Soca

JAB to the JAB

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.

jab2.jpg

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!

 

 

 

 

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!

 

 

 

 

 

Kes Wine Up, Soca or Soca Impostor?

Today, I was tagged on Facebook to give my opinion on whether the following song is a Soca song.

Now genre, as I have discussed here before, all depends on perspective and there are arguments FOR this as a SOCA song and others equally compelling AGAINST it.

So without more “long talk,” here they are:

FOR

1. The song has been released for Carnival

By placing “Wine Up”in the context of a Trinidadian carnival means that it has instantly been placed in the lineage of Carnival music of which Soca is a big part. Song released for Carnival? It must be a Soca song.

2. It uses the beat

The beat underlying “Wine Up”, which I detailed in another blog but it is worth repeating as it is found in my Composers’ Handbook on Amazon ;), is a one of the main rhythms in Soca. It was not around from the beginning but has been there since the mega-hit “Hot, Hot, Hot” by Arrow. soca drums

3. It uses the chords

Music is made up of a number of fundamentals and one of them is harmony, or the chords of a song. This song, without getting too complex, uses the ones commonly found in Soca *

AGAINST

  1. The influence is Tropical House

2015-2017 has ushered a new stage in American/United States popular music called Tropical House.  I will not try to break down what it is in detail but basically, it utilizes the sounds of house (keyboard tones/drum beats etc.) and adds Caribbean rhythms. The most famous prototype of this and prototype is what it is about when it comes to genre, is Justin Bieber’s “Sorry.”

It is clear therefore that Kes is leaning on this in his song as opposed to other Soca songs.

2. Kes does not sing in a Trinidadian accent.

While Kes is Trinidadian, his accent went through the door in this song. Trinidadian phonology is a massive part of Soca songs. It allows Carnival to rhyme with festival when in other English dialects that doesn’t happen. So a Soca song without a Trinidadian accent doesn’t sound much like Soca.

3. Kes does not use much Soca melodic syncopation.

This one is a really a musical point. But in short, Soca is descended from Calypso which uses the following rhythm plenty in its melodic line.Cinquillo.gifTake my word for it, as there is little scholarly research anyway, the reason why Calypso and Soca melodies sound the way they do, is due in large part to the use of this particular rhythm.

Kes doesn’t use this one much at all!

4. Tempo

“Wine Up” is quite a bit slower than even the slowest Ragga Soca/Sweet Soca song (which is the slower of the sub-genres on the Soca spectrum). For a comparison, “Pump Me Up”, which is the grandaddy of this form, is about 110 b.p.m. while “Wine Up” is around 90 b.p.m. Since “Pump Me Up in 1995,” Ragga/Sweet Socas have continued to increase in tempo. This makes Kes’ 2017 “Wine Up” sound even less like Soca.

5. Kes does not sing about Carnival

While tribute to  women is a tried and tested Carnival theme, “Wine Up’s” has a distinct lack of Carnival referencing. Words such as the Savannah, bacchanal and even the word carnival itself are marked absent.

These missing traditional Soca words really place this song outside of the norm.

CLOSING

To end, genre is much more than the music. Genre is a complex thing.  So I hope I have presented both sides of the argument in Kes’ “Wine Up” that shows when it comes to genre,

no side is wrong or no side is right.

Therefore,

“Wine Up”  Soca or Soca Impostor? The answer is:

BOTH!

*Many other genres use those chords but so too does Soca.

Top 10 Edwin Yearwood Songs

Edwin Yearwood emerged to real popularity in the mid 1990s with his band Krosfyah. Since then, he has produced some of the biggest popular music hits in Barbados. He simply rocks, here is his Top 10.

 

10. Sak Pase

Done with co-lead singer Khiomal of Krosfyah, this duet uses “hello Haitian style” as its hook. It actually uses a blues form as well which is rather different (along with copious cowbell which is not very different). The Sak Pase dance was also huge and when this song is played in Barbados it is mandatory.

 

9.  Obadele

Edwin Yearwood won the Pic-O-De-Crop competition which is primarily a calypso competition using this up-tempo soca number. It was also on his seminal album with Krosfyah, Ultimate Party/Pump Me Up, which was a massive seller for the genre. Due to its significance it gets a place here.

 

8.

Krosfyah Massive

Krosfyah Massive is from the same period as Obadele and for me it marked the first time I heard the group doing their own material. This turned out to be Edwin’s first hit of many.

