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Eddy Grant Talks About Ringbang

by Scott Rollins

After nearly four and a half years of litigation and what he jocularly called the "rights wars" Eddy Grant is back in control of the record label he founded in 1974. Icerecords.com has recently gone on the worldwide web. It provides information on an extensive roots catalogue of calypso, soca, and ringbang music. The Ice catalogue has consolidated a considerable body of Caribbean music and social history. He recently acquired the record and song catalogues of Calyso legends: "Roaring Lion", "Atilla the Hun", "Lord Kitchener" and "Mighty Sparrow". Ever the astute businessman Grant forsees the Internet as the place to do business in the Caribbean as well. Within the next 18 months he predicts it will take firm root in the region. E-commerce at present is having its share of problems, not in the least the stiff surcharges levied by the major credit card companies who are wary of doing business in a region notorious for laundering drug money and offshore financing. He forsees the problems will be ironed out once bona fide companies can demonstrate their credentials to the banks.

When I asked Eddy Grant to define what ringbang means he paused to formulate his response. "What happens with people and words is that you have to find a restricting vehicle to help conceptualize something to better understand it. That is, the perception of what it is. Ringbang is the thing that makes the soul quiet. That in a musical concept is rhythm. A child is given ringbang when a mother rocks it in her arms. Ringbang allowed the slaves to communicate. Ringbang is a bridge that allows us to stop being insular it is a concept predicated on our being able to communicate with one another. I coined the word ringbang in Frank Agarrat's backyard in Trinidad. It's essentially an onomatopoeia of a phrase ringaringaringbang scatted by a singer."

It echoes the fact that since the British took away the drum in Trinidad the blacks devised drumming on heated metal objects, at first in the late 19th century literally on sections of rail tracks and then the famous oil drums. Out of industrial waste they created music, they excercised a psychic freedom exploring the space to communicate.

In a more restricted sense Ringbang is a style of music originating in Barbados in 1994. Grant contends he implored the calypsonian Black Stalin and soca players Gabby and Super Blue to use the word ringbang in their songs to introduce the concept. But it was the younger generation who developed the concept into a new sound under Grant's supervision in his Blue Wave Studio. According to Grant, "Prior to 1994 there was no youth in Caribbean music. With ringbang it freed up the music. Every instrument became a rhythm instrument and started crossing the rhythm. It allowed the real pulse of the creator to come into the music. Ringbang became a crossing of what was popular in Jamaica and in Trinidad and Barbados. It was a cross-pollination. The younger musicians made use of modern production techniques to alter the tone color and pitch of the drums. The snare drum pumped up a faster rhythm than the traditional calypso or reggae. Two of the singles that popularized Ringbang, establishing it in the charts were Viking Tundah's Ringa Ringa Ringbang and Gabby's Doctor Cassandra. The Bajan invasion had begun!

Again Grant stresses that ringbang, in a broader philosophical sense, established a value system that allowed the Caribbean person to not only be someone, but someone of importance. "Every generation must add to the stock. Ringbang music is a whole different approach. I would divide the music that falls within its domain into three sections. Ringbang itself caters to the more militant, aggressive youth of the region. Then there's what I call praana a more historical calypso based music and finally saf. This word is the Caribbean pronounciation of the English word soft. Someone who plays it is a saf man. It is in effect a form of Caribbean jazz. Saxophonist Arturo Tappin plays 'säf' Raf Robinson, Boogsie Sharpe, Luther Francois, Ricky Brathwaite are all 'säf' players. To say it is jazz is misleading since jazz is really an urban form of American folk music. The musicians I just mentioned improvise on their instruments in a jazz-like way but use a stock of Caribbean standards, such as Lord Kitchener as the basis for their improvisations. We here in the Caribbean are blessed with a great deal of natural beauty, the sea, rain forest and this finds its way into the style of playing. Play it Säf man!
The Ringbang Celebration 2000 held on 31st Dec. 1999 and 1 Jan. 2000 celebrated the roots of our music in this region and introduced the brandname Ringbang to the world."

Ringbang Celebration 2000
Presented by New Media Ltd. in association with
BBC WGBH (Boston) CBU (Caribbean Broadcasting Unit)
The Tobago House of Assembly
BWIA (British West Indies Airways)

Groups Featuring:
Eddy Grant & the Frontline Orchestra, Super Blue, Ray Cape & the Kaiso Allstars, Machel Montana & Xtatic, Black Stalin, Signal Hill Choir, Viking Tundah, Lord Kitchener, Calypso Rose, Len 'Boogsie' Sharpe, Duke, Yoruba Singers, Adisa, Dread & the Bald Head, Shadow, Mighty Terror, Gabby, BWIA Invaders, Calypso Prince, Tobago Crusoe


Kofi goes to celebrate Ringbang Ringbang photo's Kofi's page Otrabanda Record & Music