The early results from the Soca competitions are in.
This means that Barbadian radio rotation will now be based around the competition songs chosen to go forward
leaving the other 600 to die.
Before these songs go into the afterlife altogether though, let me try to keep five of them alive. Here is my Lazarus 5 of Crop Over 2017. a.k.a 5 songs that didn’t make it into the next round of competition.
- Makka Tree – Vybz I Love
I was introduced to this guy earlier this year when my Caribbean Ensemble from the Barbados Community Collge did the National Cultural Foundation’s Cavalcade. I was immediately blown away by his voice. Check this one produced by Quantum Productions.
2. Jafar – Bang
Like Makka Tree, I met this guy in person on the Cavalcade gig. This Bajan Dub song, although not progressing further, has all the qualities of a really good Bajan Dub song.
3. Aidan – Life Nice
This song, written by the Waterstreet Boyz and produced by super-producer Chris Allman, is in the tradition of the modern Ragga Soca. With a great hook and super saccharine melody, it should not be thrown on to the rubbish-heap. A good rendition by Aidan as well.
4. Chenice – Sweet Carnival
Like Life Nice, this is a modern Ragga Soca. Chenice does a good job here as well.
5. Contone – Come Back Tomor
Contone has been around a long time and has of late been battling his own demons. This year he reconnected with long- time producer, Anderson ‘Blood’ Armstrong to produce this. Like My Car Brek Down and 2 Sir Grantleys, this is Contone at his Bajan Blues best.
These are not all the songs obviously.
And I would be glad to hear more suggestions.
What are your five?
Here is my group’s offering featuring the super talented Jabari Browne. We didn’t compete with this but keep checking it anyway.
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.
- 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.
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!
I am working on a documentary on the Bajan duo Contone and Pong along with the team from 13 Degrees North and Stuart Hall. For those who are wondering why, it is because this year marks 10 years since Contone’s mega-hit My Car Brek Down and we want to show what happened after.
Look out for a realease late in the year.
Frequently in popular culture yesterday becomes the forgotten man.
Here is a video clip from Bajan pop culture past as calypsonian and I guess Soca singer, Bumba, destroys the party.
Seeing this now it is hard to imagine that guys actually played Soca without Mac Book pros and drum machines
but THEY SURE DID…
It is also hard to imagine a Soca song such as this causing such HYPE
but IT SURE DID….
A throwback if there ever was one!
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???!!!!
To join in with the overt nationalism this time of year in Barbados, here is a blog feature on what I consider the national dance,
1. Wuk-Up is a dance from Barbados with roots in Africa.
Wuk-Up is said to have come to Barbados via Sub-saharan African where isolation of the limbs and movement of the hips are part of the dance tradition. Here is a traditional one from Africa and then a Wuk-Up video.
2. Only Bajans are said to Wuk-Up.
In Trinidad they wine, Barbados however is the Wuk-Up capital of the world. The difference comes from the hip movement, see if you can spot the difference between a wine and a wuk-up.
3. Wuk-Up has evolved.
Like all things of nature, Wuk-Up too is Darwinian and as the music has evolved, so too has the Wuk-Up. I believe, and you are hearing it here first, that there are 3 distinct periods * of Wuk-Up. These changes remember correspond to musical change.
2. Post Independence 1966-1994
4. Contemporary Wuk-Up varies.
While there is a general post-90s style Wuk-Up, it does vary between sub-genres. Bajan Dub/dancehall requires a different wuk than fast soca. So in the former you find jucks, stabs, bend-overs etc. and while these exist in latter, the difference in tempo means Wuk-Up variations are found.
5. Wuk-\Up music is in duple time.
The Wuk-Up occurs in a duple-metre environment. No one Wuk-Ups to 3/4 waltzes, or 7/4 experimental Soca pieces. The hips sub-divide the main pulse, either in half (Bajan dub, Soca <120 beats per minute), or in quarters (Bajan dub, Soca <120 beats per minute) or with the pulse (soca>135 b.p.m).
6. Men and women Wuk-Up
Wuk-Up in Barbados is not gender specific. It was not always this way but in the mid 1990s the Grass-Skirt possee popularised male wuking up making it even more socially acceptable.
7. The Wuk-Up has 3 variants.
- female on female
- female on male – most common
Male on male wuking up is hardly ever seen in public spaces. This is because Barbados continues to be conservative when it comes to public displays of male homosexuality.
8. People touch when wuking up
As said, wuking up can be done in pairs between males and females. When this happens the male is behind the female similar to perreo in Reggaeton. Like perreo, there is physical contact thus making the Wuk-up different to other sexualised dances such as rhumba, tambu, bomba etc. where touching does not occur.
Here is Tambu from Curacao where there is no touching.
See Example 4b for Wuk-Up.
9. The female dictates when the dance is over in the male-female Wuk-Up.
In Barbados a female decides when your Wuk-Up is over. She does not have to tell you this but her gradual moving away means it is done. This is not meant as a “pursue me” courtship practice a la kangaroos; when she leaves it is over.
10. The average Wuk-Up is between 10-20 seconds.
Unless the couple wuking up is romantically involved, the average Wuk-Up bewteen strangers is 10-20s (per one Wuk-Up round). This research was done totally unscientifically of course but I stand by it. If you are a male be sure to pay attention to this as well as #9 and if you are a female it is better not to linger beyond this time. *
So those are 10 things to note on the Bajan dance. Thanks for dropping by and Happy Independence weekend if you are in Barbados.
