Upbeat (March/April 2002)

New music from the Caribbean

–––––––

Musicians head for Jamaica

Started in 1999, the Caribbean Music Expo (CME) has become one of the must-attend events for people in the music business. In past years, the event’s panels and workshops have featured top music industry executives, and recording artists such as Wyclef Jean and Mary J. Blige, as well as a trade show, CD market and concert showcases. This year’s edition has taken the theme “Technology, the Internet and Music Industry Development”.

An enhancement to the 2002 event is the partnership forged between the CME and the international songwriters’ retreat “Music Bridges Around the World”, which has previously been held in Germany, Cuba, Ireland, Indonesia, Romania and the former Soviet Union. Past participants have included Michael Bolton, Montell Jordan, Gladys Knight, Mick Fleetwood, and Cyndi Lauper.

For Music Bridges Jamaica, up to 30 top international songwriters and performers will be joined by 30 Jamaican songwriters and performers over five days to collaborate on new musical compositions. The retreat will run from 17-22 March 2002 at the Dragon Bay Hotel in Portland. The participants will adjourn to Ocho Rios from 23-25 March to participate in the CME.

More information is available at the CME’s website www.cme.com.jm.

Georgia Popplewell

 

SOCA etc

Calypso Heat: The Definitive Calypso Compilation

Various Artists (Victory World, VR164)

There’s a fine line separating hyperbole from false advertising, and in calling this compilation “definitive”, Victory World is walking it big-time. How could a “definitive” compilation not include Golden Age practitioners like Atilla and Roaring Lion, Kitchener, Sparrow, Shorty, Maestro, Rudder and other innovators? A more honest designation would have been “sampler” — and, the thing is, Calypso Heat does have a good variety of choice cuts. It covers old-time kaiso in the form of Pretender’s Never Ever Worry, and acknowledges new tendencies like rapso (if anything, rapso is over-represented). And it even includes a nice track by genre-bender André Tanker. So, Victory World, just because your compilation contains a version of Hot Hot Hot, the biggest calypso of all time, that