Is Crop Over … Over? Are we Beating a Dead Horse?

Submitted by Pachamama
30 years later has Crop Over become more about beads and feathers rather than cultural expression?

30 years later has Crop Over become more about beads and feathers rather than cultural expression?

More than 30 years ago Barbados sought to resurrect what we called Crop Over. It was argued then that such a festival would be good for tourism, the promotion of local cultural expressions, an aid for young people to learn local culture etc. These are all worthy, but limiting, aspirations. However, the festival has steadily been losing its essence, has been declining or failing to capture the imagination of the world. Indeed it appears that there is no more space for Crop Over to promote cultural development. This is not an exception, for cultural expression seems to have been generally arrested. It is an ‘arrested development’ where the established calypsonians, as the main force behind the festival, and who used to imbue a sense of cultural rivalry are withdrawing those energies. The replacements are not from that era and therefore represent a different interpretation of ethos. In this there is a certain monotony in the lyrics, rhythms and rhymes etc. This monotony maybe a function of inbreeding even when one recognizes cultural influences from elsewhere. The management has been beset, from nearly the beginning, with internal tensions that were never helpful for development.

Our anecdotal judgments may indeed be proved incorrect by facts on the ground, all types of studies and the general feelings of the people. But some of us no longer feel the urge to be in Barbados at Crop Over time. It no longer matters that 8 or 9 or 10 festivals could be missed in a row. The past excitement of Crop Over is no longer infectious.  We have seen festivals in Brazil a few times, Trinidad a dozens of times, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent etc and this general lethargy maybe merely a generational thing where the current group of young people find these public demonstrations of fun and frolic as irresistible as we did 30 years ago. But we tend to think not.

When we hear ‘modern’ musical offerings we tend not to perceive any greater genius or further development than we gleamed from ‘Jack’ or ‘Boots” by the Mighty Gabby. The well of nationhood seemed to have been filled by Red Plastic Bag’s ‘Sugar Made Us Free” and John King’s ‘I Want a Plantation’. Maybe there is a gap between the requirements for everyday life and the inspirational intent of our public poets. Maybe the commercialization of the music business has encourage market demands above all else. Maybe the breath of fire from our griols has been outted by the passage of time. Maybe the longitudinal studies will show that festivals ebb and flow even if at this historical moment we see stasis.

Now, there are those of the ‘older’ generation that tend to recoil from what they see as ‘noise’ not real music. This lobby argues that there are too many parties. That even cricket is a part of the national partying mentality. That Barbados is a party country. To some extent they are right. Partying has long been employed, from the Romans to the Americans, as a device to distract from the real problems citizens have, though this lobby is unlikely to be inspired by the need for transformation in Barbados, some of that could be involved here too, but what maybe to lacking maybe a more substantial national project that the thousands who frolic in the streets could be part of, on a day to day basis. There could be a national project that consumes the energies of our people in material terms making Crop Over an expression of that wider national project. Maybe, we need to ask more questions about the purposes of this festival. Is it possible to use it as a tool for development? If we are to have a master plan for development, to what should it be linked? Should it be merely linked to in increased tourist arrivals? Should we think fundamentally and link this festival to its African origins with all that that means? If we do, would there be room for political, economic, social, technological, environmental and legal development that surpasses the limitations of Barbados as a function of time and space?

45 thoughts on “Is Crop Over … Over? Are we Beating a Dead Horse?

  1. Pacha

    Crop Over is the celebration of YOUTH, hear … Da is why I still Brek Up after Friday … The celebration lef me and gone … HA HA HA

  2. I think the question that has to be answered (because it has been asked many, many times) is the spending on crop-over cost effective? Despite ALL the hype and predictions LAST year by senior members of the BTA and MOT, July 2012 recorded 12 per cent LESS long stay visitors and August 2012 -. recorded 13.6 per cent LESS.
    Again, there have been all sorts of predictions and statements this year saying you cannot get an airline seats, all the hotels are chock-a-block etc., but I would prefer to see the evidence. No-one (else) has yet mentioned that there are currently somewhere around 1,200 – 1,500 less airline seats PER WEEK available this year.

