Tribute to Midnight Groovers

CommentaryThe Midnite Groovers of South City (Grand Bay) burst on the musical scene in the early 70s led by Chubby and his brother Coe. Although most of the names and faces of the band have changed since its inception, the strong impression of Groovers’ signature music has not

The musical themes and beat quickly reminds everyone that the message is not simply about the identity, dignity and militant nature of the Grand Bay community, but about Dominica, and the struggles, trials and triumphs of African people all over the world.

The reality has been that Dominican music bands come and go (with the exception of Swinging Stars) at an alarming rate. The ultimate test of a band is in its staying power, message, lyrics and melody.

The songs of Groovers have always been concentrated, honest and uncontaminated. Today, Groovers is much more than a music band, it is a venerable Dominican institution.

Chubby and the boys are from a different genre of die-hard musicians who do things the old fashion way. Because of their grass roots and rugged style, it can be easy to dismiss and characterize the groovers as a one-dimensional band catering only to country folks.

Despite the fact that Dominicans have fallen in love with the more effervescent ‘bouyan’ music, the thought provoking songs of Groovers still resonates with the island and its people at home and abroad.

The band is a beacon of authenticity that defies questioning or critique, and deserves only admiration. In a time when our youth prefer and appreciate gangster rap artists over local musicians, Groovers can be described as an artifact from a lost time and place.

At that live performance, the Groovers demonstrated an impressive and convincing style, which underscored their ability to continue to play serious music. Before the night was over, they had won and recaptured the admiration of many in the audience.

They have thrilled audiences all over with pure, undiluted and uncontaminated music of the Dominican countryside. This compares similarly to the magnitude of the cultural contributions that Taboo Combo has made to Haiti.

From their onset as a band more than three decades ago, Groovers has mounted a relentless crusade through their explosive cadence songs on behalf of the poor and disenfranchised in Dominica. They have taken the lead in the fight to uphold the dignity of the peasantry (Malaway). Hits such as ‘Pou Yon Coco’ (for one coconut) and ‘Toute homme se homme aba soliel la’ (all men are equal under the sun) speak volumes of their powerful message.

In 1974, Roseau based Lebanese-Dominican businessman and owner of Geneva estate, Mr. Elias Nassief, was kicked off the estate by the Grand Bay youth. The youths felt that it was unfair for a non-local to own such a fertile estate in the middle of the community and they were not allowed to farm or even ‘set foot’ on the land.

During the ensuring disturbances (revolution as the Grand Bay folks call the Geneva estate events), ‘Colonel’ John declared a state of emergency in the southern part of the Island.

The Dominica Defense Force troops were deployed to South City to put down the rebellion at Geneva, arrest the leaders and maintain calm. One of the leaders was the late PM of Dominica, Mr. Pierre Charles. Once the situation was contained, the government tuned over the stewardship of the estate to the Land Management Authority.

Two years after the Dame Eugenia Charles Freedom party government assumed the reins of power, the estate was divided into small plots and land titles were given to villagers for farming. This was a landmark political and historical victory for the Grand bay peasants (malaway), and signaled much needed land reform in Dominica.

The song ‘Pou yon coco’ from the ‘Cocosec’ album in 1975 indicted the judicial system for the degrading and deplorable manner in which it treated its poorer citizens. That year Chubby was harshly and unfairly convicted (under the Predial Larceny Act) for stealing a few coconuts from the 1300 acre Geneva Estate in Grand Bay.

In the mid-seventies, at the height of the Rasta/government conflict, Groovers stood tall by fighting back and resisting Premier Patrick John, his government and security apparatus (Dominica Defense Force, Special Secret Police and units of the Dominica Police Force) the only way their knew; with melodious, vibrant, thought provoking and vivacious popular cadence songs.

