Tuesday, June 29, 2010

The Story of Crop Over in Barbados

The History of Crop Over

Against the background of the plantain environment in Barbadian Festival Crop-Over sprang into existence.

The end of the sugar cane harvest, or Crop Over as it is almost always referred to, has long been the occasion for celebration.

Festivities sometimes varied from plantation to plantation, but the pattern was basically the same. For labourers it was a time of rejoicing; a day when the successful reaping of the crop was celebrated; a day when they could forget the vicissitudes of life and enjoy themselves.

In what seems to be the earliest reference to the Crop Over festival, we find the manager of Newton Plantation writing in 1788 to the estate's owner in England, telling him that he had held a "dinner and sober dance" for the slaves, saying: "twas a celebration of Harvest Time after the crop."

Mill Yard
Although the plantain owner hosted the Crop-Over Festival it was the labourers who arranged the programme and a varied and imaginative one it certainly was. The Festival took place in the Mill Yard and when the last canes were harvested, the procession of carts bringing in the final load signaled the beginning of the celebrations.

The first cart was usually led by a woman whose white dress was accentuated by a freshly laundered handkerchief into the folds of which was tucked a vivid flower. Following came the carts and personnel connected with the operations of the plantation from the tillage of the land to the harvesting and carting of the sugar cane.

Each cart held its final load of canes, some of which were tied with gaily coloured headkerchiefs or strips of cloth of various hues and even plantain shag (leaves) were used when the supply of the more colourful material was exhausted or unattainable. The last cart carried the effigy of "Mr. Harding." wich was created after1838 and the Abolition of Slavery.

For most people Crop Over meant not just the end of a period of hard work, but also the beginning of a period of less work and lower wages. For many the interval between two crops would indeed have been "hard times", and the symbol of these, perhaps not invented until after Emancipation, was the figure of a man stuffed with trash (the dried leaves of the sugar cane plant) dressed as he was in an old black coat, a top hat and a home-made mask.which was known as "Mr. Harding".

When the procession reached the Mill Yard, it made its way two or three times around the mill to the cheering of the participants. Women had tucked blooms into the folds of their headdresses and pinned them on to their clothing while men stuck them into their hat-bands. Some men, instead of using hats with flowers, wore home-made three-cornered head- dresses, the multi-coloured streamers of which tossed and waved in the breeze. Then the carts! Clamp-carts, drawn by teams of donkeys, mules or oxen; all were ablaze with flowering branches of flamboyant, bougainvilleas, hibiscus, oleander and sometimes plantain shag or colourful strips of old cloth.

When the procession ground to a halt, an old and respected labourer thanked the host on behalf of his companions, and after a suitable reply was made, festivities got underway in earnest. Merry-making took many forms. Eating, dancing, singing, competitions and various side attractions were the main features of the day's entertainment.
Huge estates tubs held sweet liquor or black strap. There was fancy molasses, rum and sometimes falernum. Included among the food available were rice and peas, pork or beef stew, coconut and other types of bread, salt-fish cutters, corned beef cutters and sometimes ham cutters, pudding and sousa, cassava pone and "hats" (cassava bakes).

Dancing played a very important part in the festival; some of the most popular being Joe and Johnnie, Chiggoe or Jigger foot dancer: Four Cent Fassy; Cattadonia; Grand Change; Congalala; Bluka Boot Dance; Treadmil Dance; Belly to Belly and the Four Knee Polka; Dance to the Four Points of the Mill; various set dancers; Murzurkas; Quadrilles and lastly, but by no means least, the Tilt Dance (Stilt Dance).

The above video will give you a good idea of what the the dance, stilt walking, shaggy bear and tuck band entertainment look like today

Stilt Men

Tilt-dancing took tow forms. The traditional tiltman who dressed in women's clothing and wore a mask danced to the music of his Band. The Competition Tilt Dance was performed by the younger folk who did a strip-tease down to underwear while dancing. The winner being the one who danced "the prettiest" while on stilts.

Steel Donkey

Then there was dancing with the Donkey Man. There were also two types of Donkey Men. One wore behind him a tail of old rags which shook as he gyrated using only the lower part of his body. He usually accompanied himself on the instrument of his choice.

Shaggy Bear

The other Donkey Man wore a covered frame in the shape of either a donkey, horse or mule, and in this contraption he "horse-up" to the strains of music provided by his band. Accompanied by his own band "The Bear" performed his antics. The man who played the part of the bear dressed in a crocus bag around which was wrapped yards and yards of plantain or banana shag. To this were pinned bows upon bows of red cloth or paper. As he capered people danced around him occasionally stopping to pull at his costume and run back as if in fear.

