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 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.

 

Snapshot in Soca III – A History of Soca – 1982-1990

In snapshot II, we managed to see the creative burst that came about after Lord Shorty’s innovation. In this third snapshot, 1982-1990, what I term the Classic Soca Period, it is my view that a gradual settling down in musical sound occurred, led by the success of “Hot, Hot, Hot.” Before I get to “Hot Hot Hot,” I want to revisit “Sugar Bum Bum.” I briefly mentioned this song in Snapshot II, (where it indeed belongs in terms of time of release) but it needs to be dealt with separately, such is its contribution.

“Sugar Bum Bum” was written by Aldywn ‘Lord Kitchener’ Roberts, who was up to that time, 1978, singing calypso, and very successfully. In fact, Lord Kitchener is generally seen as one of the greatest calypsonians to have ever existed. It is true that before “Sugar Bum Bum,” Kitchener had solemnly pledged never to engage with Soca; however, after the success of “Sugar Bum Bum,” Kitchener never returned completely (if at all) to calypso. The song was produced by Ed Watson and was said to be inspired not by Funk, but by West African highlife, which is in keeping with the experimental period of that time. So here it is again.

The popularity of “Sugar Bum Bum” led, in my opinion, to listeners realising that something new was indeed going on in Trinidad. It opened up the ears of the Caribbean and the world to a ‘fresh’ sound, which featured plenty of repetition, both in lyric and in harmonic structure. This was made all the more apparent because “Sugar Bum Bum” came from Kitchener, a well-known practitioner of the ‘old’ calypso form, which had much less repetition and generally more chords.

The tremendous success of “Sugar Bum Bum” soon led to an Ed Watson Soca ‘sound.’ However, this sound was soon superseded by Leston Paul, the producer of “Hot, Hot Hot,” who, with Arrow (and the other 2 big producers of the 80s), changed the game forever. 

“Hot Hot Hot” is one of the most successful singles created within the Caribbean. According to Arrow, in his interview for the Unesco/Banyan show in 1991, it had sold (up to that time) 3-5 million copies!!! Here he is.

With success comes replication, and the rhythm of “Hot Hot Hot,” the tempo, the general relationship the instruments had with each other, influenced many Soca songs to follow. This influence was further multiplied by the fact that several of the already popular artists  were now seeking out Leston Paul to produce songs for them; this meant that Paul eventually became one of the biggest and most influential producers of the 3rd Soca snapshot period, and indeed of ALL time.  So here they are: “Hot Hot Hot,” followed by “Soucouyant,”  Crazy’s 1985 winning Road March song, arranged by Emmanuel Ector and we should be able to hear the definite similarities.

The other big producers of that period were Pelham Goddard and Frankie McIntosh, with the former producing many hits. These three producers (along with Leston Paul of course), defined the sound of Soca in the 80s. Here are two selections from Goddard— Tambu’s 1988 song, “This Party Is It,” (Road March Winner) and “De Hammer,” by David Rudder from 1986.

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t67lXPPtww0

Here also is the Mighty Sparrow, another calypso legend who too vowed never to sing Soca, doing the Soca, “Doh Back Back” arranged by McIntosh.

Incidentally, “De Hammer” won Rudder the CALYPSO competition in 1986; Soca music had infiltrated into the realm of the Calypso in a big way. This showed that what was new and different in the late 70s, was now absorbed into the Calypso by the end of the 80s, at least with the musical rhythms. The difference however, generally remains (and I say this gingerly, as it requires a blog in itself) in the lyrics and the amount of repetition found in each form. Calypso = plenty lyrics + more chords + less repetition; Soca = little/less lyrics + plenty repetition + less chords…sort of. I promise to come back to this.

What I did not mention is that Arrow was from the small island of Montserrat and McIntosh from St. Vincent. In Snapshot IV, I return the regionalisation of Soca, as it becomes the soundtrack to the street element of Caribbean carnivals.

In conclusion, snapshot III, the Classic Soca Period, contains many of my early childhood memories of Caribbean music. The songs from this time, people generally call ‘sweet’ (another blog), and herald them as not only classic songs, but ‘golden’ songs. There are many artists from this time who I have not mentioned, but Baron, Stalin, Duke, Explainer, are but some of the who made this 80s/early 90s time memorable.

 In Snapshot IV, I revisit good old Eddy Grant and the work of his Ice Record label. It was this label that initiated the next movement in Soca, as the Classic Soca Period was shot “Bang Bang” in the chest.  The noise “Ring/rung” out for years!