These songs appealed to a troubled nation, which was ruled and dominated by ‘Colonel, the Honorable Patrick R. John’ and his arrogant, corrupt political henchmen and operatives. When all the history books have been written about this sad and shameful era of Dominica’s journey, Groovers should be featured prominently as one of these social forces which stood up to bad government and governance.

The task to analyze, dissect and explain the body of work that the Midnight Groovers have produced over these many years requires full and separate study papers of the caliber of doctorate (PhD) dissertations. Groover’s songs deal with politics, policy, violence, social and economic inequities, humor, love, injustice, police brutality, and community identity and pride. The lyrics of the songs also concentrate on emancipation, slavery, illegal drugs, history, cultural awareness, every day struggles and challenges of common folk.

Groover’s songs of expression of coherence, identity connection and self-determination have been more than enough to absorb elements of Dominican history. Their songs embrace the realities, beauty and uniqueness of Grand Bay and the hills, valleys, villages and towns of Dominica. It also reminds us of our painful history and colorful culture. The poignant lyrics reach back to our roots in unrivaled and compelling ways.

Their highly conscious and politically aware songs always dealt with attempting to restore and shape civil society. The accepted roles and responsibilities of the band have been to inform, sensitize and educate our people. The band’s timely response to the cry of injustice of the peasantry is found in their timeless and precious collection of songs.

Groover’s delicious brand of music especially made to party proves to be a healing remedy for many of Dominica’s current and past problems. The heated soul searching and awakening dance music releases immediate, therapeutic flows of energy. These bursts of joy have certainly inspired, kept hope alive, and helped bring about a kinder, gentler love of self and country. To Chubby and the boys, please continue playing the music.

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29 Comments

  1. Kalinago Justice
    October 24, 2019

    As far as I am concerned, Chubby and his brother Co has lost the true essence of the Cadence Music they once played. The likes of Reynold is bringing nothing to the music, Chubby needs to bring a better Percussionist and start playing genuine Cadence Music again, cause what they’re playing now is of poor quality.

  2. Popam
    October 11, 2013

    monument at Tete Lallay

  3. congratulations
    October 10, 2013

    I am a Christian. We were raised not to listen to these music. But as an adult, I realze that all their music is uplifting, and to the point. They were not singing these garbage we are hearing from the younger genetation. These men are like Bob Marley. Their songs make sense, the speak of the past, present and future of our country, and the world.

    When these guys sing, it brings comfort, and their songs are also Based on the Bible. I don’t care if the were rasters. Who am I to judge. A lot of us who are not rasters and are so called Christians, are empty and have nothing sound and spiritual to give. Much love to these roots guys,
    I still listen to their music.

  4. grandbarian in china
    October 10, 2013

    To the Midnight Groovers. Chubby, Coe, Reynold and the rest of you guys a job well done. for the person who wrote this piece hats off to you as well. I am proud to say I am Dominican and I am from the beautiful cultural capital and home to treasures Grand Bay. some days after classes I can put on my Groovers and move to the sweet sounds of cadence.

    Student in china, Thank you and God continue to bless you with words for music. :) :) :-D

  5. murphy mark
    October 10, 2013

    WE NEED JUST MORE THAN A TRIBUTE FOR SUCH SUCCESSFUL BAND.THEY ARE THE LAST OF ALL THE CADENCE BANDS THAT WERE THERE AMONGST ALL THE REST IN THE 70S.AND YET THERE STILL GOING STRONG.WHY NOT GIVE THEM ALL THEIR FLOWERS RIGHT NOW ..NOW THAT THERE ARE THERE ALIVE….. DON’T GIVE THEM AN ICON WHEN THEY ARE GONE LIKE JEFF JOSEPH.

    i love my father music ..he represent full dominican culture but yet dominican don’t appreciate his music.he is appreciate in st Lucia and the french territories alot more than his home land ..why aren’t they on the line up for world creole music festival ?

    • Anonymous
      October 28, 2013

      Excuse me…Could you please tell me the name of the song by Midnight Groovers which talk about young people carrying knives,cutlasses & guns & is mama epi papa…?

