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Music of Dominica
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Cadence-lypso is the Dominica kadans of the 1970s. The leading figures in the promotion of the term "cadence-lypso" were cadence bands Exile One (Dominican group based on the island of Guadeloupe) and Grammacks that featured Trinidadian calypso music, Jamaican reggae and mostly the Haitian cadence rampa or compas music.[1]

With calypso and cadence in the band's repertoire the term cadence-lypso was born that night at 44 rue de Rennes in Paris. Cadence-lypso or kadans became very popular in the kwéyòlpal Caribbean during the 1970s. During that time, the music developed and evolved, reaching a zenith in the period from 1978 to 1980's, and then took a downturn.[2][3]

Gordon Henderson is the leader and founder of the famous musical group Exile One and the one who coined the name Cadence-lypso.


Main article: Music of Dominica

Dominican contemporary music, that is the music played by the dance bands from the 1950s, has played a very important role in Dominica national life. Dominica musical landscape has seen many changes in the intervening period from 1950. In the forties and fifties, there were bands such as the Casimir Brothers of Roseau. The Swinging Stars emerged at the end of the fifties. All these bands played music of the Caribbean and elsewhere such as calypso, bolero, samba, merengue and funk. They all had the big band sound with lots of horns. Traditional rhythms of Dominica such as lapo kabwit or jing ping were not played by the big bands.

In the 1960s, calypso and steelband music became very popular and indeed replaced lapo kabwit and Chanté mas as the music of carnival, particularly in the capital Roseau. Many of the traditional carnival songs were performed in the new calypso beat. Calypsonians and calypso monarch competitions emerged and became extremely popular. Steelbands emerged all around the country. The older musicians and bands had moved on and were replaced by the younger musicians. Bands such as Swinging Stars, The Gaylords, De Boys an Dem, Los Caballeros and Swinging Busters surfaced and began to cut records. The emergence of radio, first WIDBS and later Radio Dominica helped to spread the music.

It was in the 1960s that the trend towards drawing on original music, traditional music and songs of Dominica began. This was probably best exemplified by the music of the Gaylords and to a lesser extent, De Boys and Dem. Gaylords unleashed a string of hits such as "DouvanJou", "Ti Mako", songs in Kwéyòl as well as powerful nationalist songs in English, as "Lovely Dominica" and "Pray for the Blackman". These songs were performed to calypso rhythms and later the new reggae beat coming out of Jamaica.

In the late 1960s and early 1970s, the influence of rock, soul and funk music from the United States was reflected in our contemporary dance music. New groups originating from mainly the high school student population emerged. Groups such as Every Mother's Child, Woodenstool and Voltage Four specialized in rock and funk. The Latin-rock music of Carlos Santana and Afro-rock music of Osibisa became powerful influences on our younger bands, and were very popular in the dance halls.

The Cadence era[edit]

In the early 1960s, Haitian musicians introduced to the Caribbean, specifically, Dominica and the French Antilles (Guadeloupe and Martinique) the Cadence rampa or compas, a sophisticated form of music that quickly swept the islands and helped unite all the former French colonies of the Caribbean by combining their cultural influences.

In the early 1970s, the Dominican Kadans band Exile One was born, based on the island of Guadeloupe. Its members were top rate Dominican musicians originating from bands such as Woodenstool, Voltage and De Boys and Dem. Trinidadian Calypso and Haitian kadans or konpa were the two dominants music styles of Dominica so Exile One, that featured calypso, reggae and mostly kadans or konpa, called its music Cadence-lypso however, most of the bands repertoire was kadans.

There was a virtual explosion of kadans bands - Exile One, Grammacks, Liquid Ice, Midnight Groovers, Black Affairs, Black Machine, Mantra, Belles Combo, Milestone, Wafrikai, Black roots, Black Blood, Naked Feet and Mammouth among others. Leading vocalists of the period include Gordon Henderson, Jeff Joseph, Marcel "Chubby" Marc, Anthony Gussie, Mike Moreau, Tony Valmond, Linford John, Bill Thomas, SinkyRabess and Janet Azouz among others.

The music of Santana and Osibisa also influenced this new form as evidenced in the use of guitars, keyboards, horns and percussion. At that time too, the society was in nationalist ferment. The Black Power and Rastafarian Movements, with their black pride, pro-African and anti-colonial ideological positions, influenced the young musicians tremendously. This was reflected in the music in terms of band names such as Wafrikai, Black Machine, Black Roots, Black Affairs and Black Blood, a definitive identification with blackness, with Africa. This was reflected in the melody, in the use of certain instruments such as keyboards, guitars and horns. This was also reflected in lyrical content, the positive, nationalist and social commentary of cadence-lypso. Songs like "TwaveyPouAnyen" which addressed the rigours of slavery, impacted on our collective consciousness more than the politicians or Black Power advocates ever could. Cadence-lypso reflected and exuded the nationalist ferment of the seventies.

