Last month I contributed to an article written by Sharine Taylor from Noisey.
Here is the link.
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.
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.
Downtown Kingston has to be the most influential piece of musical real estate in the world.
Please note I said Kingston and not Jamaica because the majority of music which exploded globally came from inner city Kingston and not the country at large. In fact, all Jamaican music you can think of, with the possible exception of mento, has its roots firmly planted Downtown.
The impact of their artists, Rastafarianism and weed use are well-known. However, I want to look at other things.
So here are 4 not so-straightforward ways Downtown Kingston has influenced the world.
1. Showing Communities you can do it too – Reggae en Español
Many dancehall and dub producers were NEVER professionally trained and by demonstrating that technical expertise does not limit expression, Kingstonians opened the door for all with tape recorders to immortalize themselves and their neighbourhoods.
Here is a typical lo-fi example:
Reggae en Espanol from Panama*.
2. Giving people not considered singers chances to perform.
Kingston’s music gave those without access to music education a chance to participate by opening up the aesthetics of music. By using devices such as speech rhythm, it allowed many people to perform who might have never had the chance to because they thought they couldn’t sing.
Here is Rankin Taxi from Japan who clearly shows what I am talking about.
3. You could look like anything once you are unique
Reggae and dancehall have all types performing within it. Unlike other popular music, you don’t have to have a look, you just need a UNIQUE voice. To show you what I mean take a look at some big Kingston stars below.
The biggest piece of technology that Kingston has given to the world is the soundsystem. This record player hooked up to speakers created a sense of belonging for so many neighbourhoods across the world and created billions. Here is an example of one in the Philippines which obviously took the soundsystem culture and ran with it.
The 4 influences here show how much of a sledgehammer Downtown Kingston music has been on world culture.
Thank you Kingston
Can you think of anymore?
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???!!!!
“If you can’ find horse, ride cow,” is a saying we have in Barbados. It means that if your ideal tool is not present; you have to improvise.
Teaching in a public education system in a 3rd world country means that riding cow happens regularly. Sometimes cow jockeying produces unexpected results such as in the videos below.
The videos you will see were made on the piano in the performing hall at the only tertiary level music institution in Barbados. The piano is busted and terribly out of tune. However, because the strings in the lower register are gone, they produce a percussive sound that is very close to a prepared piano. The prepared piano sound comes from adding objects onto the strings to get different textures. For those of you unfamiliar with how that works watch and listen below:
In my videos, I played a variety of dancehall numbers as that music inspires me.
Enough program notes though, here are the videos. First up is Clarks by Vybz Kartel and the other is a Dancehall improvisation piece. Enjoy!
Jamaican Dancehall music has always maintained the Afro-Diasporic aesthetic of having a distinctive voice. This voice does not merely relate to content but the sound of the voice.
Here is a Top 10 of the most distinctive voices in Jamaican Dancehall.
Tiger was one of the mid 80s Dancehall dons. Tiger’s unique self call-and-response, where he goes between a broad pronunciations and a deeper clipped tone, is not only humorous but terribly unique. He also possesses one of the most elaborate speaking/chanting styles you will ever hear on a stage. If that was not enough, he also uses his call phrase, “see!” copiously.
9. Shabba Ranks
In the early 90s Shabba Ranks was possibly the biggest name in Jamaican Dancehall. Shabba gained cross-over success with his Mr. Lover track which replaced the Dancehall reggae beat with a generic back beat. However, I have chosen the seminal “Dem Bow” tune which started a whole genre to showcase his unique vocal. Shabba brings a deep baritone and an aggressive attack to his chanting. He also has surprisingly clear diction especially when compared to other Dancehall artists.
8. Vybz Kartel
From the modern brigade we have Vybz Kartel who has a school of Dancehall performers who implement his template of low chanting and contrasting higher pitches between sections. This style makes Vybz Kartel distinctive and a solid member of this list.
Sizzla brought a distinctive lyrical voice to Dancehall in mid-90s. As a Rastafari from the Bobo Ashanti mansion, Sizzla set about inserting his ideology which at the time was largely relegated to Reggae. Sizzla also brought a new approach with a singing chant style that used double-time rhythm and falsetto singing. As time went on, Sizzla utilised more of the falsetto and remains one of the most recognizable voices in Dancehall.
Eek-a-Mouse was one the early 80s Dancehall performers and a contemporary of the more famous Yellowman. With his nonsense syllables and a nasal voice, Eek-A-Mouse set himself apart in terms of sound.
5. Snagga Puss
Although not original in terms of sound, the idea of chanting like Snagga Puss the cartoon character, is a stroke of genius. With a speedy vibrato like the character and a quick rise and descent pitch at the end of each word, Snagga Puss scored some moderate Dancehall success in the late 80s and early 90s. Needless to say, his lyrical content was mostly far from serious.
Here is another of the post 2000 Dancehall artist. Mavado and his call, “baby” are as well-known as his singing come chanting style. Unlike Sizzla, he does not use the falsetto, instead Mavado engages in what can only be described as a whine where he constantly slides into notes like if his fingers are caught in a door. His success shows this style pays off however.
3. Lady Saw
In a space dominated by men, a female voice would of course stand out. Lady Saw is easily the premier female voice in Dancehall and has been for quite for a while. She also is very rhythmically secure with an attack and ride of riddim that is as good as any.
2. U Roy
In the earliest days of Dancehall this toaster was the man. With an elaborate speaking style that doesn’t always reflect a Jamaican accent, U Roy was a pioneer and is still distinctive some 40 years after his initial success.