 

 

 

 

Snapshot in Soca II – A History of Soca Late – 1970s to early 1980s

The next stage in the life of Soca, is in my view, one of the most interesting periods in its history. To recap, in Snapshot 1, Trinidadian Lord Shorty had  introduced “Endless Vibrations” to the musical world as an example of his Sokah; it, however, did not end up sounding like what Shorty had intended. In the period of Snapshot II, we have a situation where producers and other artists sought to go through the musical door Shorty had opened. However, and this is why I call this period interesting, even though “Endless Vibrations” was commercially successful, these artists and producers did not attempt to exactly replicate the textures, rhythms and harmonies within it. In other words, the songs that came after “Endless Vibrations” were, in my view, influenced more by the philosophy of it rather than a thorough Xeroxing of all its musical qualities. So here are some of the songs from the period  so you can see/hear what I mean.

Firstly we have Maestro, who had Shorty as his band leader doing “Soulful Calypso.”

On hearing this, we can hear that it does not sound exactly like “Endless Vibrations.”  Maestro was introducing the bass lines and drum beats of the popular Afro-American styles at the time to Calypso, similar to what Shorty did in “Endless Vibrations,” but not sounding EXACTLY like “Endless Vibrations.”

Shorty also did other songs in this period, similar to Maestro,here is  “Sweet Music,” from 1976.

A few years later, and using the same philosophy of experimentation, was the artist Super Blue, formerly known as Blue Boy.

 Merchant was also involved “Dr. Soca” 1979

 Then of course we have the incredibly popular “Sugar Bum Bum,” from 1978.

I purposely put these songs from these artists, Boy Blue, Merchant, Kitchener and Maestro, because I want to show how different songs were from each other that were considered Soca (late 70s -early 80s).

So where does the one that was not meant to be taken for Granted come in?

Well, the one I was referring to in Snapshot 1 is Eddy Grant, the international pop star of the 1980s who wrote the monster hit “Electric Avenue” and who proclaimed himself to be the father of Soca. This statement was controversial at the time and Trinidadians were up in arms (not arms in the air, that is later in the life of Soca) as it was made. “How dare this non-Trinidadian lay claims on our indigenous creation!” they screamed. Well, Grant’s point was/is this: since the essential contribution of “Endless Vibrations” was a mixture of Soul/Funk and calypso, then I, Eddy Grant, had done that same mixture four years earlier with “Black Skin Blue Eye Boys.”

To me, from “Black Skin Blue Eye Boys,” the Funk presence is prevalent; the normal musical codes of what is known as Calypso, maybe not so much. However, it is difficult to disprove an artist’s intentions due to how subjective music/art actually is. For example, Eddy Grant might tell me, “I was inspired by Kitchener (Trinidadian calypsonian) and wrote “Black Skin, Blue Eyed Boys” while wearing one of Kitchy’s hats and eating rice with a Bajan who took my meat (joke spoiler: reference to one “Tek Yuh Meat Out Muh Rice” by Lord Kitchener).” All I would be able to say to this is, “well Eddy I don’t hear it.” So while it may be hard to musically disprove Grant’s claims of invention, in mixing Funk/Soul with Calypso (“Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys”), it is even harder for him to prove that “Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys” STARTED Soca, because most producers identify “Endless Vibrations” and not “”Black Skin Blue Eyed Boys,” as their inspiration. In other words, as I said in Snapshot 1, it is the ones that come after who write the history, who construct the genre and ultimately create the ‘origins’ of it, and for them, Lord Shorty, through “Endless Vibrations,” was the ‘inventor’ of Soca. * 

*Check my academic article to be released next year for an expansion on this.

It must be noted, that AFTER “Endless Vibrations,” Eddy had this song that was largely similar to the others being produced in that period. However, “Neighbour Neighbour,” from 1977, does not sound very much like “Black Skin Blued Eyed Boys” either.

 

In summary, the late 70s- early 80s, was one of the most restless periods in Soca’s life. It was in fact similar to a human’s development, where after birth a period of relentless experimentation goes on. In Snapshot III – The Massive Hits, I will revisit this period again, as I consider Kitchener going back on his word and looking like a sugared bum bum,(pronounced boom boom, for my non-English-speaking Caribbean readers) and examine how “Hot, Hot, Hot” things began to get.