Grooving to Goombay

  • Playlist
  • Download
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

The new CD Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay is now in stores. hide caption

toggle caption

Listen To Tracks From the CD

  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Playlist
  • Embed
    <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">

Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay is the newest album to be released by The Numero Group. Tell Me More takes it on a spin.


And now, how about some music?

(Soundbite of music)

This week, World Disc released their album "Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay." And if you don't know what Goombay is, well, it sounds something like this.

(Soundbite of song, "Gimme Me Some Skin")

That song, called "Gimme Me Some Skin," was played by Frank Penn. He is the man behind the explosion of Goombay music in the late '60s and early '70s. He joins us now from Freeport in the Bahamas. Hi, Mr. Penn.

Mr. FRANK PENN (Musician): Hi, Michel, how are you?

MARTIN: I'm very well, now that I'm talking to you. And also joining us is musician Jay Mitchell. He is one of the island's most successful artists. Mr. Mitchell, welcome to you also. Thank you for joining us.

Mr. JAY MITCHELL (Musician): Hello. Hi. How are you? And it's a pleasure to be here. It's a pleasure to talk to you.

MARTIN: Okay. Thank you. Well, Mr. Penn, how did you get involved with the Bahamian music scene? I think it's fair to say you're one of the pillars of the Bahamian music scene. So how did that start?

Mr. PENN: Well, as a young man I was fortunate enough, my parents afforded me music lessons. And I guess between studying the piano and blowing the bugle, I became hooked. And then I think it was around 1965 or thereabouts I did my first recording and I was really hooked.

And of course then, you know, I met up with people like Jay Mitchell and some very, very other talented Bahamians and got involved - was fortunate enough to acquire a recording studio.

MARTIN: Jay Mitchell, what about you? How did your musical career start?

Mr. MICTHELL: Started from a kid, from a baby, from a young kid going to school, I have always heard like orchestra in my head. And so I made guitars out of wood or the can and stuff and put drums around, put plastic over it and created orchestra. And I grew just like that, start singing in church, and the rest is history. I never stopped.

MARTIN: Jay, let's listen to one of your earlier tracks, called "I Am the Man For You, Baby."

(Soundbite of song, "I Am the Man For You, Baby")

Mr. MICTHELL: (Singing) I am the man for you, baby, I am the man for you, baby, come on and walk with me, my baby...

MARTIN: So Jay, tell me about this. It sounds very Motown.

Mr. MICTHELL: Yes. Well, you know, this is the time I had a group called the Mitchellites. I think it was about 12-piece group. And then Aretha Franklin came down to perform. And when she came down to perform, I was on the same show and we really put some hell on that show.

And so our guitar player, we got together. He say I got an idea for a song and we got together and I did some and he did some and we put it all together and had it recorded. That's why you've been hear kind of Motown (unintelligible)...

(Soundbite of song, "I Am the Man For You, Baby")

Mr. MICTHELL: (Singing) Come on and walk with me, my baby, come on and hold my hand, come on and talk to me, my baby, I know that, don't want to miss it.

You see, at that time I was heading for the international market. I had even asked the manager, and so to hit the international market, being a young fellow, that's where my head was at, but that was not - that's not really the style of Bahamian music.

MARTIN: Frankie, do you see a big connection between the development of Goombay and the Motown sound?

Mr. PENN: Well, you know, young persons are attracted by Top 40 music. And here in the Bahamas we're close to Florida. A lot of the young men were listening to Florida stations. But when I developed the studio, one of the things that I insisted on was that, okay, I understand that you want to play top 40, but we have to make it sound like it's coming from Bahamians.

And so that is one of the reasons that, you know, you had thought of a mix of the Goombay and the junkanoo, and it's all tied in with a little bit of the R&B sound. And I think we came up with something rather unique.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: Tell me about "Mustang Sally" though. Where did that fit in?

Mr. PENN: Well, because that was how I felt in those days. Those were the top songs I did. By doing those top songs after a period of time, I turned it in and I was turning it back out of me. And like I said, I was looking for the international market.

And to look for the international market, you know, I couldn't market what I wanted to do in Bahamian style. I wanted to bring to the Bohemian music, or as soon as I could compete with their music. The creativity during that period was, I would say, at a peak. Wouldn't you say so, Jay?

Mr. MICTHELL: Yes, it was at a peak.

(Soundbite of song, "Mustang Sally")

Mr. MITCHELL: (Singing) Mustang Sally, you better slow your Mustang down (unintelligible) Mustang Sally, you better slow your Mustang down.

MARTIN: Jay, did you feel torn as an artist sometimes between wanting to play the music that you thought would be more appealing to the tourists and wanting to express, you know, the music of your heritage and of your island?