1. Tommy Lee
Tommy Lee is the youngest person on this list. Due to the fact he emerged so late in a genre of so many great and unique voices, he took it upon himself to be as extreme in terms of sound as is possible. From an extremely nasal voice, to a guttural sound and an elaborate style like Tiger, Lee does it all. The combination is not to everyone’s taste, especially the older Dancehall heads. However, Lee has marked a space for himself and no one sounds like him.
Remember, can’t include all!! Who are some of yours?
Some might be shocked by this, but by growing up with the pounding modality of Dancehall, I was brainwashed into appreciating rhythm and a good hook.
What really gets me about Vybz is his creativity.
One must remember that Dancehall artists do not have the same musical vocabulary to rely on as other composers and improvisers in other types of genres. So one does not learn “Dancehall licks,” as in Jazz, where improvisers learn phrases they KNOW will work.
Dancehall is naked (pun intended). A dancehall performer has a ‘riddim’ (a beat with some chords at times) and they create entire songs using just that. The imagination and skills required to do this are therefore quite different than in other types of music (Rap of course being the exception). Some performers are rather good at creating songs from beats, others not so much. Vybz is a BOSS. Here is one of my favourites, “Realest Thing,” which testifies to this.
Of course that is not all; check this, one of his more famous works, “Clarks.”
What I like about Vybz is his:
To end, it is obvious I am using mostly rhythmic criteria to judge Vybz. I feel fully justified in doing this because rhythm is one of the main things Dancehall is about. So it makes no sense judging Vybz Kartel by how many high notes he can sing or how many chords are in his songs.
It is all about the rhythm and Vybz is the drumming master!
* Yes, I just musically analysed Vybz.
** Yes, I did an article on Vybz unrelated to his murder conviction.
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!
Dancehall, which is referred to as Dub in Barbados, took root in Barbados in the early 1980s. The music became the music of the working class and the youth of the time. Eventually, some Barbadian artists produced their own Dancehall records and given the expense of recording at the time, they all did it the low budget way. The important difference with these artists and their Jamaican influences was that they all chose to produce melodic and lyrical content rich in Bajan dialect. In the last 2 years, there has been a resurgence of the form with a new generation of artists involved with Bajan dub. To help out those new to this, what I hope is an emerging form, I have compiled a Top 10 of the most influential/popular Bajan Dancehall/Dub tunes for beginners.
10. Peter Ram – Quicksand
Peter Ram was a chanter who came out in the late 1980s. He went on to become involved in Ragga Soca and the various Carnival scenes where he gained the majority of his popularity. However, this song from 1988 is how most in Barbados came to know him.
9. Dub is a Force – Jesse James
As a boy, the reaction to Dub was not favourable. The obvious conservative backlash to its overt sexuality occupied much media space. “Dub is a Force,” with its lack of expletives and sexual references, came as a defence to the music. The video was also memorable as well as the hook, “Dub is the force!”
8. Don’t Ask Me – Crimeson
The re-emergence of Bajan Dub Dancehall owed much to the Dub, a low budget house/community party and YouTube. Young hungry artists went to various communities to perform as well as putting their music on YouTube, skipping the traditional media. Crimeson embodies this perfectly, and his ‘hit, “Don’t Ask Me,” did much to throw the form back into the public spaces again.
7. Do Sain Fa Mi – Exclusive Soundz a.k.a Fari
Another of the 2nd brigade of Bajan Dub artists is Fari. This song with its partial ode to Kelloggs, actually had no Froot Loops on the shelves of local supermarkets for a bit in Barbados. By the way, his lyrics are really commands to females to perform dances. He is not speaking about motorsports.
6. Kid Site – Minibus
Kid Site was not only a Bajan dub pioneer but a calypso artist of some merit. He later went on to win the National Calypso Monarch competition at Crop Over. His roots, however, are also planted in Bajan Dub and Reggae. His song Minibus, gives a humorous and fairly accurate portrayal of the private transportation taxis which to this day are responsible for the transmission of Dub and Dancehall from Jamaica and Barbados. Here you can hear the obvious Jamaican influence with much of Site’s inflections and phrasing coming straight from Jamaican Dancehall.
5. Matrix – Meat Gaw Pull
I included this song, “Meat Gaw Pull” because it is what Dancehall is about to me: honesty and humour. Whether you agree with this honesty or not is another story.
4. Rankin Ricky – Driving Skill
Another one here from the old school. This is influenced once again from Jamaica and the at the time ubiquitous “Sleng Teng Riddim.” Ricky, however, maintains more of the Bajan phonology. The song, like Site’s, speaks to the public transportation in Barbados.
3. Ninja Man (Barbados) – License to Kill
To complete the public transportation set, here is Ninja Man’s song from the early days of the Bajan Dub. Here we can hear the riddim being similar to the Jamaican Jammy rhythms.
2. Lil Rick – De Yutes
To end, I will give the premier, in my opinion, Bajan Dub lyricists. Lil Rick started firmly in Dancehall and went on to start a strand of Soca, Bashment Soca, through his highly influential, “Hard Wine” composition. Rick, before this, did some of the most popular Bajan dub song ever*.
1. Lil Rick – Dollar Wine
*Rick o, of course, nt on to do what can be considered Bajan Dub in his biggest song to date “Guh Dung”.
*Special mention must go to Lil Rick’s “Talk for Me” and “ABC” two other hugely popular Bajan Dub songs. They would have been included but in order to give a wider cross section of artists they were excluded from the main list.