Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Tuk Band Celebration

Happy New Year! It's a season of celebrations and in Barbados, that usually means the raucous sounds of a tuk band will be streaming through the streets. Tuk bands produce Bajan folk music that truly represents the offbeat mix of African and British culture. Since traditional African rhythms were outlawed during slavery, enslaved Africans learned the music of British military and maritime bands, along with classical waltzes. After emancipation, a sound that merged all of these rhythms surfaced. The band plays a kittle drum also known as a snare drum, which was originally made from animal skins, the bass drum, a penny whistle and a triangle.

The Tuk band rhythm moves progressively from a slow waltz, to a fassy or march beat and explodes into a frenetic African rhythm. Typically, the performers are a trio of roaming minstrels accompanied by a stilt walker, a moco jumbie or masquerade figure called Shaggy Bear and a man dressed as a woman with big bosoms and behind called Mother Sally. Both moco jumbies and stilt walkers can be traced directly to West African spiritual rituals where an egungun or masked figure representing ancestor spirits parade through festivals and initiations. Both figures appear throughout the Caribbean region but only Barbados joins them with such a distinctly British influence as military rhythms. Although Tuk Band music is a forerunner of Trinidad's calypso and Jamaica's reggae, combining similar elements of Western and African sensibilities, I can't say that I've ever heard anything like it on any other island.


Anonymous said...

Great post, Happy New Year.

Anonymous said...

Thanks, the new year is celebrated so many different ways in different places, I thought the tuk band was really intriguing. Happy new year to you too!