The early results from the Soca competitions are in.
This means that Barbadian radio rotation will now be based around the competition songs chosen to go forward
leaving the other 600 to die.
Before these songs go into the afterlife altogether though, let me try to keep five of them alive. Here is my Lazarus 5 of Crop Over 2017. a.k.a 5 songs that didn’t make it into the next round of competition.
- Makka Tree – Vybz I Love
I was introduced to this guy earlier this year when my Caribbean Ensemble from the Barbados Community Collge did the National Cultural Foundation’s Cavalcade. I was immediately blown away by his voice. Check this one produced by Quantum Productions.
2. Jafar – Bang
Like Makka Tree, I met this guy in person on the Cavalcade gig. This Bajan Dub song, although not progressing further, has all the qualities of a really good Bajan Dub song.
3. Aidan – Life Nice
This song, written by the Waterstreet Boyz and produced by super-producer Chris Allman, is in the tradition of the modern Ragga Soca. With a great hook and super saccharine melody, it should not be thrown on to the rubbish-heap. A good rendition by Aidan as well.
4. Chenice – Sweet Carnival
Like Life Nice, this is a modern Ragga Soca. Chenice does a good job here as well.
5. Contone – Come Back Tomor
Contone has been around a long time and has of late been battling his own demons. This year he reconnected with long- time producer, Anderson ‘Blood’ Armstrong to produce this. Like My Car Brek Down and 2 Sir Grantleys, this is Contone at his Bajan Blues best.
These are not all the songs obviously.
And I would be glad to hear more suggestions.
What are your five?
Here is my group’s offering featuring the super talented Jabari Browne. We didn’t compete with this but keep checking it anyway.
Last month I contributed to an article written by Sharine Taylor from Noisey.
Here is the link.
Bajan Dub is a big mover and shaker for Crop Over this year again.
If you want to call it Bashment Soca then fine…
Here is the Top 5 anyway.
5. Lady Essence – Fluffy Gal
The most prominent lady of Bajan Dub is back. Here she is keeping it like she normally does with Fluffy Gal.
4. Stabby – Wukkist
Stabby has actually been around for quite a while originally doing the “original” Bashment Soca. This beat is one of the freshest in Bajan Dub.
3. Stiffy – Tip and Ben Ova
Stiffy to me is one the biggest talents in the genre of Bajan Dub. Like Stabby, he came to prominence through Soca. This one has another fresh beat as well.
2. Scrilla and Faith – Gimme
This one is the only duo entry and could have easily gone to Coopa Dan and Rhea’s “Bare Trouble.”* This one gets a slight nod from me but not by much.
- Scrilla – Wood
This song is perhaps the biggest Bajan Dub song for the year and once again features Scrilla doing what he does best.
Enjoy theBajan Dub competition if you are in Barbados and if you are overseas please continue to watch this cultural space.
Every two years I teach Caribbean Music and Culture to students from the University of Delaware.
These sessions are a mixture of theory and practice. And when I say practice I mean practice.
Check this Bajan Dancehall session below led by the amazing Shameka Walters.
Isn’t this great?
This to me this is the gift of all Afro musics, the lived community!
Big shout out to Juanita Clarke on drums who also made this session happen.
It is carnival season in the Catholic Caribbean.
And in the English-speaking areas,
the music of choice will be soca.
It wasn’t always this way
40 years ago it was all calypso.
In fact, many today still tend to refer to all singers at carnival time as calypsonians whether they do calypso or soca. But the difference between the two genres could not be more distinct.
And just to help out those that are still confused, here are the differences between soca and calypso.
Soca music has and always will be a party music. As a result, it keeps the beats heavy and the words light. Calypso, on the other hand, is the old guy who use to party but spends his time philosophizing about life.
If it says “Jump, wine , wave,bacchanal, carnival, jump” it is Soca.
If it says “existential threats to the diaspora need a panacea,” then chances are you are listening to a calypso. See Chalkdust singing a calypso below.
2. Hook line and sinker
If you missed the hook you definitely do not have a soca stream on. Soca repeats itself.
Even though there is repetition in calypso, it does not even come close to soca’s jump and wave stammering. Hear this classic repetition by Barbadian soca star Blood.
3. Brass less – drum machine more
Calypso songs generally have different instrumentation to soca, especially post 90s soca. Calypso songs are generally more organic (although not all the time) and usually feature a brass section of some type.
Here is calypso plus brass plus Singing Sandra.
Soca, on the other hand, is minimalist (not many instruments) with the drum machine, and laptops running Ableton, prominent. They also tend to be more synthesized.
Take “Advantage” of what I mean below ;).
Since the 90s, soca has been in two different time zones, mid-tempo and break-your-neck speed. An example of break-your-neck speed is Advantage above.
Calypsos NEVER EVER REACH these tempos.
So if you hear a song over 150 b.p.m. then it is CERTAINLY a SOCA song. Anything under 130 b.p.m, then it at least has a chance of being a calypso.
(Then you have to go from #1-3 to see if it actually is of course.)
5. Beats (Check out my book Caribbean Composers Handbook on Amazon for more)
Soca uses a number of beats and these have changed over the years. However, if you hear the following beats then you are dealing with a soca song.
Calypso is more than comfortable to maintain the beat like the one below and it has done so for many a year.
