*Nah Going Home is actually 11 years old but born after the school year…;)
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.
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!!!
Dancehall, which is referred to as Dub in Barbados, took root in Barbados in the early 1980s. The music became the music of the working class and the youth of the time. Eventually, some Barbadian artists produced their own Dancehall records and given the expense of recording at the time, they all did it the low budget way. The important difference with these artists and their Jamaican influences was that they all chose to produce melodic and lyrical content rich in Bajan dialect. In the last 2 years, there has been a resurgence of the form with a new generation of artists involved with Bajan dub. To help out those new to this, what I hope is an emerging form, I have compiled a Top 10 of the most influential/popular Bajan Dancehall/Dub tunes for beginners.
10. Peter Ram – Quicksand
Peter Ram was a chanter who came out in the late 1980s. He went on to become involved in Ragga Soca and the various Carnival scenes where he gained the majority of his popularity. However, this song from 1988 is how most in Barbados came to know him.
9. Dub is a Force – Jesse James
As a boy, the reaction to Dub was not favourable. The obvious conservative backlash to its overt sexuality occupied much media space. “Dub is a Force,” with its lack of expletives and sexual references, came as a defence to the music. The video was also memorable as well as the hook, “Dub is the force!”
8. Don’t Ask Me – Crimeson
The re-emergence of Bajan Dub Dancehall owed much to the Dub, a low budget house/community party and YouTube. Young hungry artists went to various communities to perform as well as putting their music on YouTube, skipping the traditional media. Crimeson embodies this perfectly, and his ‘hit, “Don’t Ask Me,” did much to throw the form back into the public spaces again.
7. Do Sain Fa Mi – Exclusive Soundz a.k.a Fari
Another of the 2nd brigade of Bajan Dub artists is Fari. This song with its partial ode to Kelloggs, actually had no Froot Loops on the shelves of local supermarkets for a bit in Barbados. By the way, his lyrics are really commands to females to perform dances. He is not speaking about motorsports.
6. Kid Site – Minibus
Kid Site was not only a Bajan dub pioneer but a calypso artist of some merit. He later went on to win the National Calypso Monarch competition at Crop Over. His roots, however, are also planted in Bajan Dub and Reggae. His song Minibus, gives a humorous and fairly accurate portrayal of the private transportation taxis which to this day are responsible for the transmission of Dub and Dancehall from Jamaica and Barbados. Here you can hear the obvious Jamaican influence with much of Site’s inflections and phrasing coming straight from Jamaican Dancehall.
5. Matrix – Meat Gaw Pull
I included this song, “Meat Gaw Pull” because it is what Dancehall is about to me: honesty and humour. Whether you agree with this honesty or not is another story.
4. Rankin Ricky – Driving Skill
Another one here from the old school. This is influenced once again from Jamaica and the at the time ubiquitous “Sleng Teng Riddim.” Ricky, however, maintains more of the Bajan phonology. The song, like Site’s, speaks to the public transportation in Barbados.
3. Ninja Man (Barbados) – License to Kill
To complete the public transportation set, here is Ninja Man’s song from the early days of the Bajan Dub. Here we can hear the riddim being similar to the Jamaican Jammy rhythms.
2. Lil Rick – De Yutes
To end, I will give the premier, in my opinion, Bajan Dub lyricists. Lil Rick started firmly in Dancehall and went on to start a strand of Soca, Bashment Soca, through his highly influential, “Hard Wine” composition. Rick, before this, did some of the most popular Bajan dub song ever*.
1. Lil Rick – Dollar Wine
*Rick o, of course, nt on to do what can be considered Bajan Dub in his biggest song to date “Guh Dung”.
*Special mention must go to Lil Rick’s “Talk for Me” and “ABC” two other hugely popular Bajan Dub songs. They would have been included but in order to give a wider cross section of artists they were excluded from the main list.