Caribbean Dance

My Words From the Masters Page

One of the pages on this blog features words from the masters. These masters are Caribbean music practitioners who whave all contributed significantly to their respective genres.  Just click on the link above. It will have constant updates.

Peace

https://stefanwalcott.com/words-from-the-masters 

Crop Over Blog VIII – The Aural History of Calypso Part 2

Here is the second part of the Aural History of Calypso, 1950s to present. Enjoy and subscribe to the YouTube for more music-culture-music, you will not be disappointed.

 

 

Crop Over Blog Posts III – The Carnival Music Industry Machine I

Hello,

 

The video below is part of a series which looks at the Carnival/Crop Over music industry machine. This one speaks about new artists. Enjoy!

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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?

Why Can’t White People Dance? (To Caribbean Music)

We have all been there as Caribbean people. We are in a club and our favourite Soca/Dancehall/Zouk/Calypso/Konpa/Merengue/Timba jam comes on. As we pull our partners or absolute strangers close, or in the case with Tambú, at a respectable distance, we glimpse out of the corner of our eye some obvious non-natives moving. Are they dancing? You ask. They must be since they are not foaming at the mouth.  For those unfamiliar with this scenario watch the following clip.

Also for those unfamiliar, here are Caribbean people dancing to Soca.

And finally, for those unfamiliar to the general issue, here is Eddie Murphy from his legendary “Raw” stand up commenting on it.

Unlike Murphy and Chapelle, who also does a seriously funny take on this, I will attempt to apply some sort of meaningful analysis to answer the question why can’t white people dance to Caribbean (black music) music?

The (an) Answer

Dancing and responses to dancing show more than anything how much of a learnt behaviour listening is. For example it is obvious that in both the examples above, both sets of individuals were responding to the sounds they were hearing. However, it is apparent that

  1. They were not responding the same way to the sounds they were hearing.
  2. They were not choosing the same sounds to respond to.

From the clip, Murphy suggests that “white people” listen to the lyrics and dance off of those. I however, think that is more than that. Let us look for example at a song that is tremendously popular “Monster Winer” by Kerwin Dubois and Lil Rick. I have used this example for a reason which shall be revealed in a bit.

From the song, there are four distinct rhythms that are played together:

  1. The rhythm of the melody as sung by Kerwin.
  2. The rhythm of the horn like synth thingy.
  3. The kick drum (deepest drum sound)
  4. And the snare drum.

Conceivably, you can dance to any of these rhythms. However, Caribbean people generally perceive the bass kick as the most important one to dance to and keep time with. Why did they choose this? Well because that is what they saw their friends, family, bad influences at school doing from the time they were little ones therefore they do it as they saw it/heard it being done. In other words, they LEARNT which one of the rhythms was the most important as well as HOW to respond to that rhythm.

Of course they can!

So that is why it is said that white people can’t dance because they don’t grow up in the same cultural environment as Blacks and Caribbean people do. This does not mean however that they will never be able to dance like Caribbean people because dancing and listening are learnt behaviours and lack of melanin has nothing to do with it.  In fact, there are millions of white people, including many Caribbean whites, whose dancing will not look out of place on any dance floor in the region. To prove it, let’s go to YouTube.

Here is a video from the Siberian dance group doing “Monster Winer.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EdjVKQoBzVM

It is obvious that someone here spent their time studying and listening to Caribbean music and imitating how Caribbean people respond to it. Whoever they are then transmitted this method of listening to others. I therefore bet that if any similar song to “Monster Winer” plays, these dancers will be able to execute moves like Caribbean persons without their skin colour causing them to “regress” in to hapless shaking.

In summary, white people can dance (there is no one correct way), and can dance LIKE Caribbean people to Caribbean music; all it involves is them listening LIKE and moving LIKE Caribbean people. The videos on YouTube prove this as well as the Bajan Blue Box Cart band every Crop Over*. Dancing has nothing to do with melanin, but instead how people choose to live out the culture of race.* *

* Please Google them.

