Upbeat (January/February 1998)

New Caribbean Music


SOCA

Ah Reading

Iwer George (JW Records)

Nine uptempo tracks from the unofficial king of fete or party music in Trinidad and Tobago. This is highly energetic, rhythmic dance music in which infectious percussion and a creative mixture of soca, chutney and Jamaican dub combine to underline the enormous influence Iwer has had on soca music. It’s music for jumping, dancing and wining (that sensuous circling of the hips), plus some social commentary in Dis Ah Serious Time and some suggestive double entendre in Tractor License. One of the tracks is Bottom In De Road, a controversial piece of bravado about dating an Indian girl, which made the headlines in Trinidad early in the last Carnival season; it features a traditional calypso call-and-response. There’s an infectious and ornate soca jazz mix of Bottom In De Road featuring playful horn lines. This is music for the young and young at heart.

Happy Feeling

Pelham Goddard (Agra Nine)

This is a colourful collection of cover versions of classic calypsos and vintage pop from soca music’s most sought-after and successful arranger, Trinidad’s Pelham Goddard. A ten-track production for the 1998 Carnival, it offers a medley of kaiso — old-time calypso — in Happy Feeling and Tru Kaiso. Pop hits like Rock With You, Call Me and Our Day Will Come (with steel drums played by ace pannist Len “Boogsie” Sharpe) are the flip side of the soca vibe. All the songs are Goddard arrangements (including Party Food, a new soca track composed by the man himself and Arlene George) and feature his famous horn and keyboard lines. This is a CD designed to showcase a formidable talent; it brings a modern feel to old-time melodies and a vintage vibe to modern songs.

Eternal Energy

Shadow (Crossroads Records)

This 12-track uptempo soca CD features the enigmatic musical voice of one of soca music’s founding fathers, Winston Bailey, the Shadow. Each track features his bouncy rhythm, defined by his trademark bass guitar. Shadow’s unique musical approach, now called Shadi Wadi rhythms, shows up well through his pointed commentary in Unwanted Children and Greed,  while his wry, offbeat sense of humour emerges in Feeling To Hug Up. As with all Shadow CDs, there is a personal anecdote which tracks his struggle as a musician. You’ll enjoy the irresistible dance hits in Shadi Wadi Fever and Feeling To Hug Up as well as remakes of classic Shadow hits like One Love.

ROCK STEADY

Sweet Rock Steady

Winston Francis (LKJ Records, London)

This collection of 12 classic rock steady hits sung by veteran reggae artist Winston Francis demonstrates the bridge between two historic phases of Jamaica’s indigenous music: ska and reggae. Rock steady, heavily influenced by American r&b and ballads, was most popular in Jamaica from 1966 to 1968; its unusual downbeat rhythm became popular internationally. This CD shows the emerging bass lines and heart-felt harmonies for which Jamaica’s music would eventually become famous. Tracks like That’s Life foreshadow the message of Bob Marley, while Fattie Fattie captures the suggestive humour for which Trinidad calypso was famous. Like much rock steady, the tracks on this CD tend to become repetitious, but for sheer nostalgic pleasure, as well as historical and cultural interest, this is a CD that’s well worth checking out.