 

7.

Nah Missing Me

Edwin Yearwood is one of the major innovators of the sub-genre Ragga/Groovy/Sweet soca. This song was released years after the genre came into popular existence and typifies Edwin’s style with call and response and short motifs.

 

6.

Wet Me

This song was one which came after Pump Me Up in the early days of Ragga/Groovy/Sweet soca. It is still popular throughout the region despite being nearly 20 years old.

 

5.  Down the Road

Edwin Yearwood won the Barbadian Party Monarch competition with this song. This one is the other spectrum of his material and is a typical Brancker fast soca of the late 1990’s. Once again it typifies his strong call and repsonse style chorus and verse. 

 

4.  In the Middle of the Road

The Road March song is the most popular song played by bands at the climax of Carnival. Edwin won several in the mid-noughties all speaking about roads. This song shows a departure from his late 1990s work as he basically sings over a rhythm track. 

3. Sweatin

This is another Ragga/Groovy/Sweet soca. Call and response is heavily used again with the trademark Brancker style.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K2twusbdPG8

2. Yardie

Yardie was released for the 1990s Congaline festival. This song is one of the biggest nostalgia party songs for the over 30s and it still rocks a fete to this day. It also spawned a Yardie Graduate 10 years later which though cool, could not make this list.

1. Pump Me Up

This song is possibly Edwin’s biggest. It spawned a new vocal approach to singing soca and ushered in the Ragga/Groovy/Sweet soca genre.

 A massive song!

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pTL-2o8Mzjo

 

Genre is more than Rhythm even in a Rhythm Genre

Due to the fact there is so little literature on Caribbean music (I have contributed however with my book, Caribbean Composers’ Handbook, shameless plug) and it is not taught with the biblical authority as with some other subjects within our school system, there is always debate as to what makes up a Caribbean genre.

This post cannot detail how genre works in the ENTIRE Caribbean, that would be 3 books and a thesis, however, what it can do, and is going to do, is show that a song does not belong to a Caribbean genre because of its music alone.*   To prove this, here is a YouTube collection of some songs, which while having certain “Caribbean” rhythms, are certainly not seen to be part of any Caribbean genre.

Exhibit one,  Artic Monkeys, “Do Me A Favour”

From a brief first listen, one could hear the distinct rhythmic pattern pictured below (taken from my book Caribbean Composers’ Handbook).  This pattern is of course common within the Classic Soca Sound. However, I don’t, and not many others would consider “Do Me a Favour” a Soca song.

soca drums

The same can also be said of the next song by Heather Myles which I don’t think was released for any Carnival.

Then of course there is the South Mediterranean and North African traditions, which use the main Classic Soca sound drum beat. Take a listen to traditional ballos from Greece.

 

Here also is Sam Bass from the Alan Lomax Collection doing a song that is certainly not from Trenchtown, although it has a reggae strum.

 It is clear from these examples that music is not the only thing which defines a genre. So whenever you hear someone saying, “Listen to this, you heard this record of an American playing reggae?” remember that it is not only the music that makes a song fall into a genre but a whole bunch of other stuff too.

* check Fabian Holt’s, “Genre in Popular Music” or any discussion on this subject by David Brackett for greater understanding (Questions of genre in Black Popular Music).

Top 10 Caribbean Music Documentaries

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1. Marley

There are several Bob Marley documentaries out there. This one is the newest and unlike the others, seeks to present Marley as a complex character. However, I still recommend watching “Caribbean Nights,” which is one of the oldest, to get even more perspective on this Caribbean musical giant. However, you can’t go wrong with this one.

2. Sons of Benkos

I see the Caribbean as a cultural area and this documentary focusses on a music type, Champeta, that is not from the archipelago. Instead this popular music form is from Colombia and is a fascinating fusion of popular Western and Central African music and Colombian music. Although Champeta has changed, this documentary shows its roots as well as a fascinating examination of the Palenque region, which is seen as the heart of African culture in Colombia.

3. Made In Jamaica

Made In Jamaica is one of my favourite documentaries on Jamaican music. It does not only have the talking heads as in most documentaries but live performances as well. Each performer is backed by one of the premier rhythm sections in the genre, Sly and Robbie and the sound is fabulous. If you are one that likes more than just info and bios, this documentary is definitely one for you.