  3. @ Baf
    That is not true man. In Brazil and T&T people of all ages get involved. @ Dennis Johnson
    Thanks again for you correction.

  4. @ Adrian

    We are thinking that tourism alone cannot keep this thing going. We think we have to look at a more fundamental approach involving everything else.

    • @Pacha

      What do you really want to know? If we judge by the numbers can we say we are flogging a dead horse?

      Are you thinking that Crop Over is not an expression of our culture? In which case why have we been doing it so for the last 30 years?

  5. Maybe if we put on something worth seeing, people would come to see it. The way it looks now, it’s just “Bad Las Vegas”. Be nice to have a Jazz festival again too. This place is dying quick. All talk & no action.

  6. Did we hear that Crop Ova will generate close to $80 million in revenue during Jun- Aug D once deadest commercial period of the year. Why if so… what all the lotta long talk is about?…. Pancha we soon got much bigger fish to fry…have no fear….Bajan will soon need two festivals not one.

  7. According to some in the Black community Caribana in Toronto was going to die.
    then it became the SCOTIABANK CARIBBEAN CARNIVAL and bringing $400million Canadian dollars to the Toronto economy.

    And this weekend there is also the TD BANK IRIE Music Festival.

    So why don’t you create a BARBADOS CARNIVAL based on Trinidad carnival and an Afrocentric cropover.

    Festivals and carnivals generate and circulate money.

    BAFBFP you should have come to Toronto just for the

  8. The under 25’s have no real emotions about the “Crop” in Crop Over. How many of them saw sugar cane as the reason for their [or their family’s] wealth? So the music they create has no connection to the “crop”. The costumes they design [and desire] have no connection to the “crop”.

    So, it is carnival – Bajan style. A little T&T [costume] + a little China [beads & feathers] + a little Jamaica [music] = Crop Over 2013. Will it last? As long as the fetes keep growing; yes! Competitions? Not so sure.

    As far as being a vehicle for tourism; outside of the returning nationals and a few of their friends; I don’t see much of a future. Unless our room rates are spectacular [read really low], why travel to Barbados to see a version of carnival that mirrors Antigua, Trinidad, Grenada, or St. Vincent? And with the exception of T&T, all those festivals fall within the “summer” period. The Trinidadians may travel to Barbados to hold fetes, stage shows, perform at shows and take sections of a band [that they part-own] – they will see it as revenue for their businesses; even a market for their next year’s costumes!

    That’s my 2 cents.

  9. The NCF seems to be on a track that restricts the festival to Barbados year after year.The lack of creativity on the part of those in control still boggles the mind. As is the case with our tourism product the festival is not properly marketed outside of Barbados. During the stroll around VOB country every morning the host shouts out Mary Rouse in the house(Toronto) Dina in China, Monique in Mozambique, and on and on till we get the sense that there are bajans living everywhere. They as well as others with a click of the mouse are exposed to the festivals in Brazil, Trinidad, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Antigua. Crop Over on the other hand is so great that it does not need the exposure outside of Barbados.

    • @Dennis

      Your comment describes accurately current state but it suggests a more serious problem. Are societies not suppose to ensure transfer of customs history through time periods? If our people of just 30 years ago are not able to identity with Crop and Sugar Cane, really!

  10. @HH:
    And the Minister thanks the visiting press for being here, and hopes that they will spread the word and encourage other to come next year!

    But local stations that are streamed all over the world [as you just pointed out!], get treated as second class citizens at some events! The visiting press are VIP’s

    Go figure!

  11. David wrote “Are societies not suppose to ensure transfer of customs history through time periods?”

    Absolutely but the festival in Barbados called “Cropover” is mostly a copy of Trinidad carnival.

    Surely our creative leaders can produce a true “Crop over” festival with a component that adds the historical reference.

  12. @David:
    How many time have the current King & Queen of the Crop won those titles? Why? Many estates [apparently] no longer take note of who reaps how much. If they do, do they pass the information on to the NCF?

    The same way we fuss over who won how many Pic-o-de-Crop Crowns, and who should be made to defend their crown; and we fuss over how many cars Mikey & Blood win [or will win]; and which female will win one day; do we fuss over the King & Queen of the Crop?

