Posts Tagged ‘soca music’

Don’t Tell Women to Wine on Other Men to Make an Abusive Man Jealous

June 11, 2018

These were some thoughts below that I shared on Facebook about the “X” song after I first saw the video on there, and I’ve been seeing the video trending around the place again which reminded me that the song still low-key (re: high-key) bothers me despite everyone being amused by the animation. And while the animation waist throwing is mildly entertaining, the song’s directive makes me want to scream. Please, do not wine on other men to bun’ your abusive and violent man. Please don’t. The lived realities of rampant gender-based violence across the region and in the West Indian diaspora abroad means the song cannot and does not exist outside of that context. Walking Into Walls horrifically aggregates much of it (women choppings, stabbings, killed by gun, burnings, sexual violence — you name it) and these happen weekly, sometimes daily in communities all throughout the Caribbean.

Considering the levels of IPV across the region and femicide, this song had me reeling. I mean. Where to start, yes.

1. Is how a woman man cuff her in the eye in song…like?

2. I don’t know how else to explain to some people that healthy relationships and love are NOT about control, possession and ownership — even if it’s seemingly mutual. That’s not love and the many ways wining gets overlaid with ownership and possession culturally can be dangerous, actually literally dangerous in situations like this. Given how much fights, beatings and buss-head have or nearly will break out all over for reasons exactly like this.

Now, granted, two grown people can have a mutual wining contract of sorts related to boundaries, respect and other factors, but it’s really unhealthy when it’s primarily rooted in (dis)possession and notions of ownership and it only functions from that space. Culturally, that’s not the message or socialisation we often get and that kind of thinking has to be unlearnt for many people and it takes work (speaking from experience).

3. This song sets up a false dichotomy whereby the man described in this song is sufficiently “burnt” by a wine. He’s actually boxing someone in the eye (and cheating, textbook abuser stuff nah), but somehow a wine reinscribes controlling power differentials, so the woman can gi’ him as bad as he gives her by wining on other men — except that is not what’s needed at all.

4. Men like the man in this song do exist and all wining on other men does to a man like the one in this song is to piss them off MORE. It’s not cute or a path to be taken lightly despite the stick man raging amusingly. Men like the man in this song are already wont to attribute blame on the woman for all manner of perceived transgressions and “disrespect”, and many times the rationalisation is shoddy or even non-existent, ever-changing and its sole purpose is to feed the man’s bouts of rage and reframe accountability so she is incessantly at fault for his violence and rage.

5. I wish this song had a different arc altogether because even with the domestic violence message at the end, and the supposed wining as a liberatory path, it feels really painfully off too. Why is the woman “liberated” from violence by wining on other men but only for the benefit of smiting the abusive ex? Why is the abusive boyfriend crying at the end because she is blissfully wining? What does that imply? Like, whyyyyy to all of it?

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Good Wining: Dancing and Cultural Identity

November 9, 2014

“She had no timing; she was East Indian.” * 

The truth is good wining is really subjective. One person’s perceived expert daggering is another person’s “leave me alone nah.” I always like to think that I can tell where people are from — by their wining. In Caribbean parties, when a groin stealthily presses against me, fusing its oscillations into mine, sometimes I’ll dance back and afterwards, whirl around to guess triumphantly, “You’re Jamaican, aren’t you?” Sometimes I am wrong, but I am usually correct. I can tell a Trini wine too. Boy, can I tell a Trini wine. We fit like puzzle pieces riding a soca rhythm that we both know intimately. Let me restate that, a good Trini wine.

There are good wines and bad wines and across cultures, we can find different wining styles. Vincentians don’t wine like Trinbagonians or exactly like Bajans. None of this is inherently better or worse. It all depends. I like to lead and set the pace. I hate to be juggling with a dancing partner over leading a wine. Sometimes, our rhythms don’t match up. Sometimes people are off beat. And a hot mess. Sometimes, it’s all Mean Girls-esque like, “You can’t wine with us.”

So, how do we end up deciding what “good” wining looks like? It’s not so much that the video lead can’t wine in Olatunji’s recent “Wining Good” video, but when her wining then gets filtered through the peculiar lens of race and culture, some interesting things start revealing themselves. Judging by youtubers, there is plenty of that occurring with recurring echoes of this Indian girl can’t wine good forming a significant portion of the criticisms of the video. Inside of Trinidad and Tobago, cultural anxieties about race and nationality get well wrung out and tellingly signified inside of soca and calypso. Olatunji himself, is part of a rich lineage of black and Afro-descendant Trinbagonian men singing about wooing, seducing, loving, and or paying homage to a certain East Indian woman.

