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.

 

 

 

30 Tunes for Soca Dummies 21-30

Are you a Soca dummy? Can’t tell a wine from a pooch back a jump from a wave? Well here is a list that will help you, 30 Soca songs for dummies. The songs appear in no particular order and are merely numbered to keep you following my blog. So get smart Soca dummy, here we go:

30. Workey Workey (Antigua)

This song from Antiguan super group Burning Flames acknowledges a couple of styles, most notably Zouk, Konpas and Classic Soca. Its form is taken from the first two styles with some (comparatively) long instrumental breaks. The lyrics are suggestive in keeping with the tradition. This track never fails to destroy any Caribbean party and is part of the Soca canon. Speak ill of this tune in the Lesser Antilles and risk expulsion.

29. Differentology  (Trinidad)

Bunji Garlin has been a huge name in Soca since the end of the 90s. This track from 2013 has propelled him into another popular realm. In keeping with the tradition of noticeable popular music borrowing within Soca, there is a healthy presence of (euro) house synths in “Differentology.” It also shows Bunji’s tremendous rhythmic prowess with a verse that is tasty!

28.  Pump Me Up (Barbados)

This mid-nineties song more than any introduced Edwin Yearwood and Krosfyah to the region (important names to the Soca world, go and Google) “Pump Me Up” was at that time a very fresh approach to Carnival music and was responsible in large part for the eventual establishment of Ragga/Groovy Soca as a sub-genre of its own. Edwin’s vocals are unmistakable, and he continued from where David Rudder left off, by placing a R&B singing style into the rhythms of the Anglo-Caribbean.  A must check for anyone interested in what Barbadians term Ragga Soca and the Trinidadians call Groovy Soca.

27.  Turn Me On (St. Vincent)

Kevyn Lyttle’s smash hit is possibly the most popular Ragga Soca/Groovy Soca song ever.  This early noughties number propelled Lyttle to success in 2004 and for a while threatened to open the door to Ragga/Groovy becoming the next ‘big’ thing. That did not materialise however but both the genre and the track live on.

26.  Balance Batty (Dominica)

Bouyon was a style developed by Dominican group WCK. This track is the best representative of the genre and WCK gained tremendous popularity within the region from it. Sung in English, this song still gets the party going with their “Concentration” command. Possibly one of the most important Dominican Soca tunes outside of the influential Exile One group.

25.  Get Something and Wave (Trinidad)

Super Blue/Blue Boy has been one of the most successful Soca artists in Trinidad. This song, “Get Something and Wave,” confirmed his legacy, as it not only won the Road March that year, but started a whole change in partying at Soca fetes, where instead of dancing alone, waving emerged as the thing to do. Described at the time as a fad, this style of partying has been going strong for the last 20 years.

24. Ragga Ragga (Barbados)

This song was not meant to be taken seriously and was in fact a filler on Red Plastic Bag’s 1993 album. However, its impact has been far-reaching with this song being a true watershed recording and being played from Panama to Chicago. It also propelled Red Plastic Bag’s career and put the studio where it was recorded, Chambers studio, run by Nicholas Brancker firmly on the map.

23. Wicked Jab (Grenada)

Wicked Jab comes from Grenadian artist Tallpree and is but one in the long line of Jab songs from Grenada. The Jab Jab is a feature of Jouvert and once again Tallpree pays tribute. Notice the conspicuous conch rhythm which is a characteristic of the Jab songs. Needless to say this one would obliterate any party in the Spice Isle.

22. Endless Vibrations (Trinidad)

For sheer historical significance alone, never mind the killing arrangement, this song would have made the list. However, it remains the breakthrough Soca track which enabled Lord Shorty (Ras Shorty I) to say his (Soca) innovation had arrived. Even though Shorty meant an Indian calypso fusion, this track with prominent guitar and snare drum opened the door for Soul and calypso fusion, on which Soca as a genre became grounded.

21. Hot, Hot, Hot (Montserrat)

“Hot Hot Hot” is possibly the biggest selling Soca track of all time. Arrow, from the satellite Soca region of Montserrat, conservatively put its sales in the millions in the mid-80s and the remake was even bigger causing many a Caribbean cruise ship and hotel band since then to have to play it. For me this track IS the Classic Soca sound and highlights the arranging style of one of the big three producers of the time, Leston Paul. (see Snapshots in Soca)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OkGgdIBX1to

Hit follow so you won’t miss tracks 20-11 for Soca Dummies. I promise thee more big TUNES and an end to Soca ignorance.