  6. Rasben
    October 9, 2013

    As a musician who played bass in one of the Cadence-Lypso bands during the seventies Midnight Groovers was my favourite. There was sincerity, honesty and authenticity which made listeners instantly gravitate to the message. I remember listening for the first time to Coco Sec and feeling the rawness, the emotional expression and the creativity and thinking these guys are special. Thank you Midnight Groovers.

  7. ZEE
    October 9, 2013

    A great tribute but at least one photo would have been nice.

  8. ravinebanan
    October 9, 2013

    I just love midnight Groovers.They are truly my heroes,they truly deserves respect.I am ready to contribute financially to set up a monument on thier behalf.After a very hard and stressfull day in the good old U.S.A,i can log in YouTube find Groovers and smile and also a little wineing and i am good to go.Thanks Chubby and Coe.GOD bless .

  9. maycha
    October 9, 2013

    Great piece Dr. FINN,
    The last band Standing from the WAVE of DOMINICA’s musical invasion CADENCE LYPSO to The WORLD.they do need some serious young blood to keep the GROOVERS legacy,they were our drivingforce in the conscious 70’s.
    LONG LIVE GROOVERS.

  10. Diaspora Crave
    October 9, 2013

    Congratulations to the kings of Cadence Midnight Groovers. I am very pleased with that tribute. It is no doubt a great piece and I appreciate you for taking the time to put it together.
    We Dominicans should be proud of Chubby and Coe. And with that being said I support the construction or installation of a monument or statue of Chubby and Coe along with a museum displaying their accomplishments from the inception of the band. The Cultural Division should immediately take steps towards achieving that goal before they leave us. We should not wait to get it done after they pass. I’m sure they would be very happy to be a part of the ground breaking ceremony. They truly deserve it. Shining examples of genius, courage, patriotism, natural talent and a revolutionary spirit. Long live the Midnight Groovers. Proud of my uncles.

  11. Diaspora Crave
    October 9, 2013

    Congratulations to the kings of Cadence Midnight Groovers. I am am very pleased with that tribute. It is no doubt a great piece and I appreciate you for taking the time to put it together. We Dominicans should be proud of Chubby and Coe. And with that being said I support the construction or installation of a monument or statue of Chubby and Coe along with a museum displaying their accomplishments from the inception of the band. The Cultural Division should immediately take steps towards achieving that goal before they leave us. We should not wait to get it done after they pass. I’m sure they would happy to be a part of the ground breaking ceremony. They truly deserve it. Shining examples of genius, courage, patriotism, natural talent and a revolutionary spirit. Long live the Midnight Groovers. Proud of my uncles.

  12. soulier a talon haut
    October 9, 2013

    God Bless Dominica’s most talented…long live Chubby and the Groovers…..

  13. jj p
    October 9, 2013

    This is my favorite music band in da, i love cadence and boyoun music, but sadly boyoun music has since dead RIP boyoun, the nonesense that wck and tripple kay plays now adays, i have no idea what is that but i know definitely its not the boyoun music i know, you could go to a groovers jam and dance and enjoy yourself, wck and tripple kay, you cant tell from when they start or in the middle or when its coming to an end, pure crap, i dont attend their functions anymore, when i need some good boyoun i go to youtube late 1980’s to late 1990’s to get them. sad sad sad RIP boyoun music.

  14. J.FF.
    October 9, 2013

    Just love em. What a great band.

  15. Neg Mawon
    October 9, 2013

    Yah man!! Groovers all the way, Chubby, Ko and the rest of the guys. The only band in DA that play consious music, Gwan bay I from!!

  16. Sout
    October 9, 2013

    Respect is due !

  17. DRAGON
    October 9, 2013

    If you are looking for musical lyrics other than “One Love” or “Three little Birds” by Bob Marley to sing in church, a Pastor struggling to write a sermon for Sunday morning service should have no problem preparing his or her message using the “Midnight Groovers” book.