**There are fantastic academics who deal with this, Stuart Hall and Paul Gilroy for starters.

Contributing to www.cwn5.com – Stefan Walcott

Hey everyone,

I will be contributing some articles to this fantastic web news site, http://www.cwn5.com. It is a new  great resource for Caribbean news and opinion. Here is the link to the article I have written there about Tessanne Chin and her The Voice win. Check it Out!

http://cwn5.com/index.php?plugin=News&id=333&title=tessanne-won-great-where-to-now

 

30 Tunes for Soca Dummies 11-20

20. Pan in A Minor (Trinidad)

Lord Kitchener is one of the foremost composers in Calypso and one of the important composers of the pan Calypso style. Pan in A minor is one of the most famous of these pan songs and features the Classic Soca Sound by super producer Leston Paul. This song is a staple of pan players globally and still rocks a crowd.

 

19.  Faluma (Barbados/Suriname)

Faluma, by the Barbadian band Square One, was a massive hit in the mid-1990s. It was a remake of a song from Suriname and lead vocalist Alison Hinds, though not a speaker of the language, learnt the song phonetically. The song uses the Soca beat common at that time and is one of the great Wuk-Up songs in Barbados. This track is still a major part of Alison Hinds’ repertoire to this day.

 

18.  Head Bad (St. Vincent)

Vincentian Soca has not been as dominant as that from Trinidad and Barbados. However, Skinny Fabulous has emerged as a new Soca star and is not only incredibly popular in his homeland, but also in the other Soca locations in the Caribbean. “Head Bad” is testament to that, and its horn intro alone ravages any party.

 
 

17.  Dr. Cassandra (Barbados)

Gabby, like Red Plastic Bag looked at earlier, was known as a calypsonian. Gabby however had already had an earlier hit with “Boots,” which came out of his earlier work with Eddy Grant. Dr. Cassandra however was one of the most popular songs on the Eddie Grant constructed Ring Bang rhythm. It features a completely stripped down arrangement with plenty of drums. This still holds Caribbean audiences to this day.

 

16.   Pressure Boom (St. Lucia)

Ricky T is from St. Lucia, and like Skinny Fabulous has emerged in the last 5 years within Soca. During that time he has become one of the premier Soca stars from St. Lucia. His song “Pressure Boom” from 2009 is largely responsible for this regional recognition.

 

15.   Chutney Bacchanal (Trinidad)

Chris Garcia has quite harshly been described as one-hit Soca wonder. He was in fact much more than just a singer and appeared on regional television as an actor in a leading Trinidadian soap. His song Chutney Bacchanal was absolutely massive in 1996 and had everyone saying the non-English (non-anything) chorus. It is also a unique beast as it is a Soca song with a story and though not strictly Chutney Soca, it had enough elements of it to have introduced audiences to this sub-genre.

 

 

14.  Lotala (Trinidad)

“Lotala is one of the biggest crossover Chutney Soca tracks ever. Sung originally by Sonny Man, the remix, featuring General Grant and Denise Belfon, went on to destroy fetes all throughout the Caribbean. On Lotala, the usual Chutney sounds,such as the harmonium and singing style are present and Sonny Man lends the expected singing style.

 

 

13.  Small Pin (St. Vincent)

Before Skinny Fabulous, Beckett was the most popular artist in the Soca/Calypso genre from St. Vincent. This song, “Small Pin,” is his most famous and the chorus still earns some laughter.

 

 
12.   Blue (Trinidad)
 

12.   Blue (Trinidad)

I included “Blue” not necessarily for its overwhelming popularity. It is known but there are some not in this list that are more famous. I put “Blue,” by 3 Canal, here because of its unique rhythm and the fact that is a Rapso song, another sub-genre of Soca. Rapso features greater use of speech in melody and it is political. However, this song isn’t and is a J’ouvert song like Tall Pree’s Jab.

 

 

11.   Soca Baptist (Trinidad)

This early Soca song from 1980 was before the Classic Soca song took root. Although it was arranged by Pelham Goddard, one of the big three producers of the Classic Soca Sound, it utilised the two and four rhythm on the drum set like the early experiments after Endless Vibrations. This song won the Road March for Blue Boy, later Super Blue and is still a favourite among those from that generation. Then again who could resist that hook?

