Dem Bajans So It Go

The following is reproduced from the StabroekNews.Com

Dave Martin of the Tradewinds fame

Dave Martin of the Tradewinds fame

From the start of Tradewinds, I’ve always had a thing with ‘dem Bajans.’ While it’s true that the band initially became popular in 1968 from Trinidad radio stations hammering my ‘Honeymooning Couple‘ song, it was the Bajans who first got on the Tradewinds bandwagon and embraced the group immediately in a way that would only be equalled in time by Guyana.

It was one of those ‘love at first sight things’ that just happen, without one knowing exactly why. There was an immediate connection between the Bajans and our music.

Barbados was the place we first realised we had arrived. You would hear the band’s music as you passed houses, or going by little drinking spots, or even from the radios of passing cars, with the taxis, in particular, having it at high volume. In our heyday, with our Bajan man Vic Fernandes organizing the gigs, we appeared in the popular spots but Vic also put us in the countryside venues where few visiting bands went. We would play Drill Hall, North Point, and a delightful rustic place (the name eludes) on the extreme edge of Barbados’ east coast overlooking the sea.

The Bajans came wherever we played (I remember the LIAT girls trying to slip in from the back wall at Pandora’s; I joked that they were making requests even though they were poping) and part of the pull for me was my affinity for the Bajan personality. Where Jamaicans and Trinis can be very flamboyant, there is a kind of restrained polish to the Bajans that appealed to the country boy in me, plus I love their British sense of humour as opposed to the vagabond Trinidad picong.

By Caribbean standards, Bajans have a kind of sophisticated cool (it takes a lot to ruffle them) and will remain apparently immune to behaviours that cause eruptions in other parts of the region. Their attitude to gay people, for example: behaviour that would cause strong outbursts and even violence in Jamaica will result in a calm stare from the Baje, a slow turn of the head, and a brief steups. One night at a countryside fete, with our man Vic Fernandes collecting money at the gate, a sharply dressed Bajan came to the entrance, put down his money and told Vic, “Two tickets; for me and she.” He was pointing to the person beside him, who, to Vic’s astonishment, was another man. Anywhere else in the Caribbean a scene of much merriment and tantalise would follow that scene; all it caused in Barbados was a few slow stares.

From the beginning as well you had to notice the Barbadian sense of order. I’m going back here now 44 years, but even then it was there. There was order on the streets and in business places; buildings were well lit and maintained, and if you had to do some official business it didn’t take you all day. In those days, Tradewinds travelled with all of our musical equipment (drums; p.a. system; amplifiers; even microphone stands) and clearing it was always easier in Barbados than anywhere else.

Over the years, in our many visits there (West Indies Records Limited pressed our LPs for the Caribbean market) the relationship deepened, and I made many friends there including an almost brotherly connection with Vic Fernandes that lives to this day.

It is a pleasure to go to Barbados now to see how far they’ve come. In a relatively small land space, aided by a thriving tourism economy, they have made wonderful progress and simply driving around the island the evidence is there of the First World country they have become. Although they boast a number of modern high-rise buildings, Barbados has been able to retain much of the beguiling original architecture in its coral-stone buildings and in the striking flat-roof wooden buildings from an earlier time. The roads, by Caribbean standards, are impressive and have lately been enhanced with a collection of impressive roundabouts (the Bajans navigate them energetically while grumbling “all dese damn roundabouts”). Good eating places are everywhere in the island. One of my favourites is the open air roadside arrangement at Oistin’s where fish and ground provision meals come to you fresh off the fireside, but good eating places are common, and almost any cuisine you want they’ve got.

“Pon de road,” in their lingo, Barbadians are kind to other drivers and to pedestrians. They will stop and let pedestrians across even with no crosswalk (don’t try that in Georgetown or Port-of-Spain), and in heavy traffic they will stop and let a driver out from a cross street. Mind you, the road situation is so dense it’s bewildering (when I was there recently a government Minister announced there was no land left to build more roads in town) so maybe the good behaviour is “I help you now, you help me later,” but it is warming to see. There are some outstanding developments, such as the high-end Lime Grove shopping complex, and the apparatus of Bridgetown (signage, parking, lighting, sidewalks) is in fine shape. On the south coast of the island there is now a heavy-lumber boardwalk along the seashore for a mile or so, well maintained, with garbage bins (there is no litter, GT, none) with scores of people using it year round.