    Respect is due big time to these geniuses who are able to take social issues and transform it into something that even the oppressed can use as therapy. I am not sure whether there are any other societal issues they have not touched on.

    Listening to the lyrics and musical arrangement can be a case study by itself. The balance that each instrument brings and the distinctiveness in their role in each song, never cease to amaze me.

    Many thanks to “Midnight Groovers”; you have influenced a lot of us!

  18. 3xpression band
    October 9, 2013

    Much love to Chubby and the rest of the brothers,Groovers are the master of there style and should continue making the good music that they make. You are definitely HEROES to us up coming musicians. One love.

  19. Anonymous
    October 9, 2013

    Great piece. High time we raise them up. The band defines what it is to play for the love. I might also add that groovers need to start looking for a young talented singer to perform with chubby and a competent lead guitarist so that the music and band can continue for a long time. Would love to see that band be around for next thirty years.

    • maycha
      October 9, 2013

      Chubby and CO,you guys should take this SUGGESTION and ACT on that.
      You have young talent in south city,for the band’s longivity.

  20. PoKeSa
    October 9, 2013

    Why Midnight Groovers is the greatest Candence-lypso band of its era.

    Like me, many are schooled by their Candence Lypso music. This great band, under the leadership of Chubby and Coe, work harmoniously to fulfil the needs of those who feel angry; depressed; unloved; abandoned; betrayed; neglected and undeserving of attention to name just a few of the typical feelings that their music heals, cures or remedy.

    All good dance bands must possess a tempo – you just ask the prolific Conch Shell (Lambi) blower from Scotts Head, known as Bruno aka ‘Blow Tempo’. Groovers unique style of Cadence-lypso music allows dancers to dance comfortably to the music and provide enough energy to give lift to their feet and support to their natural momentum….. never rushing to keep up with the music. Their musical tempo makes it easy to accomplish figures that require a degree of momentum. Their music always lends for an involved dance with a number of precisely timed sequences.

    Arguably Dominica’s most prolific and soul healing live dance band – Midnight Groovers

  21. A concern citizen
    October 9, 2013

    Great piece on one of my favourite cadence band. I grew up in the era of these great Cadence legends. A matter of fact Scott’s Head Shakas dance hall on the Scott’s Head beach was one of Mid-night Groovers favourite spot. Mid-night Groovers had a great following in the area.

  22. babalene
    October 9, 2013

    I say well written Doc. lets get together and have a monument of Coe and Chubby installed somewhere either at the junction at Loubierre or the one leading to GrandBay – just like the one of Bob Marley installed in Jamaica – the guys truely deserve that.

  23. committ.ed dominican
    October 9, 2013

    Long live groovers. Please don’t die.

  24. grell
    October 9, 2013

    Great piece Dr.Finn,Groovers will always be my favorite band,grew up listening to the music and still enjoy today.Lets hope that a brief history of the band is being thought @ our schools on the island.Great respect to the people of Grandbay which stood up for what belonged to them from the so called bloodsuckers of dominica.Keep playing the music Chubby.

  25. block 44
    October 9, 2013

    long live chubby and the grovers,the pride of south city.i still want more grovers.you have to be dam good to play the drums and lead vocal or play the bass gitar and lead vocals. long live my brother,long live.(parsay nou ka parsay)

  26. JA4DA
    October 9, 2013

    A great write up for a band who has represented Dominica to the fullest. Always look out for them on my return to DA during the festivals. Good old fashioned band with ‘real music’ and ‘lyrics’. Big up Groovers !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  27. Nudibranch
    October 9, 2013

    in a world of autotune and poor quality since anyone can make a recording in their bedroom, the Groovers have paid their dues and stood the test of time, Solid hard working musicians and ambassadors for Dominica, they deserve our respect and hopes for continued music making.

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