There were a number of other important aspects of cadence-lypso music which impacted on our culture and society as well as the future direction of Dominica's contemporary music. Cadence-lypso used the Kwéyòl language as its prime means of expression, again feeding into our language traditions and our folk song traditions. Oral traditions such as proverbs were every much utilized in the music. Cadence-music was popular among the young and the old and united the generations. For the younger people, this music which was making Dominica famous overseas was also serving as a platform of protest against the ills of society and for conscious-raising. This music was popular among the older folk because of its similarity or relationship to rhythms of jing ping music and the use of the Kwéyòl language.

Dominica kadans bands became popular in Martinique, Guadeloupe, Haiti and other islands in the Caribbean, Latin America and Africa, blazing a pathway for the development of related styles such soca music, etc. During the 1980s, cadence-lypso’s popularity declined greatly. Some Dominican performers remained famous, such as Ophelia, and became Dominica's first kadans female singer to achieve international star status.

Kassav' was formed in 1979 by Pierre-Edouard Décimus and Paris studio musician Jacob F. Desvarieux. Together and under the influence of well-known Dominican and Guadeloupean kadans-lypso or compas bands like Experience 7, Grammacks and Exile One,[4] they decided to make Guadeloupean carnival music recording it in a more fully orchestrated yet modern and polished style. Kassav' created its own style "zouk" by introducing an eleven-piece gwo ka unit and two lead singers, tambour, ti bwa, biguine, cadence-lypso: calypso and mostly cadence or compas with full use of the MIDI technology. In the 1980s they took Caribbean music to another level by recording in the new digital format.

Recently, efforts have begun to revitalize cadence and creole music generally through the holding of the World Creole Music Festival here in Dominica. This festival attracts top bands of the French Creole-speaking world and in Africa. Exile One, Jeff Joseph//new Generation Grammacks, Anthony Gussie and Tony Valmond/Liquid Ice have released a number of albums as well as remastered vintage cadence hits of the 1970s.


The most influential figure in the development of Cadence-lypso was the Dominican group Exile One (based on the island of Guadeloupe) that combined calypso music from the English speaking Caribbean and the cadence rampa of Haiti with influences of Dominican traditional music.[2] This fusion of kadans and calypso account only for a small percentage of the band's repertoire: Exile One like all Dominica kadans bands featured reggae, calypso and mostly kadans or compas.

Cadence-lypso was created out of the Trinidadian calypso and Haitian cadence rampa, in connection with the Dominican traditional music call jing ping. If we study closely the rhythms and instruments of jing ping music, we can discern some roots of cadence-lypso. The rhythm of the syak, also called gwaj - a percussive instrument made from a tin can, punched with numerous holes in which seeds are placed has been used in cadence music via the high hat and cymbals. The steady beat of the tanbal (drum) and the foot stomping in jing ping music are reflected in cadence by the drums, particularly bass drum. The accordion found, so prominent in jing ping music, is reproduced, particularly in terms of the timbre, by the organ and later the synthesizers. The bamboo instrument called boom boom has been replaced by the bass guitar.

Cadence-lypso has evolved under the influence of Dominican and Caribbean/Latin rhythms, as well as rock and roll, soul and funk music from the United States.[2] By the end of the 1970s, Gordon Henderson defined Cadence-lypso as "a synthesis of Caribbean and African musical patterns fusing the traditional with the contemporary". It was pushed in the 1970s by groups from Dominica, and was the first style of Dominican music to find international acclaim.[2]

Aside from Exile One, other bands included the Grammacks, Black Roots, Black Machine, Naked Feet, Belles Combo, Mantra, Black Affairs, Liquid Ice, Wafrikai, Midnight Groovers, Bill-O-Men and Milestone, while the most famous singers included Bill Thomas, Chubby Marc, Gordon Henderson, Linford John, Janet Azouz, Sinky Rabess, Tony Valmond, Jeff Joseph, Mike Moreau and Anthony Gussie. Ophelia Marie is a popular singer of cadence-lypso in the 1980s.

Cadence-lypso was influenced by nationalist movement that espoused Rastafari and Black Power. Many groups performed songs with intensely ideological positions, and much of the repertoire was in the vernacular kwéyòl language.

Exile One[edit]

Main article: Exile One

Exile One, based in Guadeloupe, is a legendary Dominican group of the 1970s that was very influential in the development of Caribbean music.

In 1969, Gordon Henderson (the creole father of soul) decided that the French Overseas Department of Guadeloupe had everything he needed to begin a career in Creole music. From there, lead singer Gordon Henderson went on to found a highly influential kadans fusion band, the Vikings of Guadeloupe – of which Kassav' co-founder Pierre-Eduard Decimus was a member. At some point he felt that he should start his own group and asked a former school friend Fitzroy Williams to recruit a few Dominicans to complete those he had already selected. The group was named Exile One

The Dominican kadans band Exile One led by the talented Gordon Henderson introduced calypso-influenced horns and the newly arrived synthesizers to their music that other young cadence or compas bands from Haiti (mini-jazz) and the French Antilles emulated in the 1970s. Exile One was copied by bands from all over and most of all from the island of Dominica. In forty years, Gordon Henderson has worked with scores of different musicians.

