Caribbean Playlist (January/February 2016)

This month’s listening picks

Cyah Help ItGuilty PleasureGood ManCarnival Today

Cyah Help It  Jus Now — Feel Up Records

There’s a new riddim happening in music today, which underscores the importance of the Caribbean “heartbeat” in the evolution of dance music from disco to hiphop to EDM. Jus Now is an international collaboration between Trinidadian producer and percussionist LazaBeam (Keshav Singh) and Bristol-based drum and bass man Sam Interface that has energised the UK and now the global dance scene with a pulse that has these sunny isles at its centre. Their new EP Cyah Help It features four songs (and one instrumental remix) that reflect a vibe and sense that moving rhythmically could be an involuntary act with this music as a background. Drum and bass mix with soca and reggae for urgent spiritual release, and Bunji Garlin, Miss Dynamite, and others chant and sing the celebration of island music that is poised for a return to the top of the music charts. Dancing is inevitable; yuh jus cyah help it!

 

Guilty Pleasure  Alexis Baro — G-Three Records

Toronto-based Cuban trumpeter Alexis Baro has released a ten-track album of jazz music that has the chill vibe in effect, but also focuses on the idea that you can take an islander to the city, but his island-ness is a hard thing to shake off. Laid-back sensuality is an apt phrase to describe the mood of the album, but Afro-Cuban sentiments and rhythms creep in seductively, giving the impression that one is listening to a duality of ambition. On “Eres”, fellow Toronto-based Cuban rapper Telmary (Díaz) provides a spoken-word juxtaposition to Baro’s muted horn; hot hiphop à la Habana. On “African Prince”, Baro blows frenetically and on point over conga drums as a segue to a languid piano solo that serves as a lesson in Latin jazz. Canadian spoken word artist Dwayne Morgan smoothly defines what his guilty pleasures are on the title track. Consuming this album could be yours.

 

Single Spotlight

Good Man  Arita — TEMPO Records

“They say a good man is hard to find,” sings Tobago-born model-cum-singer Arita Edmund on her debut single, and while that sentiment may be true, a good tune is also not easy to come by every day. Today is a good day. With music production moving between New Jersey and Trinidad and Tobago, you can see how the music scene is now boundaryless. Arita’s song bubbles up as a smooth island pop groover, featuring vocals reminiscent of the early Rihanna, taking apart the idea of the island girl as ingénue. The lyrical content wanders from a manifesto of feminist animus — “I am a woman of responsibility / You said I need maturity / But you deserved what you got” — to girlish wishful thinking: “A good man is hard to find / One day he’ll appear and I’ll make him mine.” If only it were that easy.

 

Carnival Today — Bunji Garlin

Bunji Garlin lives a bipolar life. Not an illness, but a practicality that suggests this globe-trotting soca star needs to continue his work with superstar DJs and remixers like Major Lazer and Skrillex, while he also has to satisfy a native audience in Trinidad and Tobago, who all look to him for their annual Carnival dance elixir. “Carnival Today” debuts early for the short Trinidad Carnival season as a kind of initiation to a new phase of the all-encompassing movement by Garlin to take soca out of the Trinidad fete and road to the world stage. With synth horns that hint at Felix Jaehn’s remix of Omi’s “Cheerleader”, one gets the impression that Bunji’s Carnival today is the world party of the future. “Come celebrate in the diamond / Trinidad and Tobago, the twin island,” may be the shout-out for party-hungry wanderers, but the vibe says let the whole world wine together as one.

Reviews by Nigel A. Campbell