Tuck Band

Dancing was accompanied by many types of musical instruments. There were fiddles, flutes, flutinos, drums, guitars, concertinas, tamborines, mandolins, rattles made from calabashes filled with pebbles, picolas, bongos and other drums and of course the various other homemade instruments. Bands were numerous, and most unique were the Tuk of Bumbalum and the donkey Steel Band.

Singing was heard throughout the day. The labourers sang, not only because they were happy, but because they loved to sing. It was the one medium through which they could express themselves, and so besides the popular songs of the day they sang songs of their own composition - the folk songs which were spontaneous, witty and rhythmic.

For persons with a spirit of rivalry, competitions were organised, "Catching the Greased Pig" was popular. The prize being the pig. "Climbing the Greased Pole" was another, the successful climber found money on the top of it. Then there was Climbing the Greased Rope." Part of the attached to the tail-tree of the mil was greased and at the end of the rope was the prize. In addition to these was the deft and intricate art of stick-licking.

Side attractions included the "Barrel Men" and the "Hand-Walkers." The Barrel Men frolicked in barrels which had tops bottoms removed and were supported by straps slung over the wearer's shoulders while the "Hand Walkers" walked on their hands, their feet pointing skywards.

As the day's revelry drew to a close the host, and sometimes members of his family presented gifts of headkerchiefs, neckties or money. If the labourers were extra lucky they received a gift of sugar. This was known as "Bashen."

Climaxing the day's revelry, was the burning of Mr. Harding to the singing of songs such as "Hold Fast, Old Ned at the Door." Old Ned being the personification of lean and difficult days anticipated by the labourers until the coming of the next crop season. "When times get hard" and "Mr. Neel don't call nobody." Mr. Neel referred to the Manchineel Tree, the juice of which blistered anyone whom it made contact.

Food and drink consumed; Mr. Harding disposed of; the labourers jubilant, but weary straggled from the Mill Yard. The Crop-Over Festival had not only been a measure of compensation for a job well done, but it had offered an opportunity for people who had little of this world's goods to demonstrate their ingenuity and inherent creativity. Crop-Over was their moment

Even by 1940 Crop Over was being described as a "custom which has very nearly died out", and the continuing decline of sugar and the growing availability of other sources of employment had put an end to much of traditional plantation life. The modern Crop Over, revived by the Board of Tourism in 1974 and now administered by the National Cultural Foundation, pays tribute to the fact that sugar is still important in Barbados and the immense influence which it has had on our history. The present day festival is very different from the old time Crop Over, but it continues as a tradition by offering a thrilling celebration of many aspects of Bajan Culture, old and new.

 Crop Over In  Recent Years

In Barbados, Crop Over is a five-week long summer festival and it’s our most popular and colourful festival. It's origins can be traced back to the 1780's, a time when Barbados was the world's largest producer of sugar. At the end of the sugar season, there was always a huge celebration to mark the culmination of another successful sugar cane harvest; hence the festival name - Crop Over.
As the sugar industry in Barbados declined, so too did the Crop Over Festival, and in the 1940's the festival was terminated. The celebration was revived in 1974 and at that time other elements of Bajan culture were incorporated to create the spectacle that exists today…… an exciting and vibrant extravaganza of music and masquerade, history and culture.

The festival begins with the Ceremonial Delivery of the Last Canes and the crowning of the King and Queen of the Festival - the most productive male and female cane cutters of the season.

Bridgetown Market – a street market, that consists of several stalls, which sell local food, beverages, arts and craft and music. Enjoy the Calypso music and the live Tuk-bands as you browse through the many colourful stalls.

Cohobblopot is a huge, colourful and spectacular show with the Kings and Queens of the Kadooment bands displaying their elaborate and stunning costumes. In recent years, there has also been a huge entertainment package with the most popular calypsonians and bands performing to packed audiences.

The children are not left out as they can participate in the Kiddies Kadooment, jumping and dancing in beautiful costumes, as they parade before the judges.

Folk Concerts and Art and Photographic Exhibitions are integral parts of the festival, highlighting Barbadian history and culture as well as the artistic talents of Bajans.

Calypso is one of the main features of the Crop Over Festival. The calypsonians are organised into ‘tents’. These ‘tents’, who are usually sponsored by local businesses across the island, provide a place for the public to hear most of the music released for the festival, LIVE!! During this festival, calypsonians compete for several prizes and titles, including the Peoples’ Monarch (new), Party Monarch, Road March Monarch and the Pic-O-De-Crop Monarch.

