As many of you know, the Caribbean is home to many different styles and sub genres of music. There is of course dancehall, soca, and calypso to name a few. However, each region has its own special musical sound. It’s under this umbrella that we’ll find jab jab.
Jab Jab music is most popular in Grenada, Martinique and Carriacou. Jab Jab, which can be most easily identified by its use of horns and a heavy drum beat, has become increasingly popular in the past few years. Although there are several popular Grenadian artists, as well as artists who are heavily influenced by Jab Jab music, I think it is safe to say that Skinny Banton’s breakout tune “Saltfish” broke serious ground for this unique genre.
The Jab Jab culture has origins in Grenada which is said to date back to the days of slavery. The word Jab Jab is derived from the French word Diable which means Devil. Its literal translation is double devil; a name they were often given by the slave masters.
Before emancipation, slaves were not permitted to play mas. After they were freed, the former slaves would often use molasses, grease or burnt sugar cane to paint themselves black to celebrate their freedom. The use of the burnt sugar cane, known as Cannes Brulees in French, originates from a time when slaves were marched to the sugar cane fields when a fire broke out.
The slave drivers blew horns to summon them, and followed while cracking their whips. This scene is reenacted on the first night of Spice Mas in Grenada. Often times jab jab masquerades will wear devil horns and carry chains in representation of their slave ancestors. Jab Jab masquerades have different variations in different countries including the Lanse Kod in Haiti and the Jab Molassie in Trinidad and Tobago.
Like the culture itself, Jab Jab music has heavy influence from its antebellum roots. It features a heavy beat from the baboula drum as well as the jab horn. You can often hear the whistles and cowbells accompanying the timbales.
This sound has been used by many artists from Grenada as well as other Caribbean islands. It is growing and becoming more popular throughout the Caribbean and internationally. Songs such as the smash hit “No Behaviour (Shell Down)” by Cloud 5 have sent Jab Jab skyrocketing! With all of the recent success it leaves the question, Will jab jab maintain its popularity? Or will it fizzle out?
“I don’t think it will fade. I notice that a lot more artists are incorporating the horns and sound into the music, which means it has definitely become a trend.” – Rochelle McSween, Grenada native
“Although it is a great style of music, I think it is just a phase and won’t be as popular as it is now with the mainstream audience in years to come.” Kar’i McBride, international DJ
Jab Jab is a celebration of freedom, expression and last but certainly not least, culture. It is an awesomely unique style of music and the fact that it is being embraced internationally is absolutely amazing. Is it a phase? That is solely up to the fans. As a music enthusiast, I will continue to support artists that broadcast their culture. If by chance jab jab does take a break from mainstream music, please don’t hesitate to fly down to Spice Mas in Grenada and experience Jab Jab personally.