Caribbean Roots Anthony Joseph
(Strut / Heavenly Sweetness)
Performance poet and spoken word artist are two descriptives to reference UK-based Trinidadian Anthony Joseph as an entertainer. Creole griot is another. On this, his second full length album away from his organically funky Spasm Band and other collaborations, Joseph again fuses the rhythm of the word and various Caribbean and New World musical rhythms and sounds to create a textually lush amalgam of Afro-Caribbean soul, soca, calypso, jazz, and rapso for a global audience. If rapso is “de power of de word in the riddim of de word,” Caribbean Roots is rapso elevated. Eleven tracks of lyrically and musically dense poetic and percussive odes—these are more than songs—celebrate de power of de word without being arcane or clichéd. Topics ranging from Caribbean history and biography to personal reminiscences of Trinidad characters and events describe an eventful arc. Earl Lovelace, Andy Narell and David Rudder make appearances on this album that showcases this important man-of-words and music!
Pathways Zane Rodulfo
Drummer Zane Rodulfo, on his debut EP Pathways shows a maturity beyond his 26 years as composer of and rhythmic support for a short set of original jazz instrumentals. Dissecting the music, one is awed by the seemingly cultivated approach of the musical themes on this production. As a graduate of both Oberlin College and NYU, one expects a studied approach, but the artist’s youth throws a wrench in the theory that this level of quiet contemplation must come with age and experience. Rodulfo’s Trinidad roots are reflected purely in the sound, not necessarily the rhythms. Composing four out of the five tunes on this collection, the superlative interplay between jazz guitar or saxophone and the effectively anchored rhythm section suggests that as a producer, he is not selfish and his gifts lay in creating environments for musicians to run free without bombast. This EP is a great launching pad for a stellar international career.
We Muzik: Volume 7 Various Artists
This collection of recent soca tunes and party anthems from Trinidad Carnival—both the 2016 Road March and Soca Monarch winning songs are here—continues the trend by mega-producer Kasey Phillips and his Precision Productions label of compiling the best of “we muzik” for an international audience who did not have the joy of being present at the annual biggest party on the planet. Since Phillips is also the producer , co-producer or remixer of all the tracks on the album, compiling “the best” of Trinidad Carnival music underscores his significance as a producer of modern soca music! A few riddims can go a long way—six songs share the Shake Down Riddim without getting boring! Stars Machel Montano and Destra Garcia and new stars like Voice and all revel in Phillips’ winning production magic. It is said that one man can not make an industry, but this compilation album moves close to disproving that theory.
Griotism (Pot of Gold) Kurt Allen
Calypso has a recorded history of a little over a century. In 2016, it is a rarity for a full album of calypso as opposed to soca to be produced. Kurt Allen, is the self-described last bardjohn of calypso, mockingly noting the role and role-play of the calypsonian as singer and calypsonian as lyrical danger-man threatening sense and sensibility. Doing the unthinkable with this collection yet adding sense to reality, he offers a “pay-what-you-want” pricing strategy cementing his vanguard role as preserver of the artform for a new audience motivated never to forget traditions. Calypso researcher Donald R. Hill described calypso lyrics as “a bible of Creole thought” and on this album, it is the lyric that makes the case for the notion of Allen as griot in the tradition of messenger and sage. “Allyuh ever ask yourself what is calypso” is the opening line of the title track. Over the ten tracks, we discover the answer.
- These reviews appear in the May/June 2016 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2016, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.