    I rest my case!

    • @DJ

      Agree that there is an out of alignment situation which will remain once the focus is on glamour to serve as an event for the BTA to promote Barbados. Crop Over by and large is fueled by the 2 or 3 events. Those events which focus on the other creatives are merely token. The challenge for Barbados is that Carnivals are a dime a dozen around the world. Those festivals which are infectious and sustainable as Pacha alluded like Brazil has driving it a strong cultural element. We need to look at the Festival with a critical and sincere eye. What about Crop Over we can develop more. The soca music component is suffocating the Festival.

      Something which has been bugging BU as well is the appointment of Cranston Browne. The figurehead of the NCF must be a veritable Guru of all things cultural.

  13. On one of my visits to Barbados the popular song that year included lyrics about “Mash up and Buy Back”

    I prefer “Restructure and Sell”.

    Like many of the great things about Barbados we need to Makeover Cropover.

    Maybe that will be the title of a

  14. @Hants:
    I don’t think the “guardians of our heritage” and the “craftsmen of our fate” see what you call a “true Crop Over” as anything they can market and make money from. Too much work! Not enough wukk [or wukk-up]!

  15. Hants

    I million ppl in the streets … WOW! I dey next year … HA


    Do you want to know what brought Crop Over into its own? The wuk-up. Wukkin’ up started in Barbados in the early nineties and spread to Jamaica dance hall and other places. Believe me when I tell you that in Antiguans, a place with a very long history of Carnival, are still waving their hands in the air (other than at passa passa etc). Trinidad, the Carnival hub, have only recently started “wining” up (watered down wukkin’ up) .. in fact it is Masha who actually used the word “Wukk-Up” in a Trini Calypso for the first time ever. Some Lucian try to convince me that they were wukkin’ up in St Lucia for years and he show some wining up looking, French Creole kinda somet’ng that granted looked smart.

    Nah … wukkin’ up is what Crop Over is about and a lotta Brazilians have come here to learn a thing or two. Trinis come here and do the kinda shite that would not be caught doing on the streets in Trinidad. Sweet man

    This is NO carnival, this is somet’ing different … This is Crop Ova …

  16. David read my post at | August 4, 2013 at 6:58 PM |

    Festivals are opportunities.

    Here is where the young mostly white Torontonians were this weekend.

    “The two-day Veld Music Festival is bringing some of the top artists in the electronic dance music (EDM) genre including the Toronto-based Deadmau5 to the stage this weekend.

    Organizers say that throughout the weekend, some 50,000 people will show up at Downsview Park to see them.

  17. @DJ the “guardians of our heritage” are failing the young people of Barbados whose values are already being shaped by Satellite TV.

  18. “We need to look at the Festival with a critical and sincere eye. What about Crop Over we can develop more. The soca music component is suffocating the Festival.”

    There ought to be a complete decoupling of the Festival from its 1970’s roots.
    Doesn’t it sound a bit embarrassingly out of place to refer to it as “Crop Over” when the activity that gave birth to it is no longer around?

    Why not call it the “Bajan Music Festival” instead of Crop Over when there will be no more sugar crop going forward.
    The scenario painted @Dennis Johnson | August 4, 2013 at 7:08 PM | is indicative of the Carnival type future of the commercial oriented event with little or no cultural relevance to the extinct sugar industry and the country’s agricultural heritage.

    Early rebranding is necessary to minimize the embarrassment ‘knotted’ in that phrase sugar crop or ‘pic of de crop’.

  19. Miller

    With respect … If the Crop becomes extinct … does that NOT mean that the Crop Over … even if its fah good ..? Stupse

  20. Sensible Bajans are more concerned about their economic future and well being than about ‘wuk-up’ and foolish music.Cannot wait for all the nonsense to finish tomorrow.

  21. The Intellectually and politically bankrupt and discredited DLP and BLP must – within five years – be permanently removed from the governmental political landscape of this country.

    They must be replaced by a serious progressive people-centered nationalist coalitional government.

    If this does not happen within 9 to 14 years, there shall be substantial
    declines in the social political material financial sectors realms of this country.

