“Landship,” a tradition unique to Barbados, developed during the several centuries of British rule as a way for African Barbadians to simultaneously emulate and mimic the strict hierarchies of the British navy. A landship is essentially a Bajan community dance society (“a ship on land”) whose members dress up like British naval officers and support staff and dance in processions like British naval officers did–sort of. The primary musical “engine” of a landship is the tuk band, a drum/fiddle/pennywhistle ensemble based upon British regimental military bands–again, sort of. Landships organize themselves into individual “ships,” named after British vessels, which unite into “fleets” under the leadership of “Lord High Admirals” and other “officers.”
The documentary “Preserving the Ship and the Engine/De Engine and de Ship” asserts that the landship is more than just a way for working class Bajans to mock stodgy colonialists. Instead it presents landship as an historically rich tradition that embodies the effusive spirit of a long-colonized nation while at the same time serving as a practical pillar of Bajan community life.
In class we’re form our own temporary landship, using a makeship tuk band to help us set sail.