Caribbean Beat Magazine

Barbados Crop Over

Roxan Kinas looks forward to this year's Crop Over celebrations in Barbados

  • Photograph by Eleanor Chandler
  • Photograph by Sean Drakes
  • Photograph by Sean Drakes
  • Photograph by Sean Drakes
  • Photograph by Eleanor Chandler
  • Photograph by Eleanor Chandler
  • Photograph by Eleanor Chandler
  • Photograph by Eleanor Chandler

Crop Over, Barbados’s biggest festival, begins in early July and climaxes with the Grand Kadooment costume-band road march on the first Monday in August. It is one of the western world’s oldest festivals, dating back to the days when plantation worked heralded the end of the sugar crop with feasting and dancing in the plantation yards.In the 1800s the end of the crop — and the gruelling fieldwork — was cause for celebration. It became a plantation event heralded by the arrival of the last cart of cane and punctuated by a day of dancing and merrymaking.  As the last carts made their way into the mill yard, a labourer would beat a makeshift gong and declare, officially, the “crop over”.

From its one-day origins, Crop Over now offers a month of cultural, historical and musical events including calypso tents and a fiercely contended calypso monarch competition. It all culminates with Grand Kadooment, an explosion of colour and excitement, with more than 25 costume bands competing for top prizes.

Crop Over traditions combine with modern additions to give this festival a character unlike any other in the Caribbean. Original elements like the donkey cart parade and the ceremonial delivery of the last canes remain in some form. Other events, such as the mass-appeal calypso tents and monarch competition, evolved from humble beginnings in the 197os when Crop Over was resurrected after a 30-year hiatus.

At Crop Over time, virtually every regional genre of music can be heard across the island, from the old time “Tuk” to its modern revamp, Ring Bang, steel pan and of course calypso and soca.

Indigenous to Barbados, Tuk is a masterly fusion of British military and African rhythms, involving a small band of hilariously dressed minstrels who play kettle drum, bass drum and penny whistle.

The sequence begins with a slow waltz, then glides into a march rhythm and ends with a frenetic African beat. Like calypso, through more low-keyed, competitions in Tuk and steel pan take place during Crop Over.

Yet Calypso and soca dominate, with tents heating up from late June and building up to the elimination rounds and ultimately the Calypso Monarch finals just before Grand Kadooment.

But Crop Over is not all music. Here are some highlights of this year’s programme, which includes fine art and craft exhibits, cultural events and grand shows.

Decorate Cart & Float Parade and Gala Crop Over Opening (July 5)

The parade moves from Bridgetown’s Independence Square at 2 p.m and wends its way to the National Stadium where the opening ceremony takes place. Afterwards a full slate of entertainment takes patrons into the night;

Crop Over Promenade (July 13, Queen’s Park)

New elements this year include flower, fruit and vegetable competitions. On July 19 and 20 the Bajan Culture Village at King George V Memorial Park becomes a “living museum”, with a host of lifestyle and cultural activities from bygone days.

The Junior Calypso Monarch competition (July 20) is at the Sir Garfield Sobers Sports Complex, and the ‘kiddies’ or Junior Kadooment takes place at the National Stadium (July 26).

A major events that attracts thousands is the all day Pic-O-De-Crop Semi Finals and the Party Monarch (East Coast Road, July 27).

Two nights of Folk Concert (July 29 and 30) celebrate Emancipation. The final countdown begins with the Pic-O-De-Crop Finals at the National Stadium (August 1), followed by Foreday Morning Jump Up (August 2, 2 a.m)

Bridgetown Market runs on Spring Garden Highway (August 2 and 3), with the steelband competition on August 2 and the Tuk Band competition the following day. The August a Cohobblopot, which features the King & Queen of the Bands competition, along with the season’s top talent, brings thousands to the National Stadium.

Monday morning, August 4, is Grand Kadooment, where upwards of 25 bands, some with more than 1000 members, parade for the judges at the National Stadium, then take to the road for a five mile march to Spring Garden Highway where Crop Over winds down.

Further information: National Cultural Foundation (424-0909). BWIA flies to Barbados from New York, Toronto, Miami, London, Frankfurt and several Caribbean islands.