So wherever you are from, enjoy the carnival in the Catholic Caribbean but whatever you do, don’t call the soca a calypso.
Frequently in popular culture yesterday becomes the forgotten man.
Here is a video clip from Bajan pop culture past as calypsonian and I guess Soca singer, Bumba, destroys the party.
Seeing this now it is hard to imagine that guys actually played Soca without Mac Book pros and drum machines
but THEY SURE DID…
It is also hard to imagine a Soca song such as this causing such HYPE
but IT SURE DID….
A throwback if there ever was one!
Crop Over, Barbados’ major festival, has not been a place of musical surprises for some time now.
However, 2016 has produced a big one for me in the complete re-definition of the Bashment Soca genre.
In a previous blog post, I identified the common use of the term in Barbadian music circles and gave musical examples for the uninitiated. For those who missed it the link is below.
Here also is soca artist Gorg speaking on Bashment Soca back in 2011.
The conversation is about the song below.
From the interview, we can hear Gorg reference Bashment throughout as this was the common term used to talk about the variant of Soca heard above.
However, this is not so anymore.
This year, a Bashment Soca competition has started which has music not sounding like the above, but as below.
The examples above I considered to be Bajan Dub, a genre that I posted about with a Top 10.
Bajan Dub has its routes/roots planted in the early 80s and had a resurgence post 2010. But this year it seems that is ALL now BASHMENT SOCA!
What the Bashment Soca/Bajan Dub has shown therefore is that genre is a very FLUID thing. Despite what many think, one cannot proclaim a genre and expect it to stay the same. It also shows that the creation of a genre comes from different places including sponsors!!! So despite what I say here, the fact that a lucrative competition has come about means that those that said Bajan Dub before will definitely be singing Bashment Soca now.
So to answer the title:
Question: Just so Bajan Dub become Bashment Soca???!!!!
Red Plastic Bag has been one of the foremost contributors to Crop Over music. He is also one of the most loved human beings in Barbados and its overseas departments in Brooklyn, Toronto and London. This love not only relates to his music, (he has won the national calypso competition more times than I can count) but also to his personality and public image. Here he is live in 2009.
I grew up a Red Plastic fan and still am for that matter. However, after outgrowing the blind acceptance forced upon me by my equally Bag fanatic family (who as it goes in Barbados was also Gabby non-lovers, which I am totally not now by the way), I asked myself:
“Why do Bajans like Red Plastic Bag so much?”
The answer to this question is really not obvious when I began to think about it. Let me show you why…
In terms of popular music, an artist’s potential fan appeal is based on a number of criteria. These are:
- Good looks and sexuality.
- Name branding
- Amazing Ability – dancing, singing, singing while doing acrobats á la Pink, singing while accompanying yourself on an instrument from a comb to a rocking guitar (Hendrix, Prince).
There are artists who tick all of these boxes and as a result are sought after commodities. So Chris Brown for example:
- is/was young depending on your point of view
- could dance and could sing.
- In terms of good looks he ticks that box as well. *under advisement
When it comes to local soca, there are a number of artists who tick these boxes as well. Edwin Yearwood for example, when he emerged in 1995, used his real name, was young and could sing and dance. Thus his popularity can be explained away easily given the normal modes of musical popularity outlined above. See clip below.
In terms of Red Plastic Bag however it becomes much less obvious and here is why:
- His name – No one would think that a guy called Red Plastic Bag would be a huge star anywhere in the world. Red Plastic Bag is not a name that one can imagine plastered in lights or in a stadium. Like most Bajans, I never thought much about this until I overheard Bag, as he is affectionately called, introducing himself to a US reporter. When she repeated it, it sounded hilarious. “Your name is Red Plastic Bag?”
- Sexual what? – Red Plastic Bag, even though coming on the scene as a young person, never emphasised sexuality in his performances. He was tall and slim then and since that time has never attempted to change. In fact, when he did expose his body, it was done for comedic effect as opposed to getting the ladies/men all warm under the collar.
- Ability? Hmm – I am sure by his admission, Red Plastic Bag would admit that he is no dancer. By dancing I don’t mean the “WOW” type dancing of James Brown, I mean the basic ability to move in time. In terms of singing, he is also not technically gifted. In fact, in live performances he is competent but no more. He is by no means an impact singer like Edwin Yearwood (in terms of range or intonation) or a rhythmically smash you around the ears vocalist like Machel Montano.
So is Bag loved because of his lyrical ability? Because no one can turn a phrase, pun a pun, meet a metaphor, save a simile like Red Plastic Bag?
To me, Red Plastic Bag shows that there is something else going on when it comes to popularity. Red Plastic Bag constructs himself as everyone’s friend, everyone’s neighbour, everyone’s son and brother. To many, Plastic Bag is so cool because he ISN’T cool. He is not too flashy, his music is not confrontational or philosophically complicated, it doesn’t chide. He also doesn’t make non-muscle men like myself jealous, he doesn’t boast in song, instead he is just….BAG.
So my friends, if you are in Barbados and see people swooning over Red Plastic Bag, remember it is his kingdom. Also remember that you don’t have to tick all the popularity boxes to be a cultural icon; you just have to be honest and know who you are…
oh and being a brilliant lyricist and hook writer does help 😉
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,
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.
2. Post Independence 1966-1994
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.
- female on female
- female on male – most common
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.