Here is a video to go with the article “White People Can’t Dance” currently on this blog.
A blog on all things Caribbean Music and Culture
Here is a video to go with the article “White People Can’t Dance” currently on this blog.
Crop Over is finished for 2022.
Here is my personal highlight:
the Barbados National Youth Steel Orchestra, led by Lowrey Worrell doing my arrangement of an Alison Hinds medley sung by Ambassador Alison Hinds herself.
Here is to a great Crop Over 2023.
Crop Over is a summer festival held in Barbados. Originally it was a post-harvest festival held after the sugar season, but it was re-introduced in the 1970s as a carnival-like event.
Since its re-introduction, the festival has grown considerably to where it is now one of the main cultural events in the Barbadian calendar. Over the years, many songs have been released for Crop Over that fall into two genres:
So here is my Top 10 (not in any particular order).
Tek Off Something – Stiffy – 2016
1. Tek Off Something is the newest song on this list. It gets its place because it represents the Bashment Soca form of soca which is the favoured Crop Over genre by the current youth in Barbados. Bashment Soca is really a re-emergence of Bajan Dub from the 1990s, and the music was then re-branded and given a competition within the Crop Over Festival. Stiffy won the first-ever Bashment Soca competition with this song. Tek Off Something gets on the list, therefore, because it is a prototype of Bashment Soca. I actually call it Bashment Soca II because the original Bashment Soca I is different to this newer form.
Hard Wine – Lil Rick – 1996
2. Hard Wine is a song from the mid-1990s sung by Crop Over giant and Bajan cultural icon Lil Rick. This song gains its place because of the influence it had on later producers and singers. It was raw in its production and had Lil Rick chanting/singing in Bajan dialect. It started a whole sub-genre, Bashment Soca I, where bed-room producers came to the game with raw production and songs sung in Bajan dialect. This type of Bashment Soca was popular for another ten years and formed part of the soundtrack to Crop Overs of the early 2000s.
The Country Ain’t Well – RPB – 1989
3. The Country Ain’t Well was part of the calypso competition, called Pic-O-De Crop in 1989. It gets on the list because it represents the calypso writing style of RPB, who had the most success in Bajan calypso competitions. The RPB style is based around simple, singable melodies and lyrics that display the use of metaphor. This song is a prototype Bag and helped him win the competition in 1989.
West Indian Politician – Gabby – 1985
4. The other influential way of composing calypso is the way it has been done by the Mighty Gabby. Unlike RPB, the Gabby method is full of melodic complexity in comparison to other calypsos. Gabby loves chromatic notes, and he also varies the rhythm of his melodies between verses as well. This way has also been very successful at the calypso competition, with Gabby being the second-highest winner. Basically, Bajan calypsonians either utilize the Bag style or the RPB style in making their music.
Ragamuffin – Square One with Alison Hinds – 1996
5. Alison has been one of the leading female voices in soca, a genre that has been male-dominated since its inception. Ragamuffin represents the type of fast soca which emerged in the mid-1990s that was more sung when compared with the Bashment Soca I. This type of soca, like Bashment Soca I did not feature a lot of instruments and was considerably quicker than the other types of Soca, which were popular in the 1980s. Although Obadele was the first to win the most popular on the road with this type of soca, Raggamuffin because Alison Hinds sang it, is not only a prototype of this quicker soca in the 1990s; it also is the prototype female artist within soca and thus an automatic entry on this Top 10 list.
Pump Me Up – Krosfyah with Edwin Yearwood – 1995
6. The slower type of soca, known as Ragga Soca, is very popular at Crop Over. Though it has been renamed under the influence of Trinidad to Groovy Soca, it still forms a critical element of modern parties. The first soca of this type is Pump Me Up by Edwin Yearwood, which fused dancehall with soca music. This slower tempo, plus the way Edwin sings, was imitated by many and went on to have considerable influence in all carnivals in the English-speaking Caribbean. Pump Me Up was this a no-brainer inclusion to the Top 10 list.
Mr T – Grynner – 1983
7. Before the considerable changes in soca music in the 1990s, Grynner was the dominant sound of soca music in Barbados in the 1980s. Grynner’s sound was built in Eddy Grant’s Blue Wave Studio, and it basically involved a backbeat which is found across many genres as the drum pattern and then calypso percussion on top. In addition, Grynner’s unique Bajan voice carries the melody. This combination was very popular, and Mr T. represents this sound to a T.
Ragga Ragga – RPB – 1993
8. Although Pump Me Up was the most influential of the Ragga Soca songs, the song that opened the door of Jamaican dancehall mixed with soca was Ragga Ragga. This song gave Ragga Soca its name and is a definite inclusion on this list. It is on this, however, to represent the regional influence of songs released in Crop Over as Ragga Ragga was very popular in the Caribbean region of Colombia and Panama. It probably remains one of the most recognizable songs from Crop Over in that region and has a redone Spanish version (reggae en Espanol).
My Car Brek Down – Contone – 2006
9. Contone was a car-washer and part-time singer. His song My Car Brek Down was the most popular Bashment Soca I song ever and marked the end of that particular era. Some may consider this song a strange inclusion, but in my time on stage, I have never seen such a reaction from an artist as Contone received at that time.
All of We – Peter Ram – 2015
10. In 2021, the other sound that dominates Crop Over and Bashment Soca II is the sound of Red Boyz soca. The Red Boyz are a production team of Scott Galt and Mikey Hulsmeier with a garrison of hit songs since their 2006 debut album. In 2015, Peter Ram’s All of We, which was written by Shaft Bishop, a close associate of the Red Boyz, completely dominated 2015 Crop Over. The Red Boyz sound is based a lot on the re-introduction of 1980s style production of soca with live instruments frequently featured.
