From The 2016 Crop Over Festival, A Feast of Caribbean Soca Music Barbados stands at the forefront of the soca music industry, thanks to a thriving local music scene and the worldwide popularity of its annual Carnival. Hear this year's best-in-show.
NPR logo From The 2016 Crop Over Festival, A Feast of Caribbean Soca Music

From The 2016 Crop Over Festival, A Feast of Caribbean Soca Music

King Bubba (in the hat) at Crop Over last weekend. His song "Calling In Sick" is a robust tribute to rum. Courtesy of the artist hide caption

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Courtesy of the artist

King Bubba (in the hat) at Crop Over last weekend. His song "Calling In Sick" is a robust tribute to rum.

Courtesy of the artist

Soca music fans subsist in a feast-or-famine world. Feasts come during Carnival — especially Trinidad Carnival, king of them all — when the exuberant, dance-driven tunes are released faster than soca icon Machel Montano can wine his waist (i.e. very, very fast). Famine follows, as we wring every last drop of delight from these soca hits while waiting for another island's Carnival — there's one somewhere, most months — to serve up a trickle of new music.

Enter Barbados Crop Over, bequeathing ravenous soca lovers with a banquet. It's the only Caribbean Carnival that can rival Trinidad's in terms of quality of parties and musical output. Thanks to a thriving local music scene and a prominent forum for its products — Crop Over annually attracts thousands, from all over the world — Barbados has lodged itself at the forefront of the soca music industry. Pour yourself a Mount Gay on ice and feast your ears on some Bajan gems from 2016's Crop Over celebration, which wrapped this week on the streets of Bridgetown.

Hear The Songs

  • Lil Rick, 'Iz A Bajan'

    Hyperactive and hyper-productive — he graced revelers with nearly a dozen hits this Crop Over season — veteran party-starter Lil Rick won multiple Carnival titles with this vigorous homage to patriotism, an ideal tune for Barbados's 50th anniversary of independence.

    YouTube
  • Peter Ram, 'Good Morning'

    "Show them how we does jump up, show them how we does free up," croons Peter Ram in a tune demanding to be sung along with (especially when it creates dulcet harmony from the word "gross"). The operative word here is "them": Carnival is about community, so either you get it and you're with us, or you don't — and, alas, you're one of them.

    YouTube
  • Marvay, 'Know The Face'

    Ever danced with so many people for so many days, after so many alcoholic beverages at so many different Crop Over fetes — and you just know you know this person you're wining on yet can't quite figure out where you know her from, or whether you ever knew her name? This groovy soca song is for you.

    YouTube
  • King Bubba, 'Calling In Sick'

    No one can craft a tribute to rum like King Bubba, and this robust hit — designed to maintain high energy levels during the Grand Kadooment parade on Carnival day — upholds his gold standard. "Rum is me only medicine," sings the King. Nuff said.

    YouTube
  • Stiffy, 'Tek Off Something'

    If there were a soca cartoon, Stiffy — with his ribald lyrics and over-the-top stage persona — would be it. This omnipresent Crop Over jam instructs revelers to take off something and "pelt it 'way," which might be a metaphor for shedding oneself of all negativity ("bad mind," as West Indians say) during the life-affirming ritual that is Carnival. Or maybe it's just license for revelers to liberate themselves from even more articles of clothing.

    YouTube
  • Fadda Fox, 'Dirty Habits'

    Here's the beauty of Carnival: it's that time of year when the "nasty, dirty habits" that Fadda Fox sings of here — strong rum, dancing a little, er, too close — aren't really nasty or dirty at all, just standard seasonal bacchanal. Call it Carnival catharsis.

    YouTube
  • Marzville feat. Snap Brandy, 'Bang Bim'

    Behold an irrepressibly catchy song containing barely a complete word but plenty of monosyllabic ejaculations — perfect, in other words, for making revelers do as they should during Carnival: shut up and wine.

    YouTube
  • Leadpipe & Saddis, 'Dreams'

    The melodies, the harmonies, the sweet and smooth sound of this tune — it's like Barbadian sugar for the ears.

    YouTube
  • DJ Private Ryan, 'Scorch Summer 16'

    Non-Bajan alert! DJ Private Ryan is Trinidadian, and he's the Funkmaster Flex of soca: the man with the mix everyone is listening to, pre- and post-Carnival. Scorch, meanwhile, is the A-list brand of Carnivals Caribbean-wide — the promotion company with the fetes everyone is trying to get into. Bring them together and behold a soca-driven musical mix that's nothing short of indispensable.