4. Routes to Rhythm

5. This PBS documentary from the 80s is one of the BEST on salsa.  Everyone is in here. Like Made in Jamaica, some killer live performances are also present. Watch all of it if you have any interest in Salsa music and Cuban music in particular, REQUIRED VIEWING!

5. La Musique Antillaise

This Banyan documentary looks at French Antillean music. Zouk is here as well as older traditional forms.  A short and good watch and for non-French speakers like myself, it is in English.

6. Soca Power

Soca Power is good, it could have been better, but it is good. The documentary follows monster soca artists Bunji Garlin, his spouse Fay-Ann, and Machel Montano at Carnival. While not being fly-on-the-wall, it still manages to capture some of the excitement behind Carnival performances. Worth a watch.

7.  Reggae inna Babylon

Reggae inna Babylon examines the music in the Caribbean diaspora as it focusses on the work of reggae artists in the nineteen seventies in the United Kingdom. The usual suspects Aswad and Third World are here, and though the documentary itself is not quite riveting, we get to see them in action at the time of their greatest popularity – for that alone it is worth a watch.

8.  Puerto Rican Bomba : A Search For Our Roots

This documentary, like Reggae inna Babylon, is partially based in the Diaspora, but then again so much of Puerto Rican culture straddles that divide between mainland and diaspora. It makes the Bomba, a traditional folk form its basis and for those interested in the sound of it, we get break downs of the indivudal parts. It is detailed and very enlightening.

9.   Straight Outta Puerto Rico: Reggaeton’s Rough Road to Glory

If you want an overview of Reggaeton, this is a good place to start. Despite the gawdy ads that seem to suggest a much less mentally stimulating offereing, this documentary manages to speak to the movers and shakers and highlight the events which were important to this genre as it emerged.  With plenty of loud music and imagery, this one would keep you watching for sure.

10. Calypso Dreams

 

Calypso Dreams is one of my favourites on this list. It has singing heads as opposed to talking heads, and manages to find many of the calypso artists in their natural environment. Due to this, we hear them without the trappings of arrangements and stage mics. They instead have guitar accompaniment most of the time. If that wasn’t enough, a history of calypso is also given. Every one is here, even Roaring Lion – this is a must see for anyone interested in Trinidadian calypso.

Being Featured: A Really Cool Web Show for Caribbean Culture

The best thing about being an educator is seeing your former students grow.

One of them, Randy ‘Joe’ Moore, has gone into media and is currently producing a web series on Barbadian and Caribbean artists.

I asked Randy to answer a few questions on what the series is about. His extract is below along with a clip featuring the Bajan duo Porgie and Murdah a.k.a. Lead Pipe and Saddis from the show. Enjoy!

 

Being Featured started in January  2014 by Randy Moore (Host) after many years of constantly watching and being blown away by many of the talk shows on the international scene. After

completing a course in mass communication at the Barbados community College, an interest also grew in videography/photography and Randy decided to put the knowledge and resources

together and start an interview series called “Being Featured”.  This series is here to further highlight talented individuals in their respected field (fashion,

 music , film ,sports etc) and also an alternative medium to get talent out to the world. The program seeks to ascertain from the guest, information pertaining to how they got into their

field and any information fitting to influence a young person who would be interested in that area. The show has featured many well known persons which includes; Rhaj Paul ( fashion) ,

Biggie Irie ( reggae and soca artiste) , Sherwin Gardener( Gospel singer). In the future, viewers can expect to see and hear from those people who influence each and

every one of us and hopefully it will be an inspiration for some person to start to work at living their dream.

 

 

Crop Over Blog IX – Summary of the Festival 2014 by guest Blogger Trevor Wood

This post was created by Trevor Wood, a music aficionado and lover of Bajan music. He is an avid fan of Crop Over and provides the best summary of the festival 2014 I have read. Enjoy!

 

It’s official, the dust from Crop Over 2014 has settled and dub has re-taken the airwaves. I always detest the first week after Kadooment where you need to adjust from soca on the radio going from a flood to a trickle. I really enjoyed myself this year and I’ve heard many others make positive statements about the season. It would be interesting to hear a repeat visitor’s perspective. In any case, here’s mine:

 The Good

  • A mubba-ton of high-quality sweet soca. Again.
  • Younger artistes beginning to establish themselves; not as one-offs but as consistent performers. Gorg, Imani, Leadpipe & Saddis, Ian Webster, Sanctuary – I’m talking about you.
  • Having gone to a few tents on their judging nights and the Pic-O-De-Crop semis (which was burs’!) I was impressed by the social commentary. I think the competition was very keenly contested and the spat that between Headliners and All-Stars emphasised the importance of the tents in our calypso. I realised for the first time that the tents have their own cultures, followings and communities. Maybe that’s something we can emphasize more.