As I’ve noted elsewhere, wining often symbolizes sexual ownership and alternately or concurrently, sexual agency — the question of whether wining itself, is inherently, primarily, sexual is another issue altogether. I think it can be whatever you want it to be. The exact same movement can constitute a polite wine you might deliver once then hustle off and extract yourself from it. It can mean nothing. Or it can mean something. The same movement can also be incredibly sensual when both parties want to take it there.

Before Olatunji, there was Mighty Sparrow’s “sexy Marajhin“, Shurwayne’s “East Indian beauty” in “Don’t Stop“; Scrunter’s “Indian gyul beating bass pan coming up in Despers“; Preacher’s “Dulahin“; Moses Charles’ “Indrani“; Machel Montano (with Drupatee) in “Indian Gyul“; and of course, curry songs like Xtatik’s “Tayee Ayee” and Mighty Trini’s classics about “Indian obeah” or the curry and the woman who packed up and left him. I would also classify Second Imij’s enduring “Golo” as firmly within this trope too, where the golo, “this Indian beti living Caroni”, takes a firm hold of poor Uncle’s sensibilities under some questionable means. Or, we could just say that Uncle went quite tootoolbay over his Indian woman.

Conversely, Indian artistes very rarely sing about or employ Afro-descendant amours in soca, chutney or calypso. Black and African descent female soca women sing about Indian men far less than the men sing about Indian women. Denise “Saucy Wow” Belfon’s “Indian Man” and Destra’s “Come Beta” are notable exceptions. Drupatee Ramgoonai burst onto the soca scene significantly claiming her space in a male and Afro descendant space. Drupatee could not  have done so singing about how well a black man wined, I imagine. Absolutely could not. When Rikki Jai enters the soca arena, fittingly, the mango of his eye is a lovely Indian girl named “Sumintra” whose Indianness, in fact, is strongly mitigated by telling Rikki “I am a Trinbagonian” and “hol’ de Lata Mangeshkar, gimme soca.” She exists in song in sharp contrast to widely held local ideas of Indian nationalism.

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Feminist Kaiso and Soca Playlist

February 11, 2014

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Because you needed this in your life and the carnival season is upon us and because wining (without an “h”) is totally a feminist act. And some of allyuh need to be schooled in some classics.

Do note: for the purposes of my personal analysis, a feminist calypso or soca song can be feminist regardless of whether the performer has explicitly called themselves feminist. So, no, Destra may or may not consider herself feminist (I have no idea about that) but that doesn’t prevent a feminist lens from being applied to her work.

I’m also aware that male songwriters have penned some classics for women, but unless we are going to completely erase the agency of the women performers who bring the songs to life, then that too, doesn’t detract from meaning and implications. All shared art: musical, written and otherwise, is liable to interpretation, which may or may not collude with the artists’ agenda. Additionally, all songs sung by a woman aren’t implicitly feminist just because a woman sings it. Case in point: Patrice’s “Give Him (Bam Bam).” Yeah, no eh.

Anyhow, a soca or calypso song may be feminist if it advocates for women’s autonomy and agency, interrogates and or celebrates women’s sexual agency (in soca and calypso, this is often symbolised by the free movement of and “ownership” of the bam bam as well as wining); reinscribes social mores, or advocates for or examines gender (in)equality, or complicates how we think about gender or gender roles in society. Or just sounds good to the feminist ear. Basically, if feminists can flex out to it and not cringe inwardly, then we might be on to something.

Without further ado, some of my favourite feminist chunes in no particular order. (List is not at all exhaustive. List is also, arguably, very Trini soca/calypso oriented.)

“Die With My Dignity”: because you shouldn’t have to bull for a wuk. Unless of course that is what your work entails. Voluntarily, safely and with personal agency of course. (We don’t slutshame or invalidate sex work in these here parts.)

Also, because Singing Sandra was part of The United Sisters, the first ever all-woman kaiso soca group and she’s a legend!

Sample lines: “Well if is all this humiliation/ to get a job these days as a woman/ Brudda, dey go keep dey money/ I go keep my honey and die with my dignity!”

Which leads me to “Whoa Donkey” by The United Sisters because of soca sisterhood and the no-attempt-to-hide-sexual-innuendo coupled with a dance that is nothing short of classic. Sample lines: “Tonight in de fete/ Is ride until yuh wet/ climb up on ah back. . .”

