Spouge -The Music of Barbados

Whenever we think of Caribbean music, we generally think of genres such as reggae, dancehall, soca and calypso. Being an ever changing and versatile region, the Caribbean does not limit itself to only these variations. One island that embraces a variant different genre is Barbados with Spouge.

 While spouge may be different from the other genres, it has adapted and thus reflects elements of calypso, reggae and soca as well as music from the United States and the British Isles. In fact, Spouge is essentially a hybrid of calypso, reggae and soca played at tremendous speed. The big difference here is the backbeat being that bit more even thus making the music a touch more soulful than say, regular reggae. As such, it is indigenous to Barbados, and was immensely popular in the Caribbean in the 1970s. 

The Beginnings

The origins of Spouge can be traced back to Jackie Opel, a Bajan singer and bassist who had been living and recording in Jamaica. Opel was a member of the Skatalites and through his association with the Wailers became instrumental to the formation of Ska and Rock Steady.

Subsequently, Opel returned to his native Barbados in the late 1960s. Of course, he brought with him a solid understanding of Jamaican rhythms. As such, he began experimenting with them on his recordings. With this, Opel became the nation’s biggest star, his material was covered regularly by local musicians, who gradually increased the speed, and with the addition of the cowbell as the driving rhythmic element, developed what came to be known as Spouge.

The Infusion

Early Spouge featured the choppy rhythm guitar of reggae, but much faster. However, the driving cowbell and percussion elements made it very much more of a dance music in a similar way of calypso. With the trademark sound, Bajan musicians began using it to cover American pop tunes. This produced hits such as “Vehicle”.

The Rise

The spouge industry grew immensely by the end of the 1970s, and produced popular stars like Blue Rhythm Combo, the Draytons Two and The Troubadours.

The Draytons Two

Undoubtedly, the most successful spouge group is the Draytons Two. The Draytons Two had a hit album, Raw Spouge in 1973. This recreated a craze for spouge music in the country. Moreover, the album was a huge success in the Caribbean, topping the charts on a number of islands, including St. Kitts, St. Lucia and Dominica.

The Decline

While the release of raw Spouge created an amazing craze, it basically marked the start of the end of the spouge era. While this musical style is still played in Barbados, it invariably takes a back seat to calypso, soca, and reggae.

Spouge Today

Recent years has seen a resurgence of interest in spouge among some quarters, with people like Desmond Weekes of the Draytons Two indicating that spouge should be encouraged because it is a national form that can reach international audiences and inspire the nation's pride in their cultural heritage.   Navito. (TCC)

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