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.

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

In the Classroom with New Soca Writers

At the Barbados Community College I teach Caribbean music. In class, in keeping with my creative-centric approach, which like the Americans I have give a name, creativincism, I try to get the students to write in the styles taught. Given the fact that Soca has become confined to such a limited  range of compositional choices, I provide my students with the necessary ones and see what they come up with. Of course this stuff is graded, how else would they participate?  First up are two groups composing in the style of Destra circa early 2000s. I call this Power Soca (which of course puts me in contradiction with others but I grade the papers right?).

Here is another one. By the way, Lennox seen here is not a Soca/Calypso practitioner by any stretch of the imagination.

 

In my view, even though the audio and video are quite rough, they manage to at least provide you with a good understanding of the style the students are working with. The same could also be said of the next two videos which are written in the Bashment Soca style.

 

I have chosen the last two guys, Kevin and David, because they are as far removed from this music in terms of what they do regularly as any two musicians could be. However, given the guidelines and the space, they too managed to create something that is cool.

To end, I think that creativity lies in many humans. It just shows that once given the boundaries within style and a bit of space, what can be accomplished. It also shows that Soca can have new writers, just that the closed nature of the Caribbean media limit this.
Anyway, let me end with Lennox, “your Rum is my Rum, and my Rum…”

Contone beats Rihanna…Hmmm….

The following video is taken from Toby Gad’s Vblog.

In case you do not know of Toby Gad…

he is a pop producer from Germany.

On this Vblog Gad interviews Livvi Franc, a naturalized Barbadian, who at the time was signed to Jive Records. The thing is that although Livvi was producing music, the producer asked her to sing something from her island.  Watch!

The original song from Barbados she is singing went like this.

The thing about the original is that it was seen by many as a joke! However, for better or worse, My Car Brek down is uniquely Bajan and thus representative of a certain kind of Caribbean identity that is seen as authentic.

Livvi could have easily sung Umbrella by Rihanna, but when it came to defining her culture, she chose Contone.

So take a bow Contone, you trumped Rihanna and to think they said you would never go international!!!!

Top 10 Books on Caribbean Music for (Academic) Dummies

Firstly, let me say that I, of course, would recommend my book, Caribbean Composers’ Handbook on Amazon.com for all of those interested in the actual music of Caribbean music but outside of that, here are some others. 🙂

1. Cooper, Carolyn.  Noises in the Blood: Orality, Gender, and the “vulgar” Body of Jamaican Popular Culture. Durham: Duke University Press, 1995.

Carolyn Cooper is one of the premier academics on Dancehall culture in Jamaica. This book is seminal in how it seeks to re-examine the common perspectives on Dancehall. Even though she is an academic, the book is generally accessible and Cooper’s points are still valid some near 20 years later.

2.  Bradley, Lloyd.  Bass culture: when reggae was king. London, Viking 2000.

Bradley’s Bass Culture is one of the best overviews on Jamaican Reggae music I have ever read.  Bradley takes the reader from the pre-sound system of the nineteen forties to the emergence of Dancehall. All the major figures are there from the three big sound system operators of the 60s to the early Dancehall pioneers like Yellowman.

3.  Cowley, John. Carnival, Canboulay, and calypso: traditions in the making. Cambridge [England]; New York, NY, Cambridge University Press, 1996.

Cowley presents a well-researched book on carnival. Cowley provides a great volume of historical information on early Carnival. He also gives many 2nd hand references on important events, such as the Carnival riots and early Calypso competitions. A good one for those who have to teach calypso history.

4.  Pérez Fernández, Rolando. A. La binarización de los ritmos ternarios africanos en América Latina. Ciudad de La Habana, Cuba, Casa de las Américas, 1987.

Pérez Fernández’s book is in Spanish. However, this should not put off persons who do not speak the language. Pérez Fernández ideas are fascinating and unlike many other academics, he deals with the musical sounds of Caribbean music. His main idea is that there was a process which changed African music into the folk music of the Americas we know today. The influence of this work is obvious as he is frequently quoted.

5. Guilbault, J. Zouk: world music in the West Indies, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1993. 

There are few texts on Zouk in English, Guilbault’s book is one of them. Guilbault details the origins of this music as well as the identity implications it creates as a French Antillean identity emerges through Zouk. Guilbault also interviews the important players within the movement and provides transcriptions. Another plus is the inclusion of a CD which is also fantastic when dealing with music as a subject.

6.  Kenneth M. Bilby and Michael D. Largey. Caribbean currents: Caribbean music from rumba to reggae. Philadelphia, Temple University Press, 1995.

This book seeks to be an overview of Caribbean music in general. It does a decent job within the introduction of describing the conditions which led to the creation of many genres. It also seeks to detail the important regions within the Caribbean giving summaries and identifying important figures. This book is a good entry into the multi-faceted world of Caribbean music.

7.  Rivera, Raquel Z, Wayne Marshall, and Deborah Hernandez Pacini. Reggaeton. Durham: Duke University Press, 2009.

Reggaeton is possibly the youngest popular genre to have a book about it in the Caribbean region. This book is excellent and through the different perspectives of the contributors, we get a wide view on Reggaeton from its sexual to musical implications. If you want to know anything about the genre, seek out this text.

