Home of the brave

Tracy Assing tests her spine and stamina at Barbados's annual Crop Over

Photograph by David Wears

Gyul why yuh do dat, why yuh do dat, why yuh do dat, why yuh do dat
She was wukkin’ up on me, wukkin’ up on me, pushing up on me
She had me throwin’ wais’, she had me throwin’ wais’
My car break down,
Cheese on,
My Paula gone and lef me,
But I got she dress holin’, I got she dress holin’

(Meh Car Break Down, Contone)

People was wukkin’ up all over Barbados.

Newspaper headlines were bubbling over with excitement: Bumper Crop Over: Plane loads coming to the festival, Blairs breezing in Barbados, Over 10,000 to jam, 350 stalls for Bridgetown Market.

By the time I touched down at Grantley Adams International Airport, Contone had captured 75 per cent of the People’s Monarch vote, winning a “brand-new, fully-loaded Hyundai Excel.”

It was sweet soca irony. In the song, the admittedly out-of-key Contone tells the story of how his car breaks down and he hangs onto his girlfriend Paula’s dress to stop her from stalking off. All the papers joked that he wouldn’t have to worry about car troubles any time soon, Paulas lining up. But Contone could not drive and did not have a licence.

In post-victory comments, he promised to work on singing in key before adding: “It’s a style, everybody can’t come and sing the same way.”

People was wukkin’ up!

The Friday Fish Fry at Oistins had broken into a fete.

It was just past midnight and the taxi driver swung through St Lawrence Gap, where tourists outnumbered locals, literally hanging out of small bars. Drinks clutched in one hand, they tried to keep time with the cacophony as each bar chimed in with a different song. They could not wuk up.

Wukkin’ up is endemic to Barbados.

Bajan spines do things that defy logic. Fast. Frenetic. The whole body is involved.

Bajan men wuk up best.

Trinis cannot wuk up. Jamaicans cannot wuk up.

Take this advice: wukkin’ up is not for the faint-hearted.

A Bajan could wuk up all by himself all night long. As a Trini, I have to say wining by yourself is lonely. It is sad. My friend Laura says: At some point during the night your bumsee calls for some attention.

Wukking up—without warming up—can cause pelvic dysfunction. You should consult your doctor and have a replacement hip on standby.

I did not have the courage to fall into the fray. I did not have the fortitude.

Dinner was a gas station hotdog. As the result of a last-minute booking, a 45-minute flight had lasted nearly four hours. Flights from Barbados to Trinidad were fully booked because Trinis do not think twice about another opportunity to put on a Carnival costume and party. Laura once took a boat to get there in time. It took 14 hours. She was high on Gravol but jamming to soca in the middle of the ocean.

I am sure more than a few Bajans are beginning to think Trinis could secretly be taking notes on the wuk up with the ambition of claiming it as their own in the near future.

On Saturday morning, the first band in the Roberts Manufacturing Foreday Morning Jump-up was three Trinis and one Bajan with their portrayal, Highway Robbery. Body paint, mud, powder, breadfruit…yes, there was one guy with a breadfruit on his head.

The wuk up was approaching fever pitch.

On Sunday night, the Prince of Port of Spain, Brian Lara, hosted his first Crop-Over all-inclusive fete, and it was the hottest ticket in town. Wuk up amidst antique furniture in a palace of coral stone. Wuk up on marble floors.

Remember I said the best wuk-uppers are men?

On the day of the big parade, Grand Kadooment, guess who danced, did cartwheels and wuk-upped to the Best Flag Person award at the National Stadium?

The very dainty and expressive David Wilson, who led 500-strong Gwyneth Squires’ Celebrate We Freedom presentation before the judges. The clearly aflame Wilson made quite an impression on the mainly subdued spectators. They applauded throughout his performance as he sashayed and high-kicked the competition into the dust.

But the parade at the stadium did feel a little like a school sports day with sporadic bursts of wukking up. It might have had something to do with the nearly 34 degree heat, but there was no sign of the wining frenzy that might have erupted at Trinidad’s Queen’s Park Savannah. The whole thing was very organised and members of the media received an inch-thick booklet containing descriptions of all the bands.

The crowd was thick at Spring Garden Highway and ice was in demand. The biggest bands on parade were all feathers and beads, bikinis and shorts: Cirque Du Baje by Baje International, which featured celebrities Cherie Blair, Brian Lara and Rupee, and Power X 4’s Heritage, with Trinidad’s Big Mike in the frontline.

There was no wukkin’ up for the Walk Holy Outreach band, which opened the parade, but they did jump, frolic, pass tracts out and pray. Dressed in white, the group used scripture and gospel music in their presentation. But the four horsemen and all were brought to a screeching halt when their music truck overheated and stalled in front of the psychiatric hospital.