Despite its small land space, Barbados is home to a range of communities each with a different ambience and each with its own adherents, one being the area south of Bridgetown. As the columnist Daniel Brettig described it: “Walk down the coast road from Hastings towards St Lawrence Gap and its bars and restaurants. There is always something to see, always a happy face to talk to. When I attempt to cross the road at one point, the traffic stops for me on both sides.” Don’t try that in Kingston or in …well, you know.

Although hurting from the tourism downturn of the past three years, Barbados remains a vibrant community with modern amenities and, for such a small area, some very attractive landscapes. Underneath it all, the Bajan warmth and discipline is probably the main factor in its success. One final note: amid all the order, Barbados is not without its characters. One I recall like yesterday was a lady I dubbed the F… Preacher. This middle-aged woman, spry as a chick, would hold forth on the sidewalk in Bridgetown with the most virulent preaching including an array of cusswords worthy of a drunken sailor ashore. I froze the first time I heard her with the F’s and the R’s flying. Local folks would stroll by, give her a long stare, and yes, a short steups.

That’s dem Bajans. They’re special!

0 thoughts on “Dem Bajans So It Go

  1. Best piece of Bajan marketing I have read in a long time. All free to boot.

    On another note, I musse the only person who always thought that the Tradewinds was a Bajan band. Cheez on bred. Dem Guyaneses musse bin laughing at me when I bragged about we Tradewwinds. lol.

  2. David, this is good one to bring some balance to the current scenario; a positive piece of yesterday’s and a bit of today’s Barbados…The one De facto element that has changed how ever is the emphasis on material values of the Bajan…instead of doing real business we continue to mind other people’s Business… no pun intended
    While some do not consciously think about these things or find them of importance; One’s thoughts, utterances and attitude influences ones immediate environment! If we take a closer look at the folk saying “God is Bajan” there is some merit to the statement from the perspective of our environment. The earth is a living planet; change our thoughts and attitudes the environment responds accordingly.
    No one can say for sure when our immediate environment will react to crush the thoughts of a people who have moved way for their spiritual orientation as mother nature has done throughout history…IDF

  3. Way to go , David! Not to take away any of the shine from the Tradewinds, but the only other band of those days that could equal them was our own Merrymen. Ah lie?

    • @Hoodie

      The BU household gives the edge to the Tradewinds. They have a wider repertoire of music. Maybe DJ disagrees 🙂

  4. Barbados still sweet
    Wish we could go back in time though.
    We here in Barbados take it for granted because of familiarity but to those visiting, that underlying Bajan quality of yesteryear is still here.
    Sometimes I put myself in visitor’s shoes thus seeing Barbados asa visitor and marvel at how eduring the Bajan Brand is it
    Even the ZRs and Minibuses that we opposed, there are tourists who come to Barbados and insists on taking a drive in the Reggae Buses as they call them.
    And talk about Oistins: Anytime you can come to a country and go to a place like Oistins, the top spot in Barbados, where people congregate in an atmosphere , what is does is immediately relax you. The positive warmth that exudes from Oistins, the feeling of gay abandonment, (no pun) warms your heart and make you fall in love eith the place.
    Try it , you might like it !

  5. @ David…now I am sure that I am one up on you.The Tradewinds have a wider repertoire of music than the Merrymen?Wheel and come again,for if the party is in St.James you my friend are somewhere close to Harrison’s Cave.

  6. Look, there are two Barbados’s, both then and now; the one that Vic Fernands and company would cater to (BTW the property on the East Coast is the Crane Beach) the descendants of the traditional elite and their ‘wanna be’ tag alongs and the rest of the ordinary folk who would be confined to the Draytons and the Mark Williams/Vic Brewster/Al Gilkes productions. This Piece is complimenting but really not all that accurate.

  7. @ JUST ASKING | January 27, 2013 at 7:42 PM |
    “And talk about Oistins: Anytime you can come to a country and go to a place like Oistins, the top spot in Barbados, where people congregate in an atmosphere , what is does is immediately relax you.”

    Very true! Oistins is a veritable goldmine and the visitors like the relaxed al fresco ambience. Up to last Friday evening a few visitors from the UK (the West country) told me how much they were enamoured with the place.
    That is why the miller is giving early advice and don’t let the horse bolt from the stable.
    Please, Messrs Authorities, please make sure this facility is maintained at a relatively high standard and at the Bajan level best.

    We need to provide another set of washrooms to take some of the pressure off and inconvenience to the excessively high human traffic experienced at this entertainment oasis where business turnover is massive. The Ladies washroom is under severe constant pressure forcing some desperate but bold females to resort to the use of the male section.

