International » Caribbean Traditions » Spouge

Spouge, a hybrid of calypso, reggae and soca played at tremendous speed, is indigenous to Barbados, and was immensely popular in the Caribbean from 1969 to 1973. It origins can be traced to Jackie Opel, a Bajan singer and bassist who had been living and recording in Jamaica. Opel, as a member of the Skatalites and through his association with the Wailers, was instrumental in the rise of both ska and rocksteady. When Opel returned to his native Barbados in the late 1960s, he brought with him a solid understanding of Jamaican rhythms, and began experimenting with them on his recordings. After Barbados won its independence in 1966, the country turned its attention to developing its own cultural identity, and since Opel was the nation’s biggest star, his material was covered regularly by local musicians, who gradually increased the speed, and with the addition of the cowbell as the driving rhythmic element, developed what came to be known as spouge. The music featured the choppy rhythm guitar of reggae, but much faster, and the driving cowbell and percussion elements made it very much a dance music. Spouge was also tremendously adaptive, with the trademark spouge beat being used by Bajan musicians to cover American pop tunes (numerous covers of the Ides of March early 1970s hit “Vehicle” have made it an unofficial spouge anthem), reggae hits, and even gospel and Christmas songs. The most successful spouge group was undoubtedly the Draytons Two, whose 1973 album Raw Spouge was released just as the local spouge craze was abating. The album was a huge success in the Caribbean, topping the charts on a number of islands, including St. Kitts, St. Lucia and Dominica. It was to be spouge’s last gasp, though, and while the musical style is still played in Barbados (where frequent attempts have been made to revive it), it invariably takes a back seat to calypso, soca, reggae and more recently, rap and hip hop.

Spouge Album Highlights

Raw Spouge
Draytons Two
Raw Spouge

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Spouge Song Highlights

Title/Composer Performer Stream
Drink Milk
Draytons Two

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