Cadencelypso icon Gordon Henderson
Cadencelypso icon Gordon Henderson

Dominican music pioneer Gordon Henderson believes the Cadence-lypso genre continues to play a vital role in the evolution of Dominica's music culture.

Giving his thoughts on the current state of Cadance-lypso music, Henderson declared that the genre is still very popular in the world music market and veteran artistes are its main flag-bearers.

He indicated that, despite the passage of time, lovers of Cadence-lypso have never lost their taste for the music and this has sustained the long careers of Henderson and other pioneers.

"All I can say is as a Cadence-lypso artiste I command a reasonable fee and I have never ceased performing from day one," Henderson said.

"On March 26, I'm in Désirade, on May 13 at the Terre de Blues in Marie-Galante, on the 26 at a Cadence festival in the Indian Ocean and so on . . .

He said it is important to note that Cadence-lypso music produced by Dominicans continues to be bought and consumed by non-Dominicans, commenting, "This is real export!"

Nevertheless, Henderson acknowledged that Cadence-lypso has been overtaken by the newer 'Zouk' music genre. "But the Zouk market is very sensitive to the origins of that genre," he said.

Despite the emergence of Zouk, Henderson maintained that Cadence-lypso is not dead. "It is probably dead for those who only understand it to be an up-tempo genre with a dominant cowbell.

"For the people of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Guyane, Réunion etc...Cadence-lypso is the reference music of Dominica and is therefore alive and kicking.

"If you are Dominican and you think [Cadence-lypso] is dead, then you need to find out what is wrong or right with those who know it's alive," Henderson contended.

As evidence of the continued relevance of the genre, Henderson said, "One should go to YouTube and watch a one-hour documentary titled 'B World Connection-- Gordon Henderson'.

"Cadence-lypso targeted from day one a market outside Dominica and the people responded. Artists like Ophelia, Jeff Joseph . . . and myself, worked hard to build . . . the market."

According to him, " Follow-up artists abandoned the path that Exile One and Grammacks in particular had traced for them and chose to start all over again.

"Today . . . rather than moving forward, the people seem to want to return to the origins . . . Dominicans seem to always want to go back to original years rather than accept natural evolution," he opined.

This does not mean that Cadence-lypso cannot evolve in dynamic new ways, he said. "If one accepts the notion that all art can evolve, then cadence-lypso cannot be the only exception.

"The genre does not have to evolve with the same name. Let's see it as creole music and follow. 'Aki Yaka' is different from 'Reflexion' and later 'Homage à Frantz Fanon' or 'Fraiche'," he pointed out

Sometimes it is not a question of an evolution of music, he said, but the evolution of fans' appreciation. "The question in Dominica is not if Cadence-lypso has evolved but if the people have?"

"Most people in Dominica see the Midnight Groovers as the 'Kings of Cadence' and they will agree that that group's music, for better or for worse, has remained in the 1970s.

"That does not mean that it is bad-- it means it is targeting those who are nostalgic of the 1970s. So if the majority of Dominicans . . . are locked to 'Groovers', then it's a long way from change."

Be that as it may, Cadence-lypso still gets extensive airplay and has a large following of devoted fans. And as talented artistes like Henderson continue to be the driving force, there's no end in sight.