular truths about Crop Over. I know many enjoy the festival as it is great fun and many won’t care about these truths but not bringing them to light is like wukking up in the dark. Fun for a while but dangerous in the long-term.
Can you add any more?