Calypso is yet another Trinidadian invention. But contrary to what many people believe, true calypso or "purist" calypso is not just about jump-up carnival dancing.
Instead it is first a serious social commentary about issues of the day. Calypso is the musician's form of political satire. Listening to the words you will hear attacks on virtually any and every thing.
Nothing is sacred in calypso and since Bajans virtually stole the calypso show in 1995, all the region's eyes are on Barbados in the calypso/soca realm. Not only has Barbados come into its own with lively beats, clever lyrics and scathing social commentary, but Barbadian kaiso men have come up with new rhythms to the calypso tempo. Beats such as 'Ring Bang', which came directly from 'Tuk', and 'Ragga soca', an invention of long-standing calypso legend, Red Plastic Bag, helped set Barbados apart from the formula calypso of other islands.
Soca, the more upbeat version to calypso, is truly in Barbados' domain, particularly with the advent of the new rhythms, which other islands now imitate and merge into their own local rhythms.
One reason the island now stands out as a beacon of high standards in this genre is the many bands and lead singers now dominating the local music scene. Many of the bands write their own music and enjoy tremendous popularity both regionally and further afield.
Although Barbados did not think this one up-credit has to go to Trinidad for that-steel pan is growing in popularity in Barbados and both the sound and quality of the music is ever-improving.
Steel pan is another oddity instrument made out of necessity. Using old oil drums, pan men in Trinidad 'beat out' the shape of the oil drum head to create slopes and slants on it that made notes?it is a fine art to 'beat' and 'tune' a steel pan and Trinidadians are perhaps the best in the world.
However, Barbados now has its own steel bands and some schools have added steel pan bands to their curriculum. Local music also reflects the pan sound more, and it can be heard in all music forms here from the calypso, for which steel pan was originally made, to folk.
The sound of a full steel band is unlike any other musical experience. The bands range in size from 10 to 20 members to upwards of 30 in the larger competitive bands in Trinidad. This is primarily and outdoor instrument, with a resonating sound that is bound to steal your heart.
Barbados is not just jump-up calypso and soca. There are other popular musical forms and one that is indigenous to Barbados is the sight and sound of the roving 'Tuk' band.
This small assembly of spirited roving minstrels plays a trio of rhythms using a kettle drum, bass drum and penny whistle. Playing quaint yet captivating rhythms that are unique in both format and cadence, the sequence begins with a slow waltz, then glisses into a march rhythm and concludes in a frenetic African beat.
'Tuk' represents the queer amalgamation of British military and African village rhythms and instruments. 'Tuk' first began to evolve when the only drums allowed were those of the British military. African descendents used these drums, and with the British military style, fused their own instruments and rhythms to create what we now call 'Tuk'.
Often dressed in hilarious attire and accompanied by local folk characters, 'Tuk' bands are usually seen during festivals, dancing and wending their way through the crowds, especially at Crop Over time. Traditionally, 'Tuk' bands also rove neighbourhoods around Christmas and New Year'Crops Day, delighting holiday-makers with their music and antics.