* – Check out my Slideshare on Wuk-Up Music.
Also please note the soon to be released work of Cultural Studies dance scholar John Hunte on the dance.
* A number 11 could have been, the church does not like the dance.
John Roett is a Barbadian keyboardist par excellence and entrpeneur.
This year he put together a killer soca compilation of Crop Over 2014 music largely in response to the decline in (legal) ways to get Crop Over soca music. When asked for his motives, John said,
“Pirates take more than people have any idea of bro. If the artistes can get more, which is what they deserve. Then they can do better and better each year. It’s a business venture with benefits for everyone and for the industry as well.”
See the link to this wonderful venture below and it really is a best of the best of Crop Over 2014.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
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!
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.
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)
- Show Them Your Beauty – Basil
- This Is Why – RPB
- God Is a Bajan – Smokey Burke (Brilliant, irreverent stuff!)
- 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.)
- Ah Too Love To Party– Verseewild (Verseewild the versatile. Who knew)
- Encounter – Sherwin Straker
- How Ah Like It – Edwin
- Rumpage – Philip 7 (This song makes me want to whistle. It reminds me of Day-O for some reason.)
- So Good – Hypasounds
- 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.
Red Plastic Bag is seen as one of the foremost lyricists and composers of calypso in Barbados. He has been a significant part of Crop Over and Bajan calypso/soca for over 30 years and to celebrate him is a Stefan Walcott Top 10 list of his lyrical masterpieces.
10. Something’s Happening
This song from 2009 is one of Red Plastic Bag’s biggest hits of the last 5 years. It is simply constructed and I actually dismissed it at first until my mum said, “Listen.” What I heard was a portrayal of Crop Over that was simple, vivid and direct.
My favourite line: I see vendors doing good trade, snowcone man got it made.
9. Can’t Find Me Brother
In the calypso genre it is expected that the lyricist take a topical event and put it over in song. The more disguised yet understood the composition is, the better the calypso is considered. In this song Bag takes the escape in 1987 of convicted criminal Winston Hall to construct this more than witty composition. Note, he never mentions the event directly or Hall by his name. This song is the one most used by people to testify to Bag’s genius.
My favourite line: I search every Kingdom Hall, I search every dancehall.
8. The Country Aint Well
Red Plastic Bag is self-admittedly inspired by Chakdust and like Chalkdust, he uses sickness as a metaphor in this song to get his point across. From the first line to the last puns rain down with most speaking to the topical issues of 1989, which unsurprisingly, are relevant to 2014.
My favourite line(s): The body surviving but really aching bending over in pain. It needs support to stand strong again but cannot depend on this cane.
This one is from 1984, the early days of Red Plastic Bag. Here Bag sings about Bim, another name given to Barbados and his love for it. He does not do this in a typical manner, instead he lists all the things wrong with it and says in spite of these, he still loves his country. Once again a simple melody and easy tempo allows every word to be heard.
My favourite line(s): Some call you bad and cry you down. Certainly not me, of this soil I am a true son.
This song, like others on the list, was responsible for Bag winning the national calypso competition. It is one of my favourites and here Bag takes the sobriquet’s of other calypsonians and assigns topical material to them. Composing this song involved some serious writing technique, because not only did he need to find the issues, he had to select the appropriate calypsonian which fitted the issue.
My favourite line: The US show of power as the world’s liberator, that one I giving to Invader.
This song is one that fits the Red Plastic Bag template; find a pun and stick with it. Here Bag plays with his own sobriquet,which to many people is a waste product. However, he pulls this metaphor into the battle calypso tradition laying a challenge to fellow calypsonians that he is back in the game.
My favourite line: To environmentalist it’s really a drag, (why?) it’s hard to get rid of the plastic bag.
4. Pluck It
In 1989 there was what was known as the “chicken controversy” where it was alleged a local businesswoman was selling chickens that were dead as opposed to being freshly killed for consumption. Bag here relates the event through double entendre and a soca beat.
My favourite line: One worker did not chicken out, he broke the news and caused a big foul/fowl up.
3. Bag of Riddles
This one from the early period of Bag (1983) saw him play a game of riddles. Here he takes a controversial political issue and asks, who or what am I? This song of course has a built in audience participation component and it would have been a great joy to have heard it in the old vibrant tent setting.
My favourite line (s): Take this easy riddle to solve you must always get involved. Scratch your head and give it a try, tell me, who or what am I?
Volcano is a much quicker song than many on this list. This song is once again soca and Bag, unlike many soca artists, inserts his pun. Here he references the eruption of the volcano in Montserrat with his ability to erupt a party. Clever.
Favourite line – Volcano, kicking up, soon erupt and the lava getting hot.
Although not a Crop Over song, this Christmas song is a funny narrative of Plastic Bag’s partner attempting to pass off her affair as a visit from Santa Clause. Of course this is a rather dry description, just listen to Bag below as he relates it beautifully.
My favourite line: Maizie where is the reindeer, Maizie I ain’t see no sleigh? Look he had no reindeer or sleigh, he came on BWIA.