The Red Plastic Bag

Calypso, calypso, calypso! Barbados is the calypso capital, every year new tunes flood the airwaves as Barbadians gear up for their annual “Crop Over Festival.” With all the new music hitting the scene yearly, one may ask themselves, where is this music coming from? From calypsonians, of course, artists who specialize in creating the island’s unique sound. They are in no short supply on the island and each year springs a new crop of singers. There is one singer who stands out among all the others, one whose experience and sweet melodies are always a crowd favourite. His name is Stedson Wiltshire or as many know him on stage, “The Red Plastic Bag!”

The Red Plastic Bag or RPB for short has had a lengthy and historic career as a calypsonian and his music has long transcended the island’s shores to garner international recognition.  He started his singing career as a young man, in 1979 where he wowed audiences, soon becoming well-known. His distinctive sound was well-received as well as the message he was transmitting through his music. The transmittance of messages through calypso music is part and parcel of how the music is created. He was able to do this successfully while still retaining great lyrics and melodies.

Hailing from the parish of St. Philip, his father was a fisherman so he spent lots of his time surrounded by the fishing community. It was there that he was exposed to the musical culture of the island through many folk songs sung by his father and other fishermen. These old songs served to enlighten him about his culture and ingrained in him a sense of pride. Through his music he fused the messages with the present reality, creating a new version of the beloved genre. With Barbadian music in his bones, he was able to create new and innovative music for all to enjoy.

One of his most famous songs entitled “Ragga Ragga,” was beloved not only in Barbados but all over the world. It was so well-loved in fact that it was recorded in a whopping seven languages! This song spread all over the globe with its catchy lyrics and rhythmic beat. Through his music he has garnered many fans, his performances are always packed with scores of supporters chanting his name. He is quite the local celebrity!

He is so recognized that in 2015 he was asked to attend and perform in Berlin, Germany for cultural exchange. His music was so well received there that he was revered by all there who heard him. This just shows how unequalled his sound is, it breaks cultural barriers and creates excitement for everyone who listens to him. He is truly a great artist and a talented performer.

His lyrical content is almost always a cunning play on words, leaving one to ponder the double entendre he presents. This makes his music even more enjoyable as it excites the brain and the body. An example of this is his song “Can’t Find Me Brother,” when he sang about the famous inmate on the run, Winston Hall. In this song, he listed all the neighbourhoods within the country which ended in ‘Hall,’ drawing reference from the inmate's last name so that listeners could make the connection for themselves. He is a master of presenting music in this way, his sly wit shines through in all his music.

The Red Plastic Bag will forever be known as one of the best Calypsonians that Barbados has ever seen. His sweet rhythms and beats combined with the powerful lyrics enchant audiences all over the world. His talents are not limited to the island, but expands to the diaspora and beyond. He creates music that is timeless and transcends age, the melodies are catchy and one finds themselves humming along while voluntarily or involuntarily moving their bodies to the beat!