Friday, May 2, 2014

Cat Island Rake & Scrape, Bahamas

Rake & Scrape performed by Bo Hog and the Rooters
at New Bight, Cat Island, Bahamas
     I will begin this blog by defining Rake & Scrape for those who are unfamiliar with this genre of music. It falls into the category of world music. Specifically, folk music of the Bahamas. Traditional Rake & Scrape music was acoustic and performed with a saw scraped with a screwdriver, a button accordion or concertina and a cowhide or goatskin drum stretched over a steel barrel. It may also incorporate any other folk instruments such as a broomstick and washtub standup bass. It's hypnotic, rhythmic beats originated in the Turks and Caicos Islands where the music is known as Rip Saw and from where large numbers of Cat Islanders migrated in the early part of the 20th century.
Crystal on saw and Pompey on button accordion

    We'd left our anchorage at Simms, Long Island early morning with a long day of sailing ahead to Fernandez Bay, Cat Island. At 4:00 PM while planning to sail past New Bight, Cat Island Jim from Salty Paws spotted us on the horizon and hailed us on the VHF radio informing us of an impromptu concert scheduled that evening on the beach by world renowned Rake & Scrape artist Bo Hog and the Rooters. "Rake & Scrape! Where?" "At the small shacks on the beach at New Bight!" With a fast change of plans we contacted our friends Pete and Diane from Pearl with whom we were traveling and all were in agreement. It sounded like a spontaneous event not to be missed. One quick tack to starboard and we were inshore and anchored at New Bight in time for the start of the concert at 5:30 PM.

Crystal, Pompey and Cedell band members of
Bo Hog and the Rooters
     The shoreline at New Bight has a few colorful restaurant shacks that line the beach serving traditional Bahamian fare...peas and rice, mac & cheese, fried chicken, coleslaw, conch fritters and fried snapper or grouper and Kaliks the beer of the Bahamas. When our waitress Crystal, who was also a band member asked what I would like for dinner, I said while pointing toward the next table, " I'll have whatever she's having, it looks good!" The response..."We are out of peas and rice, grouper, and snapper. But, you can have mac & cheese, coleslaw and fried chicken!" The response, "Sounds wonderful!" And it was. No one complains in the Bahamas. We simply respond, "It's the Bahamas."
Pompey playing the button accordion

Nearly a private concert for cruising sailors
     The concert was a hit. Pompey, "Bo Hog" Johnson and the Rooters were the real deal. It turned out to be nearly a private concert for cruisers who happened to be anchored at New Bight! This solidified our reasons for living aboard and cruising from place to place. We never know what the next day has to offer and we're rarely disappointed.
Check out the link for a music sample.


The baptismal font

Ruins of an Anglican Church, New Bight, Cat Island

   Before departure to Bennett's Harbor the next day I was able to wander about the plethora of ruins on Cat Island. We discovered an abandoned Anglican Church not far from the waterfront.
     I ventured inside in spite of Joe's protests. "It's dangerous. There's broken beer bottles and rusty nails on boards everywhere. The roof might give way." Finally, with resolve, " careful." I love ruins. I imagine the building at one time filled with life on a Sunday morning.

The pastor preaching from the pulpit. Women dressed in their Sunday best fanning themselves. Bored children wriggling in the pews gazing out windows hoping for a glance at the sea. I wonder about its demise. Why was it abandoned? Perhaps a hurricane tore the roof off. I photograph its remains.
Ruins of Anglican Church, New Bight, Cat Island

Minerva Rolle of Bennett's Harbor, Cat Island
photo by Joe Boulay
     Bennett's Harbor, Cat Island was on the itinerary the following day. Pete and Diane had stopped there before and hoped to introduce us to Minerva Rolle, a Bahamian woman whom they'd met ashore a couple of years ago. Two years ago at the age of 90 Minerva was cutting away brush in her yard with a machete. This season while walking by Minerva's cottage Diane called out to her. We listened all hoping she was still among the living...Minerva was sitting on her covered porch in company of her cat enjoying the warm morning. Words cannot describe this woman's presence but, I will try. She sat as though expecting a visitor. Dressed neatly with a scarf, straw hat, pearl necklace and earrings. A proud, strong Bahamian woman of 92 years who raised ten children. We had a nice chat with her and she told us how as a child she played marbles with actor Sir Sidney Portier who was raised nearby in Arthur's Town, Cat Island. I asked if she would allow us to take a photo and she was delighted. She didn't fuss with her appearance. She was as she is...a dignified Bahamian woman.