On Listening To a Discussion On What Makes a Song Cadence

bass guitar

I try as far as possible to understand why certain statements are made these days on any cultural practice in my country of birth conscious of the fact that they are spoken by men and women with all their senses in tact. Ha-Ha. It is a profound choice to listen.

Every now and then I hear a matter being distorted or, in the context of culture and love discourses, I should say, a matter needs be informed further.

I seek to enhance a discourse, shifting it a bit from its accustomed box or room. This is even more urgent given that that conversation on Cadence was being held at the Open Campus of the University of the West Indies, Dominica.

The panelists were Gordon Henderson )who was supposed to have connected by Skype from France), Gregory Rabess, Ophelia Olivacee-Marie, Michele Henderson and Ian Jackson. The August 17, 2016 panel was moderated by Tim Durand.

A few statements made by Gregory Rabess need unpacking. It is my hope that if others care to respond, a further dialogue could be spawned and once for all time we can come as close as possible to the truth touching origin and flow-patterns  OF Cadence-Lypso.

Rabess gave the impression that Gordon Henderson was the founder of Cadence-Lypso. This might’ve been said for too long. Truly, could one man have founded a musical genre?

This invites consideration and, on August 25, 2016 when DBS Radio celebrates Cadence Day, Gordon Henderson should  lead us into that conversation given his pure recollections as recorded in “Zoukland.” He nows meticulously, the history of Cadence-Lypso and those who accompanied him on that great musical journey, know another way of telling it.

In stillness or confusion, one man or woman hears, feels or is struck by elements of a genre in embryo. He or her may move to a musical instrument to refine its early stages. Some men and women say they hav the whole song, lyrics, melody and arrangements in one swoop.

When he or she presents that song with all its formative elements to his or her band, it never changes? It never shifts from its given form? There is no improvisation? No other musician discovers or uncovers another ‘figure’ in that composition that is added to the arrangement?

Ian Jackson kept trying to draw this to the panel’s attention, but the collective nature of Cadence-Lypso drifted to ground.

Second. Moderator Tim Durand asked Rabess to provide a brief history of Cadence-Lypso. He began to emerge by way of Trinidad’s French Creole and Haitian Compa. Then he said this was “the only history.”

As I said, I try not to enter a discussion on any cultural practice in Dominica these days, but when these are being held in a university context, I find myself move to dialogue too. When was a “history” the “only” one?

I’ll be placing my e address at the bottom of this article and whenever anyone in this world finds an “only history” please let me know.

The next matter had to do with Rabess’ borrowing from Trinidad: his talk about the “engine room.” This “room” he said was the place of the percussion etcetera.

Even if Trinidad chooses “engine” does Cadence-Lypso — formed in Guadeloupe, Martinique and France as panelists insist — have to be an “engine.”

Why the “machine” concept in the case of Dominica’s eco-capacity discovery?

Why is it a “room” given the nature of the island’s rivers, its rock or just its geothermal or geologic capacity?

Could it be “fluid and catastrophic” to cite Guyanese poet Martin Carter?

Point I’m making is that we were in a 21st Century Caribbean university campus environment, but concepts used were not citing anyone, neither were they being deepened or even broadened given Dominica’s historic non-mechanical culture.

The name Africa was not heard in the discussion. Yet in 1987 when Exile One launched “L’Hivenage” better known as “Tchwé Yo,” Rabess described it then as a “lapo kabwit” song. That was Cadence-Lypso riveting with Bèlè.

When King Hurricane sang “Tiwé Yo” in 1994 (?), a song which Rabess wrote, he described it as a “lapo kabwit” song again.

Should I say or conclude definitely that “lapo kabwit” informed the drum element in both Calypso and Cadence-Lypso?

Did that drum influence come from Trinidad’s French Creole or Haiti’s Compa to inform Dominican peasants?

What happened to the chante mas which ‘happened’ long before Trinidad’s Calypso arrived in Dominica? Where did Kassav’s bassline begin?

Indeed, while Henderson was counselling us that we should not confuse traditional with contemporary music, Rabess was reminding us that Julie Mourillon strummed as if he were playng the gwaj!

What am I to conclude on the matter? There’s another loving discourse,another conversation that needs be held before we ‘royalty’ the product in all its fullness.

The fecund story leading to its formation may itself require protection.

?The intellectual tradition which accompanied its formation a la Negritude may have to be revisited.

We may find a prime essence and meaningfulness in Ophelia’s “marchÉ
Antillais” and who knows, I & I  from my diasporic perch may follow Michele Henderson’s advice to listen and find my way home!

Steinberg Henry is author of “Calypso Drift” (2014). He may be reached at steinbergmountain[@]yahoo.com