Yes, Rihanna is for all intents and purposes the musical ambassador from the Caribbean island of Barbados. But beyond her pop flair, there is an exuberant array of calypso, jazz and carnival artists from this thriving nation. We’ll explore the bands who give voice to the celebration of Crop Over (a festival with roots in the sugarcane harvest) and the native instruments that are distinctly Barbadian.
Talk about longevity— this reggae/dance collective first got together in the mid-1960s! The 10-piece is considered an institution in Barbados, helping to popularize the fusion genre spouge, a mix of Jamaican ska and Trinidadian calypso. After five decades of delivering brassy, festive tunes, Troubadours International are still “the sway,” as they put it on their Facebook page.
“Freedom was a dream,” sings the poet-musician Anthony Kellman. Hailed for his mastery of literature, the 60-year-old wordsmith weaves complex instrumentation with vivid imagery. His Tuk Verse style – based on traditional Caribbean poetry - falls somewhere between jazz, afro-Cuban folk music and Latin rhythms. "Tuk, Tabla, and Fedounoum,” released in 2009, is credited with teaching younger generations about ancestral Bajan techniques.
The calypso/soca (soul) track “Kim” positioned Coward as a clever pop lyricist and fun performer. Hers is an anthem of outrage against philandering fellows that also gets toes tapping. She earned the titles of “the People Queen” and Sweet Soca Monarch in 2009 on the strength of the fiery “Hot Sun & Riddim.” Her hip-swaying pulse and powerful voice made Coward a hero of the island’s festival circuit. Plus, she is another supporter of tuk, speaking her mind on social issues such as women’s rights and advocating for the poor.
You might say The Active Ingredient (also the name of their 2014 album) of Standing Penance is tenacity. After forming in 2009, the gutsy foursome have fought an uphill battle in getting their music heard. On an island where easygoing is the way of life, rock gets the short end of the stick. But Tearhead, Lexx, Valkyrie and Semitone persevere, gaining a cult following around the globe. Recommended if you like Alice in Chains and other heavy players.
Does the spirit move you? Then this Christian pop singer is for you. Sírrah defies the notion that devotional music has to be prim and proper. She veers from EDM to acoustic folk to praise her god, coming from a youthful perspective. Social justice is among her passions, and songs like the trance-y “Destiny” provide a positive message to listeners.
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