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!!!

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.

30 Tunes for Soca Dummies 1-10

So here ends the list. If you had gone through all the stages then you should be pretty competent by now. So read and listen through to #1 and be a Soca Dummy never again.

10.   Massage (USVI/St. Kitts)

The Northern Caribbean has not been known as a production centre in terms of Soca especially where I live in the Southern Caribbean. However, a movement with a distinctive Soca sound, no doubt influenced by crunk and loud rap, has been going on for the last few years there. Pumpa’s song “Massage” is the best known of its type and managed to penetrate regionally. With lyrics not for the faint hearted, this song rocked many Carnivals, letting people know that Soca artists in the North Caribbean do indeed exist.

9.  Tempted to Touch (Barbados)

Barbadian artist Rupee is one of the few Caribbean Soca artists to have received a major record label contract. Tempted to Touch was Rupee’s big hit from this period. This song featured on the soundtrack to the movie “After the Sunset” and remains Rupee’s most popular song to this day.

8.   Sugar Bum Bum (Trinidad)

If Endless Vibrations was the watershed, then Sugar Bum Bum was the flood. Despite his large and illustrious body of work, “Sugar Bum Bum” was Kitchener’s most popular work. The bass line alone can cause uncontrollable revelry on over 50 Trinidadians, so play with caution.

7.   Big Truck (Trinidad)

Machel Montano is probably the biggest name in Soca. In the 1990s, his band Xtatik had this hit. This song also uniquely features a reggae section which makes it a fairly different.

6.  Jumbie (Trinidad)

I know this last list might seem as an ode to Machel but how can any Soca list worth its weight not have a heavy presence of one of its biggest Soca stars? Jumbie is a high tempo Soca song with a level of rhythmic intricacy in the melody that few could execute in the genre. This song and its accompanying imagery were well put together and was merely another indicator of Machel’s ability.

5.  Dollar Wine (Trinidad)

Dollar Wine dates back to the end of the Classic Soca Sound and this song and accompanying dance were everywhere. Done by Collin Lucas, it is still a hit with many a hotel band throughout the Caribbean with tourists unable to pay the ‘dollars.’ And you know a song is big when it can set off related songs in other genres like Lil Rick’s Dollar Wine.

4.  Fly – (Trinidad)

Destra is one of the female artists that emerged in the early 2000s along with Fay-Ann Lyons and Patrice Roberts. This song “Fly” shows her breakthrough sound, half-time melodies (borrowed from Euro-American pop music), and generous use of R&B singing.

3.   Band of the Year (Trinidad)

Machel Montano is again on the list this time in a duet with Patrice Roberts. This song, with its half-time melody, was massive, introducing Roberts to a wide audience. It also won Road March in Trinidad and Tobago in 2006.

2.  Tiney Winey  (Jamaica)

Tiny Winey is from Byron Lee and the Dragonaires, an uptown Jamaican band that over the years made a killing from remaking popular carnival hits. This song is one of the few that was actually theirs and was arranged by super producer Leston Paul as well.

1.  Carnival Train (Antigua)

Burning Flames is here again with another Antiguan Special. This song bears the usual imprint of Flames—ripping instrumental breaks, prominent drum machines and great hook combinations. This too, like Workey in list 21-30, managed to cross over in the 1980s to the other Carnivals.

So that is it my friends. You can pick up your qualification by going out and supporting Caribbean Soca artists whenever they are close to you.  I guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

Subscribe to me as well and keep getting perspectives on the wonderful thing that is Caribbean culture!

Music and Culture and Suriname! Stand Up SU!

Suriname Flag

The following video was recorded in 2013, when I was invited to a rehearsal by Surinamese drummer, Gregory Kranenburg. Gregory was part of a team responsible for putting together a cultural show for Carifesta XI which demonstrated the diverse music culture of *Suriname. Needless to say I was blown away and I hope you will be as well. It is a pity that I can not find the final show online. Anyway, here is the rehearsal, enjoy.

 

 

* Suriname is one of the most diverse cultural areas in the Caribbean. Its population is made up of the following ethnic groups: Javanese, Chinese, Hindustani, Amerindian, Creole (African and European) and Maroon.

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?

 

 
 
 

Music and Culture from Baraguá Cuba

cake cuba and barbados

I posted these videos on my earlier, now deceased, blog.

Here they are together for the first time,

Video from Baraguá, Cuba showing the retention of Anglo-Caribbean culture.

This video was recorded on my visit there in 2012 with the EBCCI, University of the West Indies group. Enjoy! (The cake was baked in Havana however by the Castillos)