Folk Culture

Interview with Noisey on Bashment Soca

Last month I contributed to an article written by Sharine Taylor from Noisey.

Here is the link.

https://noisey.vice.com/en_ca/article/8xaxz4/bashment-soca-is-the-rebel-genre-the-bajan-government-is-reluctant-to-embrace

Enjoy!

3 reasons why if I were Nikita I would go into terminal depression.

Crop Over has seen its first controversy for 2017.

For those not in Barbados, it concerns the release of Nikita’s song, “Same Way,” which basically was released 2 years before by DeeVine and called “We De Same.”

Check the links below:

 

 

For any artist involved in the Carnival music industry this mix-up is pretty much as life-shattering as they come and here are 3 reasons why I would be in terminal depression if what had happened to Nikita had happened to me.

  1. I spent plenty money!

To get any song out for Crop Over is expensive. There is the song-writer, the producer, the studio time, the mixing and the mastering to pay for.  Those bills could run north of 5000 BDS easily. So to shell out all of that cash to realize my song is not the original work I intended would have put me in firm connection with the Kleenex box.

2.  I look like a thief

Stealing is reprehensible no matter how and when it happens. It is even worse when it looks like a public heist of lesser known artist. If I was made to look like a hustler at best, or a thief at worse, when I am not even close to being dishonest, then I would be completely broken.

3.  I have one shot at this.

The carnival music complex is a CRUEL model. It allows for no mistakes. So to have a single which is going to be my only major release for the YEAR caught up in plagiarism is possibly the worse thing that can happen. It can also rule me out of the lucrative lottery of the soca competitions.

PAIN!!!!

To end,

Are there other issues in the Caribbean? Yes, they are.

But do not overlook for one minute the personal and professional predicament Nikita and the other members of the production team have been placed in.  This is a serious matter of integrity that is being played out VERY PUBLICLY. So after reading this, do like me and place yourself in her position and if you come out positive, then you are as good as Nikita, Deevine and the Red Boyz.

But if you think you would be equally depressed…

You are not alone

I would feel DE SAME WAY!

 

 

 

 

 

More Short and Sweet Commentary from Roy Byer

Roy Byer was a cultural activist and archivist who passed away in 2014.

He was also one of the best commentators on Caribbean and Bajan culture I have ever come across. I have posted this short clip today because it goes some way to explain two social events happening currently in Barbados. These are:

1. The xenophobic public reaction to 90 Nigerian students studying here

2. The alleged/or not so alleged desires of a headmistress to patrol black natural hair

Here Roy is speaking about music but he is really addressing how black cultural practices have historically been viewed in Barbados.

This post might appear quite local but race and identity politics are Caribbean wide issues.

Over to you Roy!

 

 

* Banja was a term used by early 19th and 20th century Barbadians to denote rhythmic, black working class music.

 

 

 

Christmas Music in the Caribbean in 5 Genres

Christmas is an important event in the Caribbean.

Here are five musical genres that are/were rooted/routed to this time of year.

1. Tuk – Barbados

Tuk music is a fife and drum music. It is perhaps the only indigenous Afro-Barbadian genre to have survived colonialisation. At Christmas, Tuk groups would come through villages playing and drinking rum. Tuk music is hardly ever played at this time anymore and has moved into the realm of nationalist celebration.

 

2. Masquerade – Guyana

Masquerade is another fife and drum music with a strong musical similarity to Tuk.  Like Tuk, the playing of it at Christmas has waned.

 

3. Plena – Puerto Rico

Plena is the one of the major indigenous Puerto Rican musical forms. The music is seen to have been created by English-speaking Caribbean migrants in the 1800s. It is also one of my personal favourites when it comes to Caribbean genres.

 

4. Parang – Trinidad and Tobago

Trinidad is one of the more cosmopolitan islands in the Caribbean. Parang shows the Hispanic cultural influence as it was traditionally sung in Spanish and uses instruments found in other folk cultures of the Hispanic Caribbean. There is a Soca-Parang variant that is popular but here it is in its traditional form.

 

 

5. Parranda – Venezuela

To end, here is a popular genre from Venezuela. Parranda sounds like a more rhythmically complicated version of parang and I am sure they come from the same root. Here is one of my favourite groups, Maracaibo 15.

 

So I hope you have enjoyed this brief Christmas blog.

All that I am left to do is wish you a

Merry Christmas!

Please enjoy it wherever you are.

Caribbean Music Man

 

 

Roy Byer, so long!

Roy Byer was one of the THE people when it came to Bajan knowledge.

He passed away this month.

As Roy was a serious archivist, I have included the following video clips as tributes.

These clips will be housed on my “Words From the Masters” page as long as the internet lives.

Please enjoy, and remember him this way,

as a passionate and opinionated lover of Barbadian culture.

RIP

 

 

 

My Top 10 Caribbean Lyrics

I am poor with lyrics.

