Just Wanna Jam Kes (Single)
The regional nature of modern soca allows for Trinidad superstar Kes (Kees Dieffenthaller) to work with Barbadian producers Studio B to put out this track that debuted at the 2014 Barbados Crop Over, and is now firmly energising Trinidad Carnival 2015. After that, the world is his oyster. The tune embraces the island pop leanings forever present in Kes’ music and happily chugs along with a steady rhythm clip that drives this party anthem to a zenith of oddball fun. “And anytime ah catchin’ de feelin’ / Ah down till ah touchin’ de ceilin’ / And if yuh watch me crazy / I doh give ah damn!” Kes is one of the few soca singers whose pitch and tone can make the ordinary seem sexy. With a minimum of effort, this tune does damage to the idea that soca is simply a background soundtrack to a party. It’s a major sing-along jam too!
Brace Bunji Garlin (Single)
Soca music’s new paladin in the global marketplace, Bunji Garlin, continues to ride the wave of success that began with Differentology in 2013/4. For Carnival 2015, he tests the locals’ penchant for dancing to an EDM pulse in the parties and on the road with this track produced by Trinidadian electro whiz kid iM4RiO, and mixed by Brooklyn remixer Richie Beretta. Incorporating moombahton—a fusion genre of house music and reggaeton slowed to 110 beats-per-minute—to add to the already edgy musical adventures of Garlin of late, the track is a bed for the lyrical magic that is Bunji Garlin in full flight spitting rhymes and juggling couplets that puts a smile on one’s face and a pivot in one’s hip. “Somebody brought Johnny Walker in a basket, decide they wanna put me to lie down in a casket, decide they wanna blow my head like is a gasket…” Everybody brace, because this party’s on!
Oui ma Chérie! Andy Narell
Trinidadians are notoriously protective of their national instrument, the steelpan, so much so that when iconoclastic American pannist Andy Narell releases a new CD, the chauvinistic hubris echoing among local voices can and does sting. Narell’s riposte in this instance is an album of five long musical interludes, a balance of originals and Trinidad song /calypso that defines broader genre options for the steelpan. Jazz dissonance and tropical rhythms that suggest the wider Caribbean outside of Trinidad move the body of music for the instrument several steps ahead. Narell single-handedly plays all the parts of a small steel orchestra to capture with near sonic perfection the timbre of the modern steelband, and blends it with solo guitar and trumpet to imagine newer possibilities. After 18 previous albums, it is clear that the sound born of “the audacity of the creole imagination” in Trinidad is now global, and this album is apt proof of Narell’s significance.
Calypso Craze: 1956-57 and Beyond (Box Set) Various Artists
With Trinidad Carnival upon us, we need to be reminded that modern soca music had a precursor of sunny calypso music that was the rage in America before rock’n’roll took hold. Indefatigable calypso researcher Ray Funk with Michael Eldridge have compiled 6 CDs and 1 DVD of music, film, and facts to recreate the zeitgeist of the late 1950s when calypso’s slow growth in the US was upended by Elvis, Little Richard et al, and the rest as they say is history. That “fad from Trinidad” was a ubiquitous presence in the months after Harry Belafonte released his “Calypso” LP in 1956. Caribbean-ness was a badge for entré into a milieu where jazz greats like Ella Fitzgerald and Nat ‘King’ Cole were singing calypsoes, and ex-pat Trini calypsonians including the Duke of Iron and MacBeth the Great were headlining jazz clubs. It’s all here in this box set of nostalgia, novelty and never-ending fascination.
- These reviews appear in the January/February 2015 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2015, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.