Caribbean playlist (January/February 2014)

A roundup of potential Carnival hits

It’s a Carnival: Bunj GarlinPlay de Music: Kes the BandHappiest Man Alive and Drop it Down: Machel Montano

Carnival roundup

One way to tell Trinidad Carnival is getting near: soca artistes start releasing their big tunes on the radio, in fetes, and (nowadays) online. When this issue of Caribbean Beat went to press in December 2013, many of the biggest 2014 hits were yet to make their debut, but here’s an early roundup of some of the season’s key musical contenders.

It’s a Carnival  Bunji Garlin

It was impossible to go to a 2013 Carnival fete or turn on your radio without hearing Bunji Garlin’s “Differentology”. The song even made it to the US music festival Coachella, where DJ Major Lazer’s remix went viral, becoming an international sensation. For 2014, Bunji (real name Ian Alvarez) has taken the soca sound in a whole new direction. Produced by Diplo (of Major Lazer) and Vincentian Alex Barnwell (a.k.a. Kubiyashi,) “It’s a Carnival” merges soca and techno, and while some may see this as sacrilege, it works. Bunji keeps all the essential elements needed for a Carnival hit, urging fans to “wine and dip,” and telling women revellers to “drop yuh bumper back and get low.” If Bunji wanted to be different this year, he’s succeeded.

Play de Music  Kes the Band

Kes the Band’s 2011 hit “Wotless” rode the airwaves, even winning the coveted Groovy Soca Monarch title. This year Kes (the band consists of vocalist Kees Dieffenthaller, drummer Hans Dieffenthaller, Jon Dieffenthaller on guitar, and Riad Boochoon on bass guitar) seems poised for a run to retake the crown. “Play de Music” hits all the right notes to fire up the Carnival spirit. The song is based on what is sure to be one of the hottest beats of 2014 Carnival, the Mango Riddim, with all the necessary ingredients. It’s is guaranteed to be a hit at fetes, when Kes remind the crowd “We waiting whole year to have gyal at meh left, right, back, front, all dem wine when me say, play de music.”

Happiest Man Alive and Drop it Down  Machel Montano

Machel is known for releasing numerous tracks during the Carnival season before he reveals his inevitable Road March contender. His first release for 2014, “Happiest Man Alive”, is already a popular tune. In “Drop it Down”, his second track, he breaks no new ground, sticking to his formula of telling women to “Drop yuh bumper” and “Wine to the ground.” The Sando Beat version has a nice groove to it, but we’ll have to wait and see if either of these two songs will be Machel’s Groovy Monarch contender. In 2013, Machel leaned heavily on performance gimmicks (fogging up the place, floating like Superman). Maybe this is the year he’ll let his music do the talking.

Bread  Ravi B
Last year, Ravi B had everyone hooked singing about his “Prescription” to drink rum all day. This time he’s singing for “de gyal and dem who doh trust men.” His first Carnival 2014 release is amusing in parts, but not as big a contender as its predecessor.

Ten to One  Blaxx
When the Mighty Sparrow sang a calypso of the same name, it was about being attacked by ten men. Blaxx, on the other hand, chooses to sing about the ratio of women to men in a Carnival band. This is one of two early singles released by Blaxx (the other is the equally catchy “Carnival Virgins”), a formidable follow-up to his massive 2013 hit “Leh Go”.

Catch Me  Fay-Ann Lyons
When the first chords begin, you’ll swear you’re listening not to a soca release, but to an international Top 40 hit. The beat then switches from techno to soca, then back to pop. It may be a huge hit on the radio, but how it will go over in Carnival fetes? Still, massive props to Fay-Ann for daring to do something completely different.

Aggressive  Nadia Batson
This song has all the elements of a big Carnival hit. Nadia claims she is “back to claim the road, ready to take the stage, aggressive when we wining, bumpers full of rage” — what more is there to say?

Play More Local  Mr Famous
Mr Famous channels his inner Shadow, as he advises radio stations to play more local music — specifically, the masters like Kitchener, Arrow (who isn’t “local”, if that means Trini, but let’s not nit-pick), and of course Shadow himself. The song is a throwback to the golden days of calypso, and a big radio success.