Saddle up, fellas! And ladies.

“Obsessive Winers.” Denise, Alison and Destra. Soca Queen Triad who doh deal with outta timers. That is all.

Calypso Rose’s version of a classic, “Rum and Coca-Cola.” She is a Tobagonian by birth from the sister isle and the first woman to ever win a Road March title!

Drupatee Ramgoonai for rewriting social, gender and racial expectations as the first female East Indian soca star. (Also see the equally classic “Mr. Bissessar.”)

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Updates: On life, living etc.

November 18, 2012

So, while I have missing from my corner of the blogosphere (if anyone noticed), I have been staying relatively busy on the Facebook page, linking and posting all manner of poetry, articles, images that inspire and incite and more, from various web sojourns. I suppose, overall, lots of stuff has been taking place — let’s see, I got a manuscript accepted. My forthcoming (and first!) poetry chapbook will come out in late 2013, published by the ethereal and immensely talented dancing girl press. It will be suffused with hibiscus, creaking spines, dark rum, blackness and blackgirl love.

Also, in the meantime, my heart has been aching for Palestine, I have kept peeping my favorite blogs (yeah, I see you all), I’ve been bonding more with Mama Oshun, snuggling regularly with a certain deliciously warm and wonderful brown body, I got involved with the Two Lips collective project where I’ll be trying to work all kinds of black-West Indian-femme-feminist-fierceness in partnership with Kayla from Sage (among others); I watched Sesame Street (random post coming on that soon); I got more in tune with my cosmic ish (take heed: Jupiter is in retrograde allyuh!); plus, I got thoroughly annoyed with the ever tiring myth of Indian exceptionalism being spewed by one of our country’s ambassadors (post might be coming on that soon) Grrrr.

All that taking place, then I saw this:

OK, to start with, I understand that “jokey soca” is supposed to be a genre onto itself (see some chunes by Crazy for example) which is separate from picong, though the traditions inform one another in some ways. This is also separate from the tradition of double entendre in soca and kaiso which, may or may not, be funny. Alright — now with that said, we can connect cultural notions of Trinbagonian picong too to similar diasporic manifestations like “playing the dozens” where insults and barbs are “New World” incarnations of African sociolinguistic expressions and the oral tradition carried within descendants of the earliest Africans.

We also cannot categorically consider this song anything close to picong because there is only one voice in the song and that is of Myron B’s. Picong involves an exchange of wits at least. The woman has no voice here. I’ve noted before how even inside supposedly “jokey” soca — there are always problematic elements of truthtelling about who we are as a people and who we decide to make fun of and in what ways.  In Anthurium, Andrea Shaw has observed how the fat black female body became this site for hypersexualisation in soca and dancehall, as well as humor.

Note the kind of big woman in this music video, note her shade, note her nod to Mammy — her simultaneous pseudo-sexualisation (from the first attraction) then the chronic, progressive desexualization throughout the song and video; this is key here: the fact that the “attraction” and whatever sexual attributes once there, (oh wait, it’s happening only because he never dated someone 300 lbs before) positively shrink throughout the song and the fat black woman is in fact, the central punchline by the end. The joke is on her actually, never him, even though they end up in a bed together and he ends up in bandages and he would like us to think the joke is on him (she dreams of ice-cream while next to him, remember?). And that’s a problem. The whole thing is a problem.

Image via: Buttah Love

The very premise of fat women and fat black women as voyeuristic challenges for a man to prove his manly mettle because of their size, is problematic all on its own and not just because real fatphobia exists and women who don’t fit in the dominant paradigm’s mandate of what an appropriate size should be end up having to deal with these same attitudes from too many people every damn day. It’s not okay because fat people are human beings and their feelings are valid just like anyone else’s. Their right to exist free from body shame, bullying and damaging parodies is valid, again, just like anyone else’s.

Women’s Sexuality and Music: On Pretty Pussies and (giving) the Bam-Bam

May 21, 2011

The first time I heard of (a) pretty pussy was when someone I knew referenced the song to me. It was so awkward, I didn’t even have the presence of mind to properly process a problematic compliment. Lady Saw said what? was my preeminent thought, followed by something in the zone of, buh what de. . . ? It was also the first time that I really reckoned with the notion that pussies could be pretty, and that women as well as men, from my part of the world were just as concerned with the notion of tidy, pretty, vaginal parts. I knew a smattering of people in general, up here, were concerned with such it seems, if the articles on cosmetic vaginoplasty I came across in popular magazines were any indication. Recently, on Jezebel, I read a contemplation on whether porn gave men unrealistic expectations of what the variegations in vaginas really look like, essentially a reminder that: “your ladyflower is not the wrong color”, (nor possessing the wrong lip length) despite what popular pornographic renderings might tell you.

