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 VI – Red Plastic Bag – The Bajan Lyrical Master’s Top 10

 

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.

 

 

7.  Bim

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.

 

6.  Material

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.

 

5.  Waste

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?

 

2. Volcano

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.

 

 

1 Maizie

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.

 

 

 

What is Bashment Soca? Crop Over Blog 1

lil rick

For those of you that have never heard of Bashment Soca, it is one of the most divisive forms of Soca coming out of Barbados, and thus Crop Over; people either hate it or love it, or in some cases hate themselves because they love it.

Bashment Soca, like many other types of Soca, does not have a clearly defined date of creation, because as I have argued, a genre only happens when others start imitating the prototype recording.

In this case, the prototype recording was “Hard Wine” done in 1996 by Lil’ Rick, who at the time was known primarily as a Bajan Dancehall performer and DJ*.

From this recording a number of traits become clear:

  • Rick’s prominent use of Bajan dialect.
  • The lack of harmony.

As this prototype was copied due to its overwhelming popularity, artists too copied the subject matter (wukking up) and added another one of their pressing issues, drinks.  Here is Fraud Squad:

We can once again see the strong use of Bajan dialect and the generally “odd” harmony.  Here is another classic Bashment Soca hit, “Boom Tick Tick.”  It sings about dancing, wukking up, which Hard Wine did and it is also mixed very raw in comparison with other professionally produced songs.

In summary, most of these Bashment Soca songs are from the early 2000s and it is my view that it is a sub-genre that is quickly disappearing as Bashment Soca artists get more “musical” (see Gorg ). However, for better or worse, it remains one of the clear sub-genres of Soca to come out of Barbados. **

* The input of Eric Lewis and his work with MADD was also important. Lewis employed heavy use of Bajan dialect throughout his compositions see “Tribute to Grynner.”

* * See my Stabby post to come for another example of Bashment Soca in action!!!

Save Our Musical Language! Stop the abuse of musical terms now!!! Crop Over Blog 2

As the title shows, this post is intended to diminish the absolute abuse of musical terms which happens every Crop Over.

Unlike some, I am not against non- musicians engaging in musical discussion, I actually quite enjoy the debates.

Barbados Crop Over
Barbados Crop Over

However, pretending to use musical terms to sound knowledgeable when you don’t have a clue what they mean is not cool.

So here are some definitions of common musical terms so you (I) can have a more enjoyable Crop Over season.

1. Instrumentation is the texture of musical sounds in a performance and here is a list of instruments commonly seen or heard on Crop Over/Carnivals stages:

  • bass guitar
  • voice
  • guitar
  • keyboards
  • drums
  • mac laptops – which play sequences and background vocals, frequently seen on stage in Soca
  • drum machines – although they are becoming more and more extinct.
  • horn sections – trumpets, trombones, saxes

Here are instruments not heard on Crop Over/Carnivals stages:

  • that thing that you blow
  • aguitarIthinkitis
  • a piano
  • a mother fiddle

2. Rhythm/Time
Rhythm is a common musical term. In its strictest definition it is sound across time. In other words, once sound is played by whatever instrument and time passes (which it will) it displays rhythm. So for example, the bass guitar player plucks a string and whatever pattern or notes he is playing form a rhythm. The other more common use of rhythm refers to the beat and the way that beat is organised. So for example, the calypso beat is referred to as the calypso rhythm and that rhythm is played by the drums.  What must be remembered is that each individual instrument has a rhythm which in turn combines to create an overall rhythm (beat).

3. Melody

Melody is the standout sequence of pitches heard in a song. Melodies are the things that you remember in your head and sing in the shower. At Crop Over and all over the world, it is the thing lead singers produce when they sing. In addition, instruments which produce pitch also play melody. So in a calypso tent band for example, in the areas where the singer stops singing, a band chorus happens where the trumpets or saxes take the melody.

4. Harmony

Harmony happens when two or more pitches are played at the same time. This is a very musical concept and musicians spend a lot of formal and informal education dealing with this area which can get very complex. At Crop Over, the keyboard, bass guitar and guitar provide the harmonic bed. In calypso bands that have horn sections, harmony is also provided when the different horns, trumpet sax and trombone, play different notes together.

5. Key/Pitch/Scale

These terms are probably the most misused in Crop Over by non- musicians. The understanding of key, believe it or not is based on harmony and even though many people do not understand harmony, they definitely perceive key. However, perception and being able to explain it are two different things and the following terms heard frequently this time of year, all refer to key in some way (these terms are in Bajan dialect for my international audience).

  1. He is out of key
  2.  He sound bad.
  3. He out of key with the band.
  4. The band is out of key with she.

What people refer to when they make these statements is the relationship between melody and key centre. A key centre is established through harmony or through the melody itself where certain notes create a ‘home base.’ What is also created is a set of notes which ‘should’ be heard. When someone is out of key, it means that they don’t accurately hit the notes which should be heard. What usually makes this worse is when this person sings with musical accompaniment, as these instruments hit the right pitches leaving the singer sounding even more ‘out there.’ This is of course the science behind it and perception of pitch is done quickly by those good enough to hear the home base and accompanying right notes.

So that is it. Feel free, in fact, be compelled to use this information throughout the season and don’t hesitate to shout me back here if you want any further clarification. Also, pass it on to your friends having carnivals this summer, like those in St. lucia and Grenada…this is the only way we can stop the abuse!