8.  Lesser, Beth.  Rub a dub Style: The Roots of Modern Dancehall, 2012.

This book is the only one that is available online free of cost as a pdf download. Beth Lesser said she did this to avoid the usual accusations leveled at outsiders who write about other cultures. Lesser’s book is good though and she details all the important figures in the genre; from U-Roy to Beanie Man. Pick it up!

9. Rohlehr, Gordon. Calypso and society in pre-independence Trinidad. Port of Spain 1990. 

Rohlehr, like Cooper, was an academic from the University of the West Indies.  Rohlehr is a literary scholar and in this book, he provides thorough analysis and documentation of the literary form of the Calypso. Rohlehr also details important historical events and how they impacted on the Calypso. It is a formidable text in terms of length so be prepared for the long haul.

10.  Mauleon, Rebeca. Salsa Guidebook: for piano and ensemble. S.I. Sher Music 1993.

This is another book which deals with the sounds of the music. Mauleon is fantastic at providing the necessary listening for the genres she is looking at. She also provides direct transcriptions from these songs. As it deals with Salsa, Mauleon also transcribes from the lesser-known Puerto Rican genres of Bomba and Plena.

So there it is. Remember it is only “a” list and there are other fantastic books out there. Leave a comment for other books you would recommend.

Crop Over Blog VI – Red Plastic Bag – The Bajan Lyrical Master’s Top 10

 

Red Plastic Bag is seen as one of the foremost lyricists and composers of calypso in Barbados.  He has been a significant part of Crop Over and Bajan calypso/soca for over 30 years and to celebrate him is a Stefan Walcott Top 10 list of his lyrical masterpieces.

 

10. Something’s Happening

This song from 2009 is one of Red Plastic Bag’s biggest hits of the last 5 years. It is simply constructed  and I actually dismissed it at first until my mum said, “Listen.” What I heard was a portrayal of Crop Over that was simple, vivid and direct.

My favourite line:  I see vendors doing good trade, snowcone man got it made.

 

 

9. Can’t Find Me Brother

In the calypso genre it is expected that the lyricist take a topical event and put it over in song. The more disguised yet understood the composition is, the better the calypso is considered. In this song Bag takes the escape in 1987 of convicted criminal Winston Hall to construct this more than witty composition. Note, he never mentions the event directly or Hall by his name. This song is the one most used by people to testify to Bag’s genius.

My favourite line: I search every Kingdom Hall, I search every dancehall.

 

 

8. The Country Aint Well

Red Plastic Bag is self-admittedly inspired by Chakdust and like Chalkdust, he uses sickness as a metaphor in this song to get his point across. From the first line to the last puns rain down with most speaking to the topical issues of 1989, which unsurprisingly, are relevant to 2014.

My favourite line(s):  The body surviving but really aching bending over in pain. It needs support to stand strong again but cannot depend on this cane.

 

 

7.  Bim

This one is from 1984, the early days of Red Plastic Bag. Here Bag sings about Bim, another name given to Barbados and his love for it. He does not do this in a typical manner, instead he lists all the things wrong with it and says in spite of these, he still loves his country.  Once again a simple melody and easy tempo allows every word to be heard.

My favourite line(s): Some call you bad and cry you down. Certainly not me, of this soil I am a true son.

 

6.  Material

This song, like others on the list, was responsible for Bag winning the national calypso competition. It is one of my favourites and here Bag takes the sobriquet’s of other calypsonians and assigns topical material to them. Composing this song involved some serious writing technique, because not only did he need to find the issues, he had to select the appropriate calypsonian which fitted the issue.

 

My favourite line:  The US show of power as the world’s liberator, that one I giving to Invader.

 

5.  Waste

This song is one that fits the Red Plastic Bag template; find a pun and stick with it. Here Bag plays with his own sobriquet,which to many people is a waste product. However, he pulls this metaphor into the battle calypso tradition laying a challenge to fellow calypsonians that he is back in the game.

My favourite line:  To environmentalist it’s really a drag, (why?) it’s hard to get rid of the plastic bag.

 

 

4. Pluck It

In 1989 there was what was known as the “chicken controversy” where it was alleged a local businesswoman was selling chickens that were dead as opposed to being freshly killed for consumption. Bag here relates the event through double entendre and a soca beat.

 

My favourite line:  One worker did not chicken out, he broke the news and caused a big foul/fowl up.

 

3. Bag of Riddles

This one from the early period of Bag (1983) saw him play a game of riddles. Here he takes a controversial political issue and asks, who or what am I? This song of course has a built in audience participation component and it would have been a great joy to have heard it in the old vibrant tent setting.

My favourite line (s):  Take this easy riddle to solve you must always get involved. Scratch your head and give it a try, tell me, who or what am I?

 

2. Volcano

Volcano is a much quicker song than many on this list. This song is once again soca and Bag, unlike many soca artists, inserts his pun. Here he references the eruption of the volcano in Montserrat with his ability to erupt a party. Clever.

 

Favourite line – Volcano, kicking up, soon erupt and the lava getting hot.

 

 

1 Maizie

Although not a Crop Over song, this Christmas song is a funny narrative of Plastic Bag’s partner attempting to pass off her affair as a visit from Santa Clause. Of course this is a rather dry description, just listen to Bag below as he relates it beautifully.

 

My favourite line: Maizie where is the reindeer, Maizie I ain’t see no sleigh? Look he had no reindeer or sleigh, he came on BWIA.

 

 

 

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!!!