Exile One was the first kadans band to sign a production contract with a major label called Barclay Records. The first to export kadans music to the four corners of the globe: Japan, the Indian Ocean, Africa, North America, Europe and The Cape Verde islands.

Impact on Creole music[edit]

Cadence-lypso or Dominica kadans has set the stage for some of the region's most significant musical developments:[4]


The calypsonian Lord Shorty of Trinidad was the first to really define his music and with "Indrani" in 1973 and "Endless Vibration" (not just the song but the entire album) in 1975, calypso music really took off in another direction. Later in 1975 Lord Shorty visited his good friend Maestro in Dominica where he stayed (at Maestro's house) for a month while they visited and worked with local kadans artists. You had Maestro experimenting with calypso and cadence ("cadence-lypso"). Sadly a year later Maestro would die in an accident in Dominica and his loss was palpably felt by Shorty, who penned "Higher World" as a tribute.

In Dominica, Shorty had attended an Exile One performance of cadence-lypso, and collaborated with Dominica's 1969 Calypso King, Lord Tokyo and two calypso lyricists, Chris Seraphine and Pat Aaron in the early 1970s, who wrote him some creole lyrics. Soon after Shorty released a song, "Ou Petit", with words like "Ou dee moin ou petit Shorty" (meaning "you told me you are small Shorty"), a combination of calypso, cadence and kwéyòl

Soca's development includes its fusion of calypso, cadence, and Indian musical instruments—particularly the dholak, tabla and dhantal—as demonstrated in Shorty's classic compositions "Ïndrani" and "Shanti Om".


Bouyon is a popular music of Dominica created by WCK or Windward Caribbean Kulture, a group of highly creative young Dominican musicians. They began experimenting with a fusion of cadence-lypso and Jing ping. While the Cadence-lypso sound is based on the creative use of acoustic drums, an aggressive up-tempo guitar beat and strong social commentary in the native Creole language, the new sound created by WCK, focused more on the use of technology with a strong emphasis on keyboard rhythmic patterns.

This group came together to fill a void left by several of Dominica's most internationally recognized bands such as Exile One and Grammacks. The band heralded in a new and much needed resurgence of live music and created a new wave in Dominicas musical evolution.

NCCU cadence-lypso competition[edit]

The NCCU launched its Cadence-lypso Show/Competition June 20, 2012 at 10:00am at its head offices in Roseau. Mr. Leroy Charles, NCCU Cadence-lypso Show promoter, presented the background of Cadence-lypso and applauded NCCU for taking the step to preserve Dominica’s indigenous music.

NCCU President, Mr. Dexter Ducreay stated that NCCU took this initiative to give back to Dominica and keep the Cadence art form alive. Fifteen individuals and groups will be selected to compete at the show at the Newtown Savannah. The winner will walk away with an attractive prize of $15,000.

Inspiring addresses were also delivered by Honourable Justina Charles, Minister of Culture, Youth and Sports. Honourable Ian Douglas, Minister for Tourism and Legal Affairs and Chief Cultural Officer, Mr. Raymond Lawrence. They all confirmed support for the show.

The various media houses were also present as partners in this Cadence Show venture.The show was held at the Newtown Savannah and was well-attended by Cadence lovers who danced and grooved to the infectious music, which comprised old school and new fusions of the Cadence-lypso beat.

The show was organised by the NCCU as part of efforts to revitalise Cadence and to help develop and expose young talent in keeping with the International Year of Cooperatives 2012.

Musical features of cadence[edit]

Cadence music is characterized by a constant up tempo rhythm, hence the name cadence. Its percaussive aspect come from the drum (in particular, the steady one-beat bass drum), an accentuated use of cymbals and, to a lesser extent, the high hat plus a distinct beat of the cowbell, tok, to-tok, tok-tok-tok, and conga drum beating a dash of méringue.

Cadence-lypso or kadans orchestras[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The review of all these kadans bands LPs and CDs shows that their music repertoire is reggae, calypso and up to 80% kadans or compas music.
  2. ^ a b c d Peter Manuel, Kenneth Bilby, Michael Largey. Caribbean Currents: Caribbean Music from Rumba to Reggae. Retrieved April 10, 2012. 
  3. ^ Malena Kuss, ed. (2007). Music in Latin America and the Caribbean: An Encyclopedic History. Volume 2: Performing the Caribbean Experience. U of Texas P. p. 305. ISBN 9780292784987. Retrieved 24 July 2013. 
  4. ^ a b Neva Wartell. "Zouk - Tracing the History of the Music to its Dominican Roots". The Dominican. Reprinted from National Geographic. Retrieved August 10, 2010. 

External links[edit]