Bashment is taking a bashing. And if the tradition holds true, the music is about to get even more popular. That genre – and it can be called that – has made its way most forcefully into the Crop Over Festival and it seems both the young and the not so young love it.
But not everyone is taken by what is truly a major development in recent years. A number of young aspiring performers have taken to the genre like a Mighty Sparrow would to salt fish. These artistes have been dominating the fetes, the shows and the airwaves. And the National Cultural Foundation has not been caught sleeping as to the financial spin-off that can accrue from getting involved in the promotion of that form of music. Their inclusion of a bashment category in the Crop Over music calendar makes good economic sense.
But of course, calypso purists and perhaps those whose aging hearts cannot keep pace with bashment’s beats to the bar, rightfully draw attention to the sexual content in the music which in some instances can be quite explicit even if neither male nor female genitalia is ever overtly mentioned.
But is the idea of bashment new as it relates to lyrical content? Are we being hypocritical in our condemnation of this genre? Is the sexual innuendo to be found any different to what has prevailed over the past four or five decades? Don’t we, including our deejays, accept North American tripe on our radio stations without as much as raising an eyebrow?
Is Scrilla’s Wood any different to the Merrymen’s and the Mighty Sparrow’s Big Bamboo? We hardly blinked when the ‘Birdie’ sang: “Scratch up me back, bite off me ears when I ask ‘what’s the matter?’ Tell me there’s too much wood in the fire.” And who can forget Sparrow in She Sits On Me: “Oh whenever that girl sits down on me, oyo yo me head, oyoyo my poor head, ayayay she heavy like lead.”
Coincidentally, while we have heard it sung repeatedly over the years on our radios, we still don’t know if Mighty Sparrow has ever eaten “white meat” yet.
For decades we have listened with pleasure to our radios as Rock and Roll icon Chuck Berry asserted that he liked playing with his own ding-a-ling and even enquired if anyone else wanted to play with it – meaning a toy no doubt.
And Dave Martins and the Tradewinds told us in terms we understood in his You Can’t Get exactly what never got cold in the winter time and what he would refuse even if it was lined with silver and gold.
But those were the old days. What about what is played and accepted on the airwaves and in our homes without so much as a whimper today? Though the beat might be more sedate than to be had with bashment, when Bruno Mars sings in Locked Out Of Heaven: “You bring me to my knees, you make me testify, you can make a sinner change his ways, open up your gates cause I can’t wait to see the light, and right there is where I want to be . . . ,” aren’t sexual overtones most glaring there?
In Blow, Beyonce has asked on local radio many times: “Can you eat my skittles? it’s the sweetest in the middle, pink is the flavour, solve the riddle.” Now what could she possibly be offering as a delicacy? And again on all Radio Barbados, rapper 50 Cent in his Candy Shop tell us: “I’ll take you to the candy shop, I’ll let you lick the lollipop, go head, head girl, don’t stop, keep going till you hit the spot.”
We do not condone vulgarity in any form, whether it is to be found in dancehall, spouge, soul, hip hop, soca or any other genre. But we cannot help but notice that many of those who take to domestic radio stations and national television to criticize this so dubbed bashment music, have to our knowledge never been so vociferous in their condemnation of some of the other sexually suggestive music that are considered classics. There must be consistency in both praise and condemnation.
Perhaps, we can make a case for better writers or better writing; scripts that hide the obvious more efficiently than what obtains at present. But truth be told, what we are seeing today with this genre is old hat simply bobbing to a decidedly faster beat.
The criticisms that bashment is now receiving are reminiscent of those which surfaced when rock and roll first appeared on the scene in the 1950s. There was a time when reggae music – clean or otherwise – was very much an underground genre in Jamaica and not accepted on the major radio stations. Today it is a major export. Soul, blues, even our own spouge, have taken a bashing previously. Remember the days when ‘banja’ was disallowed in Bajan homes?
Those who have criticized bashment music have a right to their opinions and those who defend it must do so with equal passion. And somewhere in between those artistes providing the music must listen and try to make their art better, even ‘cleaner’, while always ensuring that the music lives and plays on.