Here is a video to go with the article “White People Can’t Dance” currently on this blog.
Here is a video to go with the article “White People Can’t Dance” currently on this blog.
There has been some debate on the use of plates or riddims within Soca.
For those who do not know, plates/riddims are instrumental tracks.
The unique thing with plates/riddims is that unlike other types of popular music, the same instrumental track can be used by multiple artists to create different songs.
The innovators of plates were the producers in downtown Kingston. One of the most famous uses of these plates/riddims is with the Sleng Teng riddim, a dancehall staple.
As all the songs have the same instrumental backing, as in the Sleng Teng Riddim, Djs generally find them easier to mix (to transition from one song to the next). Kingstonian sound system operators, who were also record producers, realised this early on and they all made the recording of plates a priority within their work.
The penetration of Jamaican music into the rest of the Caribbean as well as the rise of the DJ within Soca made the introduction of the riddim concept inevitable. However, this practice is more frowned upon in Soca than in Jamaica because:
My personal view on riddims is a realistic one; they are here as a result of the modern carnival scene. Will they be around forever? Nothing lasts forever but possibly a while to come as the economy and value for producer buck make them attractive.
Are they any worse than what went before? I never try to judge that way cause the older I get, the better my youth music used to be, but what I can tell you is that
The last point shows that even within the same instrumental, there is still much divergence. Here are two songs I love on the same riddim.
So until global popularity switches from the DJ, look out for them for a while longer.
Jab Jab is a certified sub-genre of modern Soca
The Jab character is a staple of J’ouvert carnival celebrations and looks like the guy below.
The music itself is characterised by melodies with small ranges usually in minor with little harmonic movement. Check a Jab classic by the Grenadan boss Tall Pree below which explains the whole thing.
When it comes to Jab Jab tunes, the certified capital of the world is Grenada. and no one does Jab Jab like them.
So here are some of my favourite Jab Jab tunes from Grenada carnival 2017. ENJOY!
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?