    The fact this shall happen will mean that – the local Bajan culture – which is supposed to a historical transporter of many well honed well established local traditions and values; a political bastion against adverse corrosive foreign influences; and a social mechanism for fostering much social integration and harmony in the country – shall have also been made to be greater weakening in its essences, forms, and interconnections for a long time up to the next 9 to 14 years and

    Imagine this: that some years ago in Barbados, then Senator John Williams – a MInister of State – under an Owen Arthur led Administration, had talked about removing the delivery of the last canes from the official opening of Crop Over, as part of some re-branding of the wider Crop Over Festival, to make it more amenable to other social groups.

    Whether or not there have been over the years declines in the contribution of sugar cane to the political economy and services industry sectors of this country, it surely does not make any sense whatsoever to remove the concept symbol of the sugar/cane ( which symbolically still remains part of the Barbados Coat of Arms) from such a festival that has long had its historical bases in the activities of celebrating ‘crop over’ on many of the sugar plantation estates of long ago Barbados.

    It was monstrous for Williams – who we think had been speaking on the behalf of the entire BLP government at the time – at that particular opening gala – to have suggested that the historical cultural importances of the sugar industry could have been so easily thrown away to cultural waste heap.

    For, it is ‘sugar’ that has helped substantially to ensure the growth and development of this country, from a white dominated plantation enslavement based political economy in the 17 th Century, to a multiracial dominated labour and mechanical based diversified political economy and services industries sectors in the 21 st Century.

    So, by that type of proposal to deliberate weaken this particular facet of the Crop Over Festival and of the Bajan culture, points to a still ongoing grotesque and sinister effort of a wider plan of some culturally backward historically superficial middle class people in the political managerial class to undermine much of the historical consciousness and much of the cultural heritage of the majority of the masses and middle classes of people of this country, by their putting greater emphasis on fomenting excess hedonism, entertainment, and money illusions amongst the greatest numbers possible of the broad masses and middle classes.

    NO wonder this ignorance called cultural industries – which is really essentially the letting go of another trojan horse among the said masses and middle classes in Barbados.


  22. Bag Juice

    You gon’ spen you’ life focussing on things that you ain’ got nah control over atall atall …? Man Wukkup do … 🙂

  23. @ The People’s Democratic Congress | August 4, 2013 at 8:22 PM |

    Your juicily argued point would have been more sweetly convincing if you had made a similar but more powerful argument for the revival of the sugar cane industry.
    Not only to protect the country’s ecological vulnerability and support its important forex earning rum industry by adding more local value but also to maintain and reinforce the cultural traditions that are built on this major backbone of our agricultural DNA.

    Why have a festival when the main component that underpins the festival is missing?
    It’s like going to a horse show and fair and there are no horses, only motor cars on show.

    If you get rid totally of sugar then what would be used as the cultural prop in the ceremonial last delivery of the crop? Imported plastic imitations of the sugar cane made in China or India?
    The problem with the sugar industry in Bim is one of management. Too many highly paid politically driven bosses in the offices and too few canes in the fields. That is what is killing the industry and the culture surrounding it.

  24. Modern day crop over activities, from the start, did not have any connections with the old crop over activities on the plantation estates many many years ago.

    As a matter of fact governments and many people have vicariously superimposed forwards impressions of those old crop over festivities fundamentally because of their understanding to ritualize re-enact some parts of the Barbadian history, even if the purposes for doing so are have not been clearly defined.

    So, in an attempt to link aspects of the history of ‘sugar’ with this modern day Crop Over, government and Crop Over officials have had the ceremonial delivery of the last canes (used to be held at many different plantation yards), King and Queen of the Crop, etc.

    As many, many people in Barbados know too modern day Crop Over was not founded on ‘sugar’ but primarily on tourism considerations and considerations for boosting business during slow periods. But it is the ceremonial delivery of the last canes that is of great historical cultural importance to an understanding by some Barbadians that there could have been no Crop Over without ‘sugar’ being involved and without it tremendously helping to build Barbados.