    When the facility was constructed under the previous administration it was never envisaged that this night spot would become so popular among both visitors and locals alike and would transform into the No.1 nightspot rivaling or outdoing St. Lawrence Gap.

    The Health and Safety Act requires we act immediately to rectify this pending embarrassment. We have already experienced recently too many negatives in our major source market. Let us be proactive and try to do better and avoid unnecessary future embarrassing write ups of scandal about our hygiene and toilet facilities.

    • Maybe some thought can be given to relocating the garbage holding to the SE which is up wind. Why would this be the case give that offal etc would be dumped there.

  8. The BU household gives the edge to the Tradewinds.

    For me it is a matter of preference.

    I liked The Tradewinds. Didn’t like the Merrymen.

  9. I hope someone will formally archive music and videos by West Indian calypso bands.

    I particularly enjoy the YouTube videos of live shows from the 70s and 80s.

  10. @Hants
    Don’t know how long you’ve been in TO but long time residents tell me that they attended dances when the Trade Winds were the feature band.

    Here is one of my favourites

    • @Baffy

      The feelings that drives one to like different genres of music is a very subjective thing. This one is for you:

  11. @BAFBFP
    Look, there are two Barbados’s, both then and now; the one that Vic Fernands and company would cater to (BTW the property on the East Coast is the Crane Beach)
    What would this thread be without you bringing up the socio-economic dynamic, so what venues did you go to? The YMPC to hear Boo Rudder and the BRC? The Drill Hall? Brandons? Did you go to Brams to hear Bill Black HI FI? You evah dance to Mocking Bird? Did you attend Horse Hill casino? You evah buy a 50 cent pork chop at Club Randall?

    I suspect that you are one of the ‘traditional elite” who just like to stir up shite, I bet yuh still got your Sandpebbles and Ivory LP and yuh Fern Trail 45.

  12. Dis one had a gun … dah one had a gun …
    Man deh gun shoot each other fah fun …
    Wey de men … wey de men
    All dah gun lef is women …

    Now that is genius. You people would NOT know genius if it jumped up and slapped you in the face. Tradewinds song writing, with the greatest of respect was pedestrian in comparison.

  13. Sargeant

    You cannot deny what I have said so why play ad hominem. It hate it as much as the next guy but it is part of my history. I ripened a bit later; Outfit, Harmony, Four Play (For the People), Admiral Nelson, Wayne Kool … that sort of time frame .. and the overseas talent came in the form of Marley, Third World and Rudder. Now these were World class, regional perfectionists …!

  14. The “rustic” place on the east coast was Foster’s Funland in Boscobelle, St. Peter. Massive crowd of regular people and others on the Tradewinds first and only performance there.

  15. Thanx for bringing back the fond memory of one of my favourite evenings wid Dem Bajans.

    When I was asked by my boss in December 1999 if I would go to Barbados for a temporary work assignment, I had to look at a map to see where it is.

    When I arrived Barbados, and the first two songs playing on the radio in the taxi taking me to my hotel were by Shania Twain and Celine Dion, I thought I must still be in Canada. At that point I had never heard of the Merrymen, in spite of their many appearance at Ontario Place in the 1960s and 1970s; and knew nothing about calypso music. And certainly had not heard of Tradewinds.

    A few weeks after being in Barbados one of the guys at work asked me if I was going to see the Merrymen, who were playing at a fundraiser that night at The Yacht Club. It was the first time I had heard of them, but went; and loved their music.

    The next time I heard the Merrymen were performing, they were playing a concert at the Kendal Sporting Club out in the middle of nowhere in St Philip, with the Troubadours and Tradewinds also performing. Start time was advertised as 9:00. I still had not accepted that dem Bajans don’t start noting on time; so being the punctual Canadian I am, I arrived just before 9:00, and was almost alone. As people rolled in slowly, I remember wondering if anyone under 50 would show up; By 11:00, when the concert finally got started, there was a big crowd; but no one under 40.

    Well that was one of the best shows ever. Dave Martins and Tradewinds were outstanding (and hilarious), as were the Troubadours and Merrymen. Apparently it is the only time the three groups performed in the same show.

    It was a long drive back to my place at Rockley (probably got lost a few times) at 2:00 or 3:00 am, but it sure was worth the trip.

    Now that you have me started, I probably will spend the day listening to Tradewinds and Merrymen videos on Youtube.

    Thanx again for bringing back these memories

    Hants, Well Well etc, it would be great if someone could arrange a Merrymen/Tradewinds concert in Toronto.

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