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  • Traditional Bahamian Dance Music: "Bahamian Rake-n-Scrape"

    Foremost traditional Bahamian bands Ophie & Da Websites and Bo Hog & Da Rooters are essential to the preservation of “rake-n-scrape” — the traditional dance music of The Bahamas. The rake-n-scrape sound is immediately recognizable by the scraping, hitting, and bending of a common handsaw with a screwdriver. Joined by the accordion and goatskin drum, the rake-n-scrape trio produces vibrant and celebratory music that dates back to the 19th century.

    ‘Bahamian Rake-n-Scrape’ will be released January 22, 2016, by Smithsonian Folkways on digital download, streaming, and on-demand CD formats. Ronald Simms and Fred Ferguson, rake-n-scrape music enthusiasts, produced the album with annotations by Timothy Rommen. In addition to 59 minutes of music, there are 24 pages of notes with photos that examine the history of rake-n-scrape and social dancing in The Bahamas as well as detailed song-by-song notes.

    Sneak Preview: Listen to two selections from Bahamian Rake-n-Scrape

    Watch Video Interview with Ophie Webb

    With the increase of tourism and a major population shift in the 1940s, a significant part of Bahamian culture was diminished as social dances, and the music that accompanied them, went out of favor. But with the push for national independence in 1969 came a gradual resurgence of the culture that is rooted in Bahamian history. The genre continues on, strengthening post-colonial identity and the cultural heritage that had nearly disappeared.

    Ophie remembers as a child being more interested in the music than the dancing at special occasions and wanting to learn to play someday. As rake-n-scrape became more popular throughout the 1970s, Ophie & Da Websites and Bo Hog & Da Rooters were influential bands who continued to revive the traditional music, even though they were occasionally booed into the mid-1980s for playing the rural style.

    The songs are rhythm-oriented for dance steps with minimal focus on lyrics; however, short phrases with a concentration on educational or ethical themes, in addition to comedic ideas, are common. One of the stand-out tracks, “Times Table,” is a quadrille that doubles as a resource for memorizing the multiplication table, with lyrics that repeat “one and one is two, two and two is four, twice three are six, twice four are eight.” Track 7, “Hog in da Mud,” is a heel and toe polka song with energy-driven beats that conveys the happiness and contentment a hog may experience in the mud. Track 21, “Goodnight Irene,” is a folk waltz popularized by Lead Belly, which has also become a standard for rake-n-scrape bands. The familiar 3/4 melody is played on the accordion with percussion leading the rhythm.

    Smithsonian Folkways also distributes an online education kit, entitled Our Bahamian Heritage, that explores Bahamian culture and gives primary- and secondary-level students the tools for further study.

    ‘Bahamian Rake-n-Scrape’ Tracklisting:

    Ophie & Da Websites

    1. Da River (round dance)
    2. Emma (round dance)
    3. When Ya Mama Send You to School (round dance)
    4. If Ya Touch Dat Ting
    5. Watermelon Is Spoiling on the Vine (round dance)
    6. Times Table (quadrille)
    7. Hog in da Mud (heel and toe polka)
    8. Mr. Fisher (quadrille)
    9. Round and Round da Bar Room (round dance)
    10. Mama, Lend Me Ya Pigeon

    Bo Hog & Da Rooters

    1. For My Own Things (round dance)
    2. Underneath the Bamboo Tree (round dance)
    3. Da Gaulin (round dance)
    4. Down da Road
    5. Emma (round dance)
    6. Mama, Don’t Treat Me So Bad
    7. Hog in da Mud (heel and toe polka)
    8. Boy Child/Girl Child
    9. Muddy da Water (heel and toe polka)
    10. Da Ole Gray Hound Dog (round dance)
    11. Irene Goodnight (waltz)
    12. When Ya Mama Send You to School (round dance)
    Traditional Bahamian Dance Music: "Bahamian Rake-n-Scrape" | Smithsonian Folkways Recordings