So there it is, my Top 10 Crop Over List to date. Do you agree with mine? Which other songs should be included?
Look what came through yesterday.
The program to Handel Festpielle in Halle with Handel’s Caribbean Messiah as a featured production for the 2021 run.
I wrote and was executive producer on this work since its inception and what a ride Handel’s Caribbean Messiah has been. Here is a clip of me going through the process of composing for the debut show.
So here are the THANK YOUS!!!!
2. All of the Barbados Museum crew especially Kevin Farmer who brought us over in 2018. BCIDA for supporting the album production in 2018.
3. Jewel Forde and everyone at the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation for the success of the 2018 run.
4. The Caribbean Export Development Agency National Cultural Foundation for their support in 2019.
5. The original management team who assisted in the growth of the production, the original Bajan cast and our expanded cast in 2019.
This started as an idea on a page and ended up being accepted by Handel Haus, I am truly personally humbled and I have learnt soooo much.
We might not get there as a group but the production shows there is a global demand for what we do in these tiny islands once there is co-operation.
Eventually, I will be writing and blogging on this experience outlining where we can improve as cultural industry people.
But for now.
Thank you Barbados for allowing me to create Handel’s Caribbean Messiah.
Here is some more #isolationcontent.
This video tells the story of the popular Bajan Dub/Bashment Soca in 5 minutes.
There is a song called “In Time to Come” by Crazy. In it he lists numerous events that he thinks will happen. Check it out below.
For those unfamiliar, or those that just can’t be bothered to listen, Crazy makes a number of claims. Like,
1. The coming of a black President. Which he was right about.
2. Trinidad developing a nuclear program. Which I am not sure about.
3. A computer writing calypso. Which is what this blog is all about.
Because Crazy was right. The age of the Mighty Microchip or Lord AI is definitely upon us. How may you ask?
Because modern calypso is a cliche with repeated ways of doing things. And computers love cliches.
Let me show you.
1. Horns come the same place.
Since the rise of Soca, calypso has become a very predictable form. Firstly, most of them feature horns. These horns play the same role in all the songs. So for example, all songs have band choruses, melodies and sections where horns fill the spaces. So let me demonstrate this by using what has become the template for female calypso songs, Die With My Dignity by Singing Sandra.
The band chorus here plays the melody of the chorus at the beginning of the song and after each sung chorus. Here it is separated.
The horns also play in between the vocal phrases. And believe me, the majority of the melodic verse phrases last for four beats and the horns then play for two beats. Check below:
Since the birth of Soca 40 years ago, calypso has come to live in a particular tempo range, that is 85 to 120 b.p.m.
All calypsos these days are in major or harmonic minor. In addition to this, since the Chalkdust years, a particular harmonic progression has become prominent. Of course, this is too much to explain here in this blog, but I will be releasing some videos to prove this. But trust me, the harmony is very much cliche as well.
Calypso uses three basic drum patterns these days.
Lyrics have been seen to be the centrepiece of the calypso. However, like all good things, they have become cliche. The majority of well-written calypsos are based on the working class point of view on politics, world events. Calypsonians these days take the topic and use everyday objects as a metaphor to frame the argument. To get what I am talking about, take the Chalkdust song Chauffeur Wanted, as he is a leading practitioner of this type of calypso.
The same can be said of Red Plastic Bag, a noted admirer of Chalky.
Ok, Stefan, you have identified the cliche but how do you code all of this?
By laying out the rules, of course! Check these basic functions.
I am very proud to announce that Handel’s Caribbean Messiah has been selected for the Handel-Festspiele in Halle Germany for 2021.
The Handel-Festspiele is an annual festival celebrating Handel’s music in his birthplace by local German and international acts.
I am incredibly moved by this selection as we were chosen based on my re-imagining, orchestrations and in some cases compositions, with the performances executed by a 100% Barbadian cast.
The fact that this was done by a panel of Handel experts makes the achievement even more rewarding. Also, the fact that the negotiations began through my completion of the Caribbean Export process, which involved some sacrifice, made me more reassured in my music business decisions.
Handel’s Caribbean Messiah is one of the only locally created indigenous works that brings the strands of Caribbean culture together and even though we might not make the last financial hurdle to reach Halle, the fact that it has been looked at as having international quality by unbiased experts shows how we should rely on our own confidence as Caribbean cultural practitioners in what we do.
I encourage all who are in Barbados this week, December 20-22nd, to come out to the Frank Collymore Hall and see this production that will soon be leaving these shores by the 100% Bajan ORIGINAL cast.
Thanks to my team who supported the dream and to Fran Wickham and Ronald Grant whose support allowed for the first staging of the production in 2017. Also to Carol Roberts who was enthusiastic about it when it was only an idea and suggested the use of a Bajan nation language narrator who is now Jabari Prince Browne.
One of the biggest hits for Carnival 2019 is Mr Killa’s Run Wid It.
For those unfamiliar with the style, it is referred to as Jab, a sub-genre of soca which I posted on before. In terms of soca, there are no better musical sub-generes suited to talk about spiritual possession more than Jab because Jab, for all intents and purposes is possession/trance music. It ticks all the boxes. For example:
To see what I mean check the music from Cuban Santeria below:
It is obvious, Jab is meant to induce possession.
The psycho-acoustic explanation for this is that the repeated patterns lead to less distraction which in turn can manipulate the trance-like state. For the more spiritual, these rhythms carry with them certain deities and given the reaction to this song, I think the latter definitely has a point. Check below:
So that my friends a brief look at Jab and its relation to possession music. Whenever this song plays, just be careful, it is meant to take a HOLD of you.
Have a great and musical 2019 everyone.
Here is an artist I recently came across.
She has successfully managed to pair her traditional culture with American music.
What a great example!
Check her clip below.