When you hear the rhythm of a rake ‘n scrape band, no matter how tired you are, no matter how much rhythm you think you might not have, no matter how blue you feel, or what time of day it is, when you hear that rhythm it will take hold of your blood, lift up your hands, start your waist win’in’, cause your feet to start jumpin’, ‘cause rake ‘n scrape is the soul music of
Bahamians and when you hear that rhythm, that motion and music, you can’t help but start to shake with your whole self.
Rake ‘n scrape music is what happens when folks here in these islands get together, bringing their guitars, wash boards, hand-made drums, saws, shakers, accordions, and anything else that could make some good noise. Then it’s the rhythm, fast, vibrating, that gets everything and everyone else moving.
Maybe ‘cause of what they call “modernisation”, it’s hard to find rake ‘n scrape in all the easy to find places. Especially if you’re new to this town. Sometimes it’s in living rooms, and backyards. And depends on who you know. But if you listen good, and follow the tracks, you’ll find yourself where the music is soon enough.
Now, there are a few regular spots, big clubs and such where the music is piped out to you, over heavy duty equipment, speakers big enough, loud enough, to make your hair bounce, even if you have none. And everyone is watchin’ everyone, to see if they got the right moves, and the right clothes, and maybe the right partner...
But out here, off the beaten track, away from the hotels, big lights, and machine-made music, out here, where the music is made by hands movin’, feet tappin’, voice croonin’, laughin’, singin’ the songs that tell stories about Bahamian life and times, well, this is just a different story altogether.
gone to Cat Island, oh Cat Island, hear the rake ‘n scrape band...
A couple of nights ago, a friend and I left all our worries and cares at home, and drove instead to The Cabana, on West Bay Street, opposite “I Need A Liquor Store”. We parked and walked over to what seemed to be a lively gathering of folks, and sat at a small table close to the band.
did you see Uncle Lou when he fall in the well, oh, Uncle Lou, when he fall in the well...
Everything at The Cabana reminds me of life on the islands, away from the growing city-town of Nassau. Wooden porch, smell of sea air drifting up off the water, wood tables, folks arriving and bumping into friends already here. And the band. It’s Eugene Davis and The Naked Notes playing. They’ve been here for about three weeks now, performing Fridays and Saturdays, nine to one am, and
again on Sunday nights, eight to midnight. And let me tell you something, they are good. Not just okay, but good.
well he fell so deep that he went straight to hell, oh , Uncle Lou, when he fall in the well...
When we sat down, they were playing some reggae favorites, some like “Groovin’”, made popular by UB40, and Bob Marley’s “I don’t wanna wait in vain... for your love”. But it was the sweet rhythm and down home lyrics of KB’s “Jus’ ‘Cause She Fat” and “All De Meat”, and of course, Phil Stubbs’ “Potcake”, that really got everyone sittin’, who couldn’t stand it no more, to get up, grab the nearest person and
hustle over to the space in front of the band to shake and move and do their thing.
i tell you they don’ love me, they only know me when they need me...
It didn’t matter what you were wearing, who you were dancing with, or even if you had a partner at all -- the thing was this music, the black sky high over head, the stars watching us down below twistin’, hoppin’, turnin’, jigglin’, laughin’. This is the life.
And Eugene Davis is no newcomer. He has hit songs like “That Sexy Gal Is Mine” and “Soap Opera Queen”, lyrics that have people shakin’ their heads sayin’, “yep, das true, das true!”
honey, these are the days of our lives and you are bold and beautiful, but we got one life to live and you gone end up in General Hospital if you don’t stop neglecting all my children....
The Naked Notes have been around for a good little while, too. Most recently they were playing up the road, at Goldie’s over at Arawak Cay, Nassau’s gathering spot for nightly fish fries and fresh conch salad. And Goldie’s, named after it’s owner, is another favorite hang out where, between the hours of six and ten-thirty pm, every night except Mondays, Bahamian soul music charges the air, coming straight up out of the ground and the
folks conjurin’ it up with guitars, drums and that ages old of instruments, the human voice. It’s Piccalo The Preacher and The Popps playing out here.
As you drive in to Arawak Cay, there’s Goldie’s, on the left, you’ll see the painted sign and tables out front. Then, behind the tables, wooden beads are hanging in the doorway, and beyond, sometimes a green glow of light, sometimes muted browns and reds, telling you right off, this is going to be cosy, alive, you’re gonna feel this music. And don’t even pretend you’re gonna just sit there and watch, no, uh-uh! This is hands on, feet
on, whole-body-on-music, the sweetness of rake ‘n scrape taking hold. And as The Preacher delivers his message, you raise up your hands, roll your head back and let the spirit move you. This is Bahamian soul music talking.
goin’ back to the island, kiss my mama goodbye, said i’m goin’ back to the island, say don’t worry mama, don’t cry...
Well, Eugene and The Naked Notes stopped playing when one in the morning rolled around, and it seemed like I was just gettin’ ready to really dance. My friend and I talked with Eugene for a little while, and told him we’d be back for sure, now that we knew they were playing there.
The night had grown cool, and was a sweet calm before the next day’s heat and hustle. We said goodnight to the band, and I drove my friend home, admiring the white blooms of a tall cactus in somebody’s yard on Nassau Street, it’s the one they call “Queen of the Night”.
i don’t mind, i don’t mind what they say, i don’t mind what they say, i’m gonna fly away, i don’t mind what they say, i’m gonna fly away...