In fact, I am dismal with them.

However, a number of lyrics have stuck in my head and really meant something to me over the years.

Here then is my Top Ten lyrics list (of Caribbean music of course, the US has enough lists to last for generations)

Top 10 Lyrics

  1. Caught me on the loose fighting to be free, now you show me a noose under cotton tree, entertainment for you, martyrdom for me. – Third World
  2. Watch out my children, they got a fellah call Lucifer with a bag of white powder. He don’t want to powder yah face, but to bring shame and disgrace to the human race. – Ras Shorty I
  3. Tell them they can keep they money, I goin’ keep mine honey and die with my dignity. – Singing Sandra
  4. Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind – Bob Marley.
  5. West Indian politician, I check out yah evil ploy, the more you sing, the more you sound like Westminster choir boy. – Mighty Gabby
  6. Get up in the morning slaving for bread sir, so that every mouth can be fed. – Desmond Dekker
  7. The country sick, the country ain’t well, see it as a person and then you will tell. – Red Plastic Bag
  8. So let we live our whole lives, forIvah and Ivah. – Isasha
  9. I am the seed of me father, he is the seed of my grandfather. – Jahaji Bhai
  10. Black woman and child, for you I have so much love. – Sizzla

What are some of yours?

Crop Over Blog V – The Aural History of Calypso

The wide genre known as calypso has been a major part of the Crop Over festival in Barbados since its inception.

Here is part I of  a video that traces its aural history in Trinidad.  Unlike most Calypso history documents that I have come across,  this one actually has music. Enjoy and educate yourself, in fact, enjoducate yourself!

Here it is below.

 

Subscribe to my channel if you like what you see so you won’t miss part II.

 

*Oh yeah and here is the slide presentation from it in case you want to teach this or have really great parties.

 

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?

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.

10 Caribbean genres you have probably never heard about!

The Caribbean, for a small geographical space, has many different musical cultures.

Most people only know the big boys, the Reggaes, Reggaetons and Merengues but there are numerous other genres that deserve a little blog attention.

Here is a list of 10 I think you should check out.

10.  Masquerade – Guyana

 

 

There are not many artists or musical genres from Guyana that are known outside of the country. Masquerade is a folk genre similar to Tuk and other fife and drum music types in the Caribbean. Like others, it is heard on festive occasions.

9.   Kaseko – Suriname

 

Kasesko is a music out of Suriname. Its rhythm is based around the snare and an indigenous drum called the skratji. Leading artists include Carlo Jones and Yakki Famirie.

8. Calypso – Costa Rica

 

The construction of the Panama canal had a profound effect on the culture of the Caribbean as thousands of men left their agrarian lives to work for the Yankee dollar. Another Central American country touched by this Anglo-Caribbean transfer was Costa Rica, as shown beautifully by Costa Rican calypso.

7. Tambú – Curacao

Tambú is a folk form from the Dutch Caribbean island of Curacao. At one point controversial, it is gone on to be part of Curacao’s cultural heritage, especially for its African descendants.

6. Ra Ra -Haiti/ Ga Ga – Dominican Republic

 

Ra Ra, as it is known in Haiti, or Ga Ga, as it is known in Dominican Republic, is a street music heard at Easter. It features keyless trumpets as well as bamboo tubes known as vaccines.  Call and response is of course a big part of this form and like other street music types in the Caribbean, it is great fun.

 

5.  North Caribbean Soca -St. Kitts and US Virgin Islands

 

In the northern Caribbean countries such as the US Virgin Islands there is a derivative of Soca that I think deserves special mention. It  obviously borrows from the American pop sub genre crunk and therefore its melodies are more shouted than sung. It also sounds “loud” as the mastering engineer probably has all the gains at maximum.

4.  Jonkonnu – Jamaica

 

While Reggae and the whole Ska complex are widely known, the folk and traditional forms of Jamaica are not nearly as popular. Jonkonnu is one of the oldest musical practices in the Caribbean and is a fife and drum music with relatives in Bahamas, the Carolinas and Barbados.

 

3.  Bouyon – Dominica

Bouyon is a fusion genre. The group which promoted and performed this, WCK, sought to bring various Caribbean popular elements together. Bouyon really is a sub-genre of Soca but I still think it worthy to put on this list.

2. Gwo ka – Guadeloupe

 

 

Gwo ka is a drum ensemble music. It usually does not feature harmonic instruments. It is in the tradition of other large-scale drumming ensembles from the Afro Diaspora such as samba from Brazil and comparsa from Cuba.

1.  Spouge – Barbados

 

 

Spouge is a popular form that lived and died in 1970s Barbados. It is played around November in Barbados, the time of national celebrations where things Bajan take centre stage.

 

So there they are, if you like what you hear, go check out more artists from these genres!

You will not be disappointed.