Words by Jesse Serwer
Photos by Martei Korley
Peter Ram moves like a general, and his troops are the people of Barbados.
We met Ram at the top of Gun Hill in the parish of Saint George, site of what was once the largest military installation on the island, and now a scenic lookout famed for having one of the best views in Barbados. Ram, Bajan soca’s self-styled People’s Champion, hails from the area, and wanted to show us the best of where he comes from. With a vantage point that literally allows you to take in all of the island, the fort offered us an opportunity to take a broader look at music in Barbados, and what it means to be a soca artist representing the spirit of a people during the Carnival season.
Peter Ram got his start in music making “dub” recordings for minibus drivers to play in their vans, rhyming over Jamaican dancehall riddims, in a Bajan style and dialect. Like his peer and good friend, Lil Rick, he moved into the soca arena, creating tracks like “Pumpin,” “The Pledge” and “Woman By My Side,” Carnival anthems which captured the Bajan massive at Crop Over, on their way to becoming hits across the region. A chronicler of ghetto life and of what some might call the real Barbados, he also recorded the song “Pat and Crank,” immortalizing the suggestive dance style since brought to stages worldwide by Rihanna.
In recent years, Ram has turned his focus to the people of Barbados, creating patriotic anthems that get the Bajan massive pumping like no other. Last year, his song “All Ah’ We” took Crop Over’s “triple crown,” winning the titles of Stag Jam, Party Monarch and Tune of De Crop, the latter for having his song played throughout the entire parade route on Kadooment Day, Crop Over’s climactic grand parade. This year’s big Peter Ram anthem is unquestionably “Good Morning,” produced by long-time collaborators De Red Boyz, a song that’s earned praise locally for addressing Crop Over directly, as opposed to the more universal approach taken by most Bajan soca songs and artists. It will be a tall order for anyone to top it on Kadooment Day morning this Monday.
In episode 3 of LargeUp’s Music of Barbados series, Ram tells us why he’s taking extra care to lift up the people of Barbados, takes us through his trajectory from dub to soca, and shows us why you need to be in Barbados for Crop Over. Hey, it’s not too late.