Print

Cropover

Written by Roxan Kinas on .

 

NATIONAL FESTIVAL SHOWCASES ISLAND CULTURE
Barbados' romantic, laze-on-the-beach appeal lures thousands of visitors to the island each winter. An entire culture rims the island's shores for visitors escaping the harsh winter of their homelands.
Yet visitors thronging to Barbados for its beaches and quaintly back in time appeal miss out on something bigger come summer when the island cooks with culture and music.
Band Queen It's a time when Ring Bang, Ruk-a-Tuk, calypso, soca, even steel pan and folk peal throughout Barbados. A time when all manner of culture from fine art and craft to masterpiece costumes, unfurl across the land. It's Crop Over, the island's biggest and most colourful national festival; a month-long 'happening' that showcases the heartbeat of the nation.

Crop Over begins in late June and climaxes the first Monday in August with Grand Kadooment, a cavalcade of all the splendour of Bajan culture. A visual eruption of colour, festoons and effervescence, costume bands parade before judges for top prizes, then take to the streets in musical revelry. While Crop Over's climactic Kadooment resembles many carnivals across the Caribbean, the similarity ends there.
This resplendent national celebration is one of the western world's oldest festivals, and in fact, is thought to be the oldest celebration of the post-Colombian era. Crop Over dates back to the days of sprawling sugar cane plantations, over-laden donkey carts trundling along winding dirt roads, and crews of workers toiling in the fields. A time when the plantation was a village unto itself.
This was a period when the end of the crop-and the grueling field work--was cause for celebration. It was a plantation event heralded by the arrival of the last cart of canes. As the final procession of carts made their way into the mill yard, a laborer would beat a make-shift gong announcing the 'Crop Over'. And with that, plantation owners launched bountiful festivities for the field workers.

Foundation (NCF), considers this festival the biggest event on its calendar, and with good reason: Crop Over visitor arrivals have well eclipsed the traditional peak winter season arrivals since 1994.
The festival officially begins on Sunday, June 28 with a Thanksgiving Service at the Spiritual Baptist Church. Also beginning June 28 is the ongoing Crop Over Fine Art & Photography Exhibition, held in the Grand Salle of the Central Bank, Bridgetown.

The official Gala Opening of Crop Over takes place on Saturday, July 3 at 2pm in Queen's Park. Meanwhile, in Trafalgar Square in the City, a Fine Craft Fair takes place all day each Saturday from July 3 through the 24th.
By this time the calypso tents have gotten a good start and any number of them may prove the most popular, depending on the songs brought forward by the calypsonians. This is the start of what will be the most hotly contested musical event of the entire festival; the Calypso Monarch competition. The tents present the calypsonians and their 'messages' of the season; then a cadre of semi finalists is selected to compete for one of seven finalist positions to come up against the reigning Monarch.
During Crop Over virtually every form of music on the island resounds, from the old time 'Tuk' to its modern revamp, Ring Bang, and everything in between. Indigenous to Barbados, Tuk is a masterful fusion of British military and African rhythms involving a small band of hilariously dressed minstrels who play a trio of rhythms on a kettle drum, bass drum and penny whistle. The sequence begins with a slow waltz then glisses into a march rhythm and concludes in an almost frenetic African beat. Like calypso, though more low-keyed, competitions in 'Tuk' take place during Crop Over.
Band King
Band Queen Throughout Crop Over, there's a musical genre for everyone. Steel pan is popular and there are often competitions in this genre as well. In addition, there are youth and folk concerts, where local talent is highlighted. Yet calypso and soca dominate, and all through the season local bands and artistes release their newest works and entertain massive crowds at nightly events. Ring Bang, Ragga Soca and other locally-devised off-shoots of 'purist' calypso stridently play on the radios, the streets and the clubs.
As the festival reaches a peak, competitions in the main vein, calypso, get hot. The July 24 Junior Calypso Monarch competition 'kiddies' or Junior Kadooment takes place at the National Stadium. Here, kids rule, as they parade in fanciful style for the judges and an enthusiastic audience. And this year the Junior Calypso Monarch will be crowned at Junior Kadooment.
Then comes the day-long Pic-O-de-Crop Semi Finals and Party Monarch Finals at East Coast Road on July 25.The first half of the day is devoted to whittling the calypso semi finalists down to seven, while the afternoon finds judges and patrons picking the Party Monarch.
July 30 launches the final count down with the Pic-O-De-Crop Finals at the National Stadium. As the curtain closes on the Finals, Fore-day Morning Jump Up begins and the party mood takes command.
The Sunday August 1 Cohobblopot show features the King & Queen of the bands competition along with the 'best of the best' in the season's entertainment, and is perhaps one of the most popular events of the festival.
Then Monday morning, August 2 Grand Kadooment 'happens'.Upwards of 25 bands, some bursting with more than 1 000 members, parade before the judgesin full regalia at the National Stadium, then take the five mile route in musical jubilation to Spring Garden Highway.
Band Member
Transformed from a four lane highway into a sea of people, vendors and stalls, Spring Garden is the grand finale of this massive festival. Thousands throng to Spring Garden to see the costume bands, catch the revelry, or just 'pick a lime' and visit friends amid the clamor of the merriment.
 Whatever one's taste, Crop Over offers a cornucopia of excitement, splendour and culture. There's something for everybody in this national festival and its growing popularity stands as testimony to that.