The semi-finals of the Pic-O-De-Crop competition are held at the picturesque East Coast Road, where the calypsonians perform on a stage with the Atlantic surf as the backdrop while the spectators gather in the hillsides with their picnic baskets. This magnificent spectacle should not be missed!

The finals of the Pic-O-De-Crop competition are held at the National Stadium, and this is followed by the Fore-Day Morning Jump-Up!

The grand finale is the Grand Kadooment! This carnival parade features large bands with ‘revelers’ dressed in elaborate costumes to depict various themes. Designers of these bands, compete for the coveted Designer of the Year prize while the revelers seem more intent on having a good time! The revelers make their way from the National Stadium to Spring Garden accompanied by the pulsating rhythm of calypso music. When they reach Spring Garden, the party continues with more fantastic music, lots of food and drink and, for some, a quick swim at the nearby beach. A grand end to a grand festival.

Official Crop Over Events

This is the official 2010 Crop Over Event Calendar published by the NCF. Items mark with * represent private events. Note, this calendar can change without notice. Please contact appropriate Promoters to make sure events are still on.

If you are coming for Crop Over this year do not forget to check out our special Crop Over tour

2010 Kadooment/Crop Over Event Calendar

Soca Lime (Boatyard Complex) May 7th 2010

Soca Lime (Boatyard Complex) May 14th 2010

Soca Lime (Boatyard Complex) May 21st 2010

Cavalcades (Gall Hill, St. John) May 22nd 2010

Soca Lime (Boatyard Complex) May 28th 2010

Cavalcades (Checker Hall Playing field, St. Lucy) May 29th 2010




Cavalcades (Bayley's Primary School ) June 4th 2010

Cavalcades (National Stadium, St. Michael) June 12th 2010

Arts & Craft Symposium (Grand Salle) June 16th 2010

Jr. Monarch Soca Tent #1(Solidarity House) June 20th 2010

Soca Lime (Boatyard Complex) June 25th 2010

Crop Over Farmers Market (NCF) June 26th 2010

Crop Over Thanks Giving Service (Bank Hall Nazarene Church) June 27th 2010

Jr. Monarch Soca Tent #2 (Alexandra School, St. Peter) June 27th 2010




Soca Lime (Boatyard Complex) July 2nd 2010

BNB Crop Over Gala (Queens Park) July 3rd 2010

*Soca Sunplash (Event details TBA) July 4th 2010

Central Bank Visual Arts Festival (Grand Salle) July 4th - Aug 8th 2010

Soca Lime (Boatyard Complex) July 9th 2010

Crop Over Farmers Market (NCF) July 10th 2010

Scotia Bank Jr. Monarch Semis

(Sherbourne Conference Centre) July 11th 2010

*Wet Fete (BTA Car park City ) Sunday July 11th 2010

Jr. Monarch Sunset Concert (Solidarity House) July 15th 2010

BTI Steel Pan Concert (Dover) July 15th 2010

BTI Steel Pan Concert (Speightstown, St. Peter) July 16th 2010

Soca Lime (Boatyard Complex) July 16th 2010

Pan In De City (Independence Square) July 17th 2010

*Soca on De Hill (Farley Hill National Park) Sun, July 18th 2010

Pan Pun De Sand (Brandons) July 18th 2010

Jr. Monarch Lunch Time Concert (Frank Collymore Hall) July 21st 2010

Crop Over Read In (B'dos Museum) July 22nd 2010

Pic-O-De Crop Semi-Finals (National Stadium) July 23rd 2010
Jr. Kadooment & Scotia Bank Jr. Monarch Finals
(National stadium) Sat, July 24 2010

Soca Royale (Bushy Park, St. Philip) July 25th 2010

Laff-it-Off (Sherbourne Conference Centre) July 28th 2010

Laff-it-Off (Sherbourne Conference Centre) July 29th 2010

Bridgetown Market (Spring Garden Highway) July 29th - August 2nd 2010
Pic-O-De Crop Finals (Kensington Oval) Fri, July 30th 2010

Laff-it-Off (Sherbourne Conference Centre) July 31st 2010

Fore-day-Morning Jam (Harbor Road) July 31st 2010

Sun Rise Beach Party (Brandons Beach) July 31st 2010

*10 to 10 (Insomnia) Saturday July 31st 2010



Cohobblopot ( Kensington Oval) Sun, Aug 01 2010

Grand Kadooment (Carnival Monday – Stadium – Spring Garden) Mon, Aug 02

Provided with the compliments of your friends at Glory Tours. The #1 Provider of Sightseeing Tours in Barbados http://glorytours.org/

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