Hearkening from the Bahamas, rake n’ scrape music achieves a highly energetic and colorful sound through musicians playing drums made out of pork barrel and goatskin, maracas made from seed pods, and bass violins constructed of washtubs, sticks and strings and carpenter’s saws, which are scraped over a metal file. In celebration of this facet of Bahamian culture, the Caribbean Students Alliance (CSA), in collaboration with the VSA and the Vassar International Students Association (VISA), will be hosting “The Bahamas Rake n’ Scrape Company” on Saturday, Oct. 10 in the Villard room from 7-9 p.m.
Rake ‘n’ scrape is said to have developed in the Bahamas as a product of both traditional West African music and the Atlantic Slave Trade. In the West Indies, slaves made music using whatever materials were readily available to them. Today, the tradition of using non-conventional instruments to create music remains a strong element of Bahamian culture. CSA Co-President Lauren Glinton ’16, who is from the Bahamas, said, “Rake n’ scrape involves using goombay drums and carpenters’ saws, as well as a bunch of other extremely common instruments, like keyboards and guitars. It creates a really unique sound and a lot of local music is based on rake n’ scrape beats.”
The Bahama Rake n’ Scrape Company is a youth group made up of 20 boys, ages twelve and younger, who specialize in performing rake n’ scrape music. Vassar will be just one stop on their U.S. tour. Glinton was set on bringing the Rake n’ Scrape Company to campus after being contacted by a Vassar alumnus who brought the idea to her last semester.
“In May, the CSA was contacted by a Vassar alum from the Bahamas who wanted to know if we were interested in having the group come and perform this semester. We were really excited because CSA is so small and we’ve never done something so big, so we jumped on it,” she said. “I was in contact with the leader of the group during the summer, and I even met with him when I got home to the Bahamas—which is why this event is so important to me.”
The event itself will consist of several routines prepared by the company, broken up with small presentations on the history and significance of rake n’ scrape music and culture. In addition to the performance, the CSA will be providing food as well as hosting a workshop between the company and attendees in order to stimulate interaction between the boys and the Vassar community. Darielle Gadsby ’15, Co-President of the CSA, said, “Most people have a very small idea of what the Caribbean is or what Caribbean culture is, and I feel like it is our job on campus to spread the idea of what that culture is to the rest of the community.”
The Company’s performance will be one of the CSA’s biggest events to date. This year, the CSA began tabling in the College Center in order to raise more awareness of Caribbean nations and cultures. Gadsby said, “So far, we do a lot of Mug night kind of things, which tend to be really popular. The music is a lot different from most everything else that’s played there, so a lot of people tend to come out. ”
This year, the CSA’s Mug night will take place Friday, Oct. 10—the night before The Bahamas Rake n’ Scrape Company is set to perform. “I for one am particularly excited for CSA weekend! As someone who grew up in the Caribbean, it can be weird to experience daily life that is totally stripped of a huge part of my culture. The Mug night and performance the following day will be a great way for me—as well as my friends within the broader community—to celebrate and connect with Caribbean culture,” said Jake Sottak ’17, who grew up in the Virgin Islands.
The Bahamas Rake n’ Scrape Company offers just one perspective of the wide and diverse narrative of Caribbean culture; CSA’s Glow Fete Mug Night will give attendees an even broader taste of Caribbean music. “We thought that there was a very narrow view of what the Caribbean entails, and if you dig a bit deeper, you realize that they’re so many countries and different cultures. We are trying are best now to bring all of that to the surface,” Gadsby said.
Beyond this weekend, which is dominated by two of CSA’s major events, the organization seeks to educate the campus and wider community by tabling in the College Center weekly and also intends to hold large dinners where Caribbean food is served. “It’s about diversifying the perspective. People see black, green, yellow and red and immediately think of the Caribbean… but there are so many interesting things that people don’t know,” said Glinton. “The Caribbean is very multi-linguistic. There’s a Dutch Caribbean, French Caribbean, Spanish Caribbean and Anglo Caribbean, as well as so much mixing of cultures, and it’s important for us to show all of that to Vassar.”