    So the absurdity by some people too that there cannot (should not) be future Crop Over Festivals because having them, or at least having festivities under the rubric Crop Over, would be inconsistent with the declining contribution of ‘sugar’ to the political economy and services industry sectors of Barbados is exactly that, as that it is historically irreversible irrefutable the fact that earlier periods of sugar gave birth to the notion of Crop Over, and the fact that they are therefore wholly inseperable.

    For, as far as the PDC is concerned an actual crop over season cannot take place without canes – and there can be no agriculture in Barbados without ‘sugar’ featuring for a long time to come.

    As a matter of fact, the modern Crop Over will cease to exist and ‘sugar’ will still be around.


    The PDC has long had the revival and repositioning of sugar and non-sugar agriculture in Barbados at the forefront of our domestic policies.


  25. What exactly don’t you understand D?

    EVERY ONE of the songs exemplifies crass mediocracy, lack of creativity, low standards and just plain shiite….
    Why should they not win? They do that better than most….

    ….what Bushie cant understand is how wunna can’t see that we are into a free fall into the pit of hell….
    …and how you David….an intelligent man, keep looking for a parachute ..when the only thing on your back is a backpack… 🙂

    Brass bowls…

  26. bushie
    the oscillations accompanying the ambulations [with gyrations] may be described by the theory of the “particle” in the three dimensional box! there is vibrational movement, translational movement and rotational movement

  27. Is it a case of O King you are wearing no clothes? It seems that there is a lot of shirt being labelled culture in Barbados. Then again it must be culture if we are engaged in doing it. And it is being intellectualized by commentators with a professed knowledge of culture. Hope DJ is not one of them…lol. The French bands on display today were refreshing for the richness of the displayed which was in stark contrast to many of the local productions.

  28. I am sorry to say that i do not and will never celebrate crop over since what is see leaves me embarrassed to say the least… the crop over that i was taught about in school is nothing to what i see now. i could not even entice my kids years ago to even view the kiddies kadooment, now they are young adults they too have nothing to do with the season and i will not force them. my kids did spent their summers in Europe as they wanted to be away from it. i think we have lost something along the way in the celebration of cropover. adults especially mature adults (30 – 45) take pleasure in gyrating and carrying out in extreme leud behaviour all in the name of cropover

    • An interview with Minister Stephen Lashley on local TV this morning suggests that he is very happy with the festival and has promised exiting changes for 2014. So what is it?

      PS: Did anyone see that minor ‘jamming’ and adult in full view on local TV as the band was judging?

      On 5 August 2013 19:24, Barbados Underground

  29. Crop Over has nothing to do with refinement, excellence, structure, order, civility or any of the pleasantries … it is about loud, loose, lewd, liquor and leggo … bare, beads, brawl, bumpers and breasts … wukkin’ up till yah back near bre’k, and refusing to be a hypocrite about it….

  30. As someone who has lived in Barbados but is currently living in England I have always been fascinated by the many initiatives in Barbados (in particular Crop Over) that are always sold to the Barbadian public as being a key method of boosting tourism. The facts are there – in the summer months, the airport is at its busiest so therefore tourists must be coming to Barbados for Crop Over.

    Another fact, tourism is a main source of foreign exchange for Barbados, so by pumping more money into Crop Over, tourism numbers will improve and the Barbadian economy will benefit –right.

    Well not quite. You see, the main reason for summer peaks in tourism has more to do with the traditional summer vacation than Crop Over itself. And as for tourism coming in droves for Crop Over – I would also question that assumption. Based on my experience in travelling once or twice a year to Barbados, the majority of persons on any given flight to Barbados are white. But when I go to many Crop Over events the overwhelming majority of patrons are black.

    In fact while staying at a popular South Coast hotel last month, I had to explain to numerous guests what Crop Over was because in many countries (including England) Crop Over is hardly marketed at. Now this isn’t me taking pot shots at the BTA but the reality in England is that it is difficult to market this event in various territories and to myriad markets when your budget is small.

    So in answering the question, is Crop Over …over. I would say for a significant portion of tourists, it never really existed.

  31. When mangoes are in season, we love to eat them. We love to eat oranges too but not many really grow here so we import them…and still enjoy them. Its all a matter of choice and season then.

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