Caribbean Music and Barbados’ Crop-Over Festival
By Candyce H. Stapen
Fast, rhythmic and compelling, Caribbean music has echoes of steel pan, calypso, spouge and ska beats. One of the best places to experience Caribbean music is on Barbados during Crop-Over, a festival spanning from mid-May to the first Monday in August. That’s when Barbados eschews its British reserve to rock to its island roots.
The festival commemorates the harvest celebrations held on the island by slaves in the 18th century. These days the party starts with local parish dances and poetry events in mid-May, escalates with the Opening Gala in July proclaiming the Queen and King, then builds toward the music, costume parades and merriment of the last weekend in July and the first Monday in August.
Among the must-see final events: Pic-O-De-Crop, the Calypso singers’ final competition. One year when Lady Richard belted out “Open Your Mouth and Sing” from the stage of the National stadium, her fans waved flags, and we danced—at our seats, in the aisles and with locals who became new-found friends.
During Cohobblopot, named for the Bajan expression meaning “a stew made from a variety of ingredients,” we swayed to the gospel, folk, spouge and other island sounds. Krosfyah got the crowd clapping and boogeying with their exuberant blend of soca, reggae, and calypso.
At the Grand Kadooment, the final event held the first Monday in August, “bands,” or groups of locals, outfitted in feathered and sequined costumes, promenade to soca and calypso beats. Make some friends the week before and you’re welcome to join in as long as you can fashion something of a costume.
For more Caribbean music festivals, catch Carnival in Trinidad, whose season begins in January and ends on the Tuesday preceding Ash Wednesday; Moonsplash in Anguilla, a Caribbean music festival founded by Anguillan singer Bankie Banx and held mid-March; Jamaica’s Reggae Sumfest held in either July or August; as well as Pan Royale, Trinidad, a steel pan festival held in October.