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.