 

 
 
 

Snapshot in Soca III – A History of Soca – 1982-1990

In snapshot II, we managed to see the creative burst that came about after Lord Shorty’s innovation. In this third snapshot, 1982-1990, what I term the Classic Soca Period, it is my view that a gradual settling down in musical sound occurred, led by the success of “Hot, Hot, Hot.” Before I get to “Hot Hot Hot,” I want to revisit “Sugar Bum Bum.” I briefly mentioned this song in Snapshot II, (where it indeed belongs in terms of time of release) but it needs to be dealt with separately, such is its contribution.

“Sugar Bum Bum” was written by Aldywn ‘Lord Kitchener’ Roberts, who was up to that time, 1978, singing calypso, and very successfully. In fact, Lord Kitchener is generally seen as one of the greatest calypsonians to have ever existed. It is true that before “Sugar Bum Bum,” Kitchener had solemnly pledged never to engage with Soca; however, after the success of “Sugar Bum Bum,” Kitchener never returned completely (if at all) to calypso. The song was produced by Ed Watson and was said to be inspired not by Funk, but by West African highlife, which is in keeping with the experimental period of that time. So here it is again.

The popularity of “Sugar Bum Bum” led, in my opinion, to listeners realising that something new was indeed going on in Trinidad. It opened up the ears of the Caribbean and the world to a ‘fresh’ sound, which featured plenty of repetition, both in lyric and in harmonic structure. This was made all the more apparent because “Sugar Bum Bum” came from Kitchener, a well-known practitioner of the ‘old’ calypso form, which had much less repetition and generally more chords.

The tremendous success of “Sugar Bum Bum” soon led to an Ed Watson Soca ‘sound.’ However, this sound was soon superseded by Leston Paul, the producer of “Hot, Hot Hot,” who, with Arrow (and the other 2 big producers of the 80s), changed the game forever. 

“Hot Hot Hot” is one of the most successful singles created within the Caribbean. According to Arrow, in his interview for the Unesco/Banyan show in 1991, it had sold (up to that time) 3-5 million copies!!! Here he is.

With success comes replication, and the rhythm of “Hot Hot Hot,” the tempo, the general relationship the instruments had with each other, influenced many Soca songs to follow. This influence was further multiplied by the fact that several of the already popular artists  were now seeking out Leston Paul to produce songs for them; this meant that Paul eventually became one of the biggest and most influential producers of the 3rd Soca snapshot period, and indeed of ALL time.  So here they are: “Hot Hot Hot,” followed by “Soucouyant,”  Crazy’s 1985 winning Road March song, arranged by Emmanuel Ector and we should be able to hear the definite similarities.

The other big producers of that period were Pelham Goddard and Frankie McIntosh, with the former producing many hits. These three producers (along with Leston Paul of course), defined the sound of Soca in the 80s. Here are two selections from Goddard— Tambu’s 1988 song, “This Party Is It,” (Road March Winner) and “De Hammer,” by David Rudder from 1986.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t67lXPPtww0

Here also is the Mighty Sparrow, another calypso legend who too vowed never to sing Soca, doing the Soca, “Doh Back Back” arranged by McIntosh.

Incidentally, “De Hammer” won Rudder the CALYPSO competition in 1986; Soca music had infiltrated into the realm of the Calypso in a big way. This showed that what was new and different in the late 70s, was now absorbed into the Calypso by the end of the 80s, at least with the musical rhythms. The difference however, generally remains (and I say this gingerly, as it requires a blog in itself) in the lyrics and the amount of repetition found in each form. Calypso = plenty lyrics + more chords + less repetition; Soca = little/less lyrics + plenty repetition + less chords…sort of. I promise to come back to this.

What I did not mention is that Arrow was from the small island of Montserrat and McIntosh from St. Vincent. In Snapshot IV, I return the regionalisation of Soca, as it becomes the soundtrack to the street element of Caribbean carnivals.

In conclusion, snapshot III, the Classic Soca Period, contains many of my early childhood memories of Caribbean music. The songs from this time, people generally call ‘sweet’ (another blog), and herald them as not only classic songs, but ‘golden’ songs. There are many artists from this time who I have not mentioned, but Baron, Stalin, Duke, Explainer, are but some of the who made this 80s/early 90s time memorable.

 In Snapshot IV, I revisit good old Eddy Grant and the work of his Ice Record label. It was this label that initiated the next movement in Soca, as the Classic Soca Period was shot “Bang Bang” in the chest.  The noise “Ring/rung” out for years!