I was also out of it because to be honest, I really haven’t taken on much of the new (or relatively new) dancehall now, or at that time. I can just barely skip to my lou (yes, I know that’s already old by now, but that’s my point) and I haven’t paid too much attention to Lady Saw since “The Healing”, still my favourite dancehall love-song duo ever. And of course, if I’m in a party, I will totally get perpendicular to her “Back-Shot”, and “Sycamore Tree” to name just a couple.  Overall, I do dig  Lady Saw though, more so than not; her brashness, skill, vocal dexterity: one minute hitting a powerful guttural note, the next purring dangerously or riding a riddim with unapologetic sexually-laden gusto.

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How Sweet the Sound

March 2, 2011

In the spirit once more, of the Merry Monarch’s reign supreme and a fascination with all (if not, most) things soca: I’ve been happily musing on 2011 soca trends. West Indian  popular culture, of  course, offers no end of  fodder — whether it’s sex and dancehallkaiso feminisms, the performance of masculinity by male soca stars, peripatetic postulations around black women’s derrières or, whether palancing is good for the soul (word is, it is).

On that note, it was interesting to see Africa (& strong African elements) trending hard in soca this season. Real damn hard. This season is long but some of these songs came out early, inundating my ears with thundering drums, rippling along polyrhythmic syncopations replete with echoes of the Motherland, or “the jungle” (or both?) On the appropriately titled “Swahili” riddim, there’s Denise “Saucy Wow” Belfon’s “Dance and Dingolay, and” Pelf’s “Obeah“, then there’s Alison Hinds’ “Makelele“; plus, Bunji Garlin’s “De African“, making it feel like “de Maroons never gone” indeed. It is enough to make yuh want to roll an’ tumble down — in the best way possible, that is.

Bunji’s song revisits a kind of neo-Africanness through the eyes of those who view him in Germany first, in the opening stanza, vascillating between his “Trini-man” identity, his Trinidadian identity and his skin colour which is read as African, moving through a celebratory reckoning of said cultural identity: “standard in meh hand / like ah spear going brave,” and “standing up jus like ah chief,” (with Bajans, Antiguans and Grenadians acknowledged along the spectrum) — in one of the most non-euphemistimic ways I’ve heard in new, contemporary soca in a while — he merges all three. Garlin, is also the Black Spaniard, a globalised West Indian citizen, constantly evoking spit-fire identities like a chameleon, as he ever complicates his cultural identity in song.  Additionally, Cassie’s “Tong (Town) Ting” asserts and celebrates the downtown, behind-de-bridge, Piccadilly Greens and all other “tong girls” — “red, darkie and  brown-skin”, whom his zipper wants to take ah grip on — this, all atop a sweet kaiso melody.

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on being brave

February 17, 2010

do people truly sit down and vibes over what ian alvarez is saying/singing sometimes? cause sometimes i really don’t think they do—and they should. and yes, i consider it a kind of intellectual laziness when some people say how he is chanting “too fas” so they couldn’t be bothered.

anyhoo, on the eve of the merry monarch’s 2010 reign, a few timely words from the black spaniard’s “brave”. instant classic i say.

cuh-lass-sick.

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on why palancing is [probably] good for your soulcase

February 15, 2010

Like many Trinbagonians not home for this year’s Carnival season, I watched (tried to anyway, on that god awful feed) and listened to the 2010 soca monarch feed online on carnival Friday. At the end, when the results were called, I wasn’t sure how I felt about “Palance” coming out on top. I really wasn’t.

Then I tried to break down why that was so. Mainly because initially, I didn’t think that “Palance” was an exceptionally crafted song—lyrically or otherwise—and for my personal musical aesthetic, that matters, to me. The hook was timely for sure, ridiculously catchy and infectious. Clearly, I am not a soca monarch judge either, and at the end of the day that is neither here nor there in the end picture.  Nevertheless! It is interesting to think about. Smidge of an occasional soca snob? Perhaps I am. Especially while sober. [Ok, usually while sober].  (more…)