Mr. MICTHELL: Well, like Frank tell you, we kind of fused it. We learned to be happy from both ends. We put both ends together and came up with a unique sound.

(Soundbite of song, "Mustang Sally")

Mr. PENN: I thought it was very important that persons from the United States or wherever, when they heard us, they were able to know that we're performing on par with musicians worldwide but we have a unique sound. And so the decision was made to stay in the bush, we call it. Stay in the bush was the way that we referred to our style of music. That's what it's all about.

Mr. MICTHELL: It was a dream of Frank because he kept us to that. That was his dream. Of course, that was our dream too. But you know, me coming as an artist from looking in different areas internationally, and so that's where my head was at, but my head was also into my music.

(Soundbite of song, "Mustang Sally")

Mr. MICTHELL: (Singing) All you want to do is a ride around, Sally. Ride, Sallie, ride. All you want do is to do is a ride around, Sally. Ride, Sally Ride. All you want do is a ride around, Sally. Sally, Ride Sally Ride. All you want to do is a ride around, Sally. Ride, Sally, ride. Won't you be fairly morning. I'm gonna be whapping those weeping eyes.

MARTIN: Frank, you know the Bahamas got its independence from the U.K. in 1973. Did that kick off kind of an artistic movement also? Did that awaken some feelings in the artists of the island who wanted to express some things politically that perhaps they had not done previously?

Mr. PENN: Well, I would say it did. You know, we're no longer children of the U.K., and so we wanted to express that, those of us who in music. We wanted to express ourselves musically as well. And so yes, that was responsible for a lot of new materials coming at that particular period.

MARTIN: Which of the tracks on "Cult Cargo" do you think expresses that best?

Mr. PENN: There is a track on there, I think, it was done by Cyril Ferguson, if I remember correctly.

MARTIN: "Gonna Build A Nation"?

Mr. PENN: "Gonna Build A Nation," yeah, that's it. Right. That is one of the songs that came out during that period.

MARTIN: Let's hear some of it.

(Soundbite of song, "Gonna Build a Nation")

Mr. CYRIL FERGUSON (Musician): (Singing) Take this information, we are gonna build a nation. Brothers and sister, dig this information, ever hand in hand, we gotta build a nation. You get down, down, down, some of the things we need, lot of hand, (unintelligible) of love, trust and understanding, lots of love, love for your brother -

MARTIN: Frank, tell the truth. How did the political stuff do compared with the more commercial stuff, or the sexier stuff? Or the lighter fare?

Mr. PENN: Well, the political stuff, as you put it, it gave us an opportunity to express ourselves but I think it was more for us as musicians. You know, we got together and we did jam sessions and we enjoyed ourselves. And of course, when we went to work and we're playing for, to earn that piece of bread, then we played for the tourists.

(Soundbite of song, "Gonna Build a Nation")

Mr. FERGUSON: (Singing) Oh, yeah.

MARTIN: Why do you think that Goombay started to fade away by the mid to late '70s?

Mr. PENN: Well, the truth is it hasn't faded away.


Mr. PENN: Like everything else, it goes in stages. We're into another phase. But Goombay is very much alive in the Bahamas today. Very, very much alive.

Mr. MITCHELL: Very much, very, very much alive.

(Soundbite of music)

MARTIN: I want to hear one more song. How about "Tighter and Tighter"? Tell me about that.

Mr. PENN: Okay.

MARTIN: I'm not going to get in trouble with my mom for saying that on the radio, am I?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. PENN: It sounds different like that, but it's safe. It's a PG song.


(Soundbite of laughter)

MARTIN: All right. So let's hear a little bit.

(Soundbite of song, "Tighter And Tighter")

Mr. MITCHELL: (Singing) You know, I gotta show you, just how much I love you. You give me that wonderful feeling. Baby, (unintelligible) hold on tight, don't let go, hold on just a little bit tighter.

MARTIN: Hold on. Okay. I feel better now. Okay. Thank you, gentlemen. Frank Penn is a musician and a producer, one of the godfathers of Goombay music. We were also joined by one of the Bahamas' legendary artists, Jay Mitchell. Thanks, both of you, for joining us.

Mr. PENN: Our pleasure.

Mr. MICTHELL: Our pleasure.

(Soundbite of song, "Tighter and Tighter")

MARTIN: The new World Disc compilation is "Cult Cargo: Grand Bahama Goombay." Frank has moved on from music to television but you can still hear Jay playing throughout the Bahamas, as if you needed an excuse to go visit.

That's our show for today. I'm Michel Martin. This is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. We'll talk more tomorrow.

Copyright © 2007 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.



Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

NPR thanks our sponsors

Become an NPR sponsor