The Bad

  • Bashment soca aside, our up-tempo calypso is struggling badly. I am not sure what more can be done to stimulate it. Maybe a better question is whether or not it will be missed if it continues to disappear. After all, calypso wasn’t always 160+ bpm.
  • Too much music from Trinidad Carnival is being played at Crop Over events. I was at an event where Maximus Dan was played more than Mikey. In my opinion Carnival music has an advantage as people are already familiar with it by the time Crop Over music comes out. I can understand why DJ’s use it since people respond to it because it’s seasoned in. This year in particular was a very good year for groovy music at Carnival, which is right in Bajans’ sweet spot. However, I think the DJ’s can and must do more to keep Crop Over music at the forefront.
  • No music from any other island is being played at Crop Over events. I think there is room for it without suffocating our music.

Best Performance

 

Sanctuary performing Mega Monday at Soca Royale. I have been a Sanctuary fan for years. I love his voice and lyrics but I felt that his stage craft needed work. I must also say that I always liked ‘Mega Monday’ but up to that point not love ‘Mega Monday’. So when Sanctuary was scheduled to

take the stage last, and immediately after RPB, one of the crowd favourites, I was hopeful that he would be competitive but honestly not expectant.

Ironically, his performance made the song for me instead of the other way around. From the first note, I knew that something special was about to happen. Every second of Sanctuary’s performance captivated me. The choreography, the props, his energy, and yes, even his hair accentuated the song’s theme brilliantly. I don’t know the extent to which the arrangement of the song was changed for that performance, but it was as though I was hearing it for the first time and discovering sweeter and sweeter bits of it as the song progressed. It was a breath-taking spectacle.

 

Well done Sanctuary!

 

Worst Experience

 

Being at a fete on the cusp of Crop Over weekend to being subjected to an extended dub session. The DJ indicated that the promoters gave

him permission so they were co-conspirators. I was on my way to the door when the madness ended. Two songs more and I would have made it outside. I may not return next year.

 

Best Experience

 

Dave Smooth’s and Dooley Unruly’s set at Scrawl-Up Illuminate. It was a breath of fresh air to hear predominantly Bajan music, past and present, being selected expertly and played at full-hype. The patrons lapped it up. I want more of this from local DJ’s.

 

Favourite Social Commentary

 

Don’t Know How To Win – Blood. This song was clever, funny, impactful and dealt with a wide cross-section of issues. It was written specifically for Blood and it fit him like a glove. Bravo.

 

Favourite Party Song

 

Ah Feeling – Leadpipe and Saddis. From the first time I heard it I knew this song was going to dominate at Crop Over. The thing is the embodiment of sweetness. I heard that it was submitted for the sweet soca competition and did not make the semis. I refuse to believe this.

 

10 songs that should have played more (in no particular order)

 

    1. Show Them Your Beauty – Basil
    2. This Is Why – RPB
    3. God Is a Bajan – Smokey Burke (Brilliant, irreverent stuff!)
    4. Next To The Rope (Pan Remix) – Mikey (Sweetest music of any song this Crop Over. I am not a pan fan but I found this version mesmerising.)
    5. Ah Too Love To Party– Verseewild (Verseewild the versatile. Who knew)
    6. Encounter – Sherwin Straker
    7. How Ah Like It – Edwin
    8. Rumpage – Philip 7 (This song makes me want to whistle. It reminds me of Day-O for some reason.)
    9. So Good – Hypasounds
    10. Doing Me – iWeb (The new RPB?)

I’m looking forward to a bigger and better 2015. I expect that the same cadre of artistes will represent well and others like Lorenzo and Big Red will continue the good work and really enter the spotlight.

Crop Over Blog VIII – The Aural History of Calypso Part 2

Here is the second part of the Aural History of Calypso, 1950s to present. Enjoy and subscribe to the YouTube for more music-culture-music, you will not be disappointed.

 

 

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.