Christmas Street Scrubbers
by Baba Elombe
I returned to Barbados from studying in May, 1966 and immediately joined the Barbados Arts Council. I was elected to the Executive and given the position of Public Relations Officer. One of the responsibilities was the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation program on the Arts. This program never interviewed members of the artistic community but played a consistent diet of European Art Music.
The Arts Council received an invitation from the Organization of the American States (OAS) to participate in the Folk Festival of the Americas. This Festival was going to take place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada where I lived for four years and understood the phenomenon of “Folk Music” in that very European part of Canada.
I recommended that we send Potato Mout and Seaman Tuk Band and the Street Scrubber, Shilling, to which the President of the Council, Sir Randolph Douglas, Chief Justice of Barbados, who without hesitation, skin up he nose in de air and with flick of his left hand, dismiss me the comment, “Too common!!!”
Some weeks after the official ceremony of Barbados achieving its Independence, I recorded a half hour of music by the Benn Hill Sports Band in Lower Carlton, St James. It was a Tuk Band and I was using a cassette recorder for the first time and the quality was such that I decided to use it on the Arts Council Program. As I started to play the music, the operator ran down stairs to the program manager to complain, that “a man was upstairs in the studio playing a lot foolishness. This was the folk music of Barbados, created and performed by Bajans.
I have spent most of my life trying to tap into what it is that make us Bajans. What is it that was so distinct and unique to Barbados? You will be able to read The Music Bubbles – a 4 Volume study of Music in Barbados. I will be sharing what I discovered about our music and the people who performed it.
Music is a language and a language can be musical. I want you to hear what I use to hear. I ask you one condition, please share with friends and family, especially children. This is my Xmas present to us.
Christmas was defined by Village Choirs and Tuk Bands, who went around to houses beginning the celebrations…..Listen