There are few things I love more than men wining in wanton abandonment. Maybe good food and a select range of other things excite me more. I love men wining because of the ways in which it disturbs the mask of heterosexual masculinity. It flexes, disrupts and discombobulates with a swivel of the bamsee — most of all, it makes a lot of people, men and women, uncomfortable. I’ve contemplated before how masculinity is sometimes performed inside soca and the ways in which wining is coded inside the performativity of the stage persona (or perceived actual persona) of some male soca artists.
As a Trinbagonian from a wide ranging Caribbean & West Indian background reaching into Guyana and even further up the archipelago, seeing men dance completely unhinged is nothing new to me. Luckily, among some of the young men I know, seeing men wine down the place and bend over in front of a woman is also nothing scandalous to me and though I love to see it myself personally, I understand that it’s still a revolutionary upending of masculinity in some ways. Consider for instance, this video of Congolese singer (and newly crowned wining-god by me) Fally Ipupa’s stage performance with his band and dancers:
Predictably, under the video comments, there is one lamenting “why will a guy dance like a women [sic]” in addition to “this shit is SO gay…omg!!” The sexism and homophobia of these two comments underscore the power and meaning of the hetero (and/or assumed hetero) men who dance employing their hips, refusing to be constrained by context and widespread socio-cultural policing of acceptable vs. non-acceptable expressions of hegemonic masculinity.
What I really appreciate in this performance is the way in which the men’s gyrations seem to be performed fully, unapologetically with gusto by men, almost as a means to its own end — there are no women backup dancers bouncing around with them, and there are no women even seen in the audience within the camera’s range and this centers the men’s sexually suggestive hip movements in a uniquely singular way that I rarely see some black men do anymore.
Across the diaspora, men are allowed to be sexually suggestive in dance within reason and are even allowed to make people uncomfortable, within reason — so “daggering” might make some people uncomfortable but it’s an acceptable form of male sexually suggestive dance. R&B singers can slow wine at certain select moments, usually involving a lap dance on stage and a woman pulled from the audience or something of that nature. Wining, and men wining without women as props — not quite as acceptable.
The absence of women alone makes the performance suspect and makes some of the viewers squirm. Who are these unabashedly African men to work their waistlines so — just because they want to, just to accompany a song, just because they like to, enjoy it and feel comfortable doing so. It’s the same reason Machel Montano‘s wining made some folks so darn uncomfortable. Machel, pre-HD, pre traveling dancing troupe used to wine like a ball of twine in a performance, just like Fally and crew — just because he could. And yes, the women would scream but like Fally and them, wining was an implicit part of performance, whether or not women were visibly titillated or even there.
A woman coming to test him on stage wasn’t a preresquisite; Machel wined just because he was a “winer boy” and “a good winer man,” who planned “tuh wine til de day I die,” even encouraging women that “if yuh man cyah wine / gyal, leave him behind.”
Somewhere between wining as celebrated marker for (default) hetero masculinity, and where we are today, subtle shifts took place. A generation of young men seemed to hardly wine just for so, or just to pelt waist in the throes of musical release: they ‘stab’, they jook, they pose off in a dance, but they hardly wine like that as much anymore. And what about Lord Nelson, plunging jumpsuit neckline no less, enthusiastically showing a new generation how to get on bad, still (catch Lord Nelson bringing on The Sexy Winery around the 5:51 mark).
When someone I know posted the link to Kes the band’s “Good Day New York” appearance, some Trini guy I did not know commented about how glad he was that it was Kes and co. representing us to American audiences like this because that other guy “wines too much.” Even though, Kees wines too (though he didn’t really do any on American TV). Presumably, the commenter was referring to Machel, and it was a jab at how Machel’s performance was less appropriate (his caché of music be damned) lest the Americans see a Caribbean man wining, then all hell will break loose. Interestingly, even when women are present, at least in this video:
The men are still wining, primarily on their own, claiming their own wining space independent of dancing on and with women. It’s this beautiful mélange of music, movement and cascading poly rhythms and while the women and men are equally graceful and seamless — it is the men who mesmerize my eyes when I hit the replay button again and again. The way they dip and wine, so slow and painstaking, then fast and frenetic. There is nothing, nothing, striking me as “less masculine” in their sinuousness and sensuality, the way they match the dancing women thrust for thrust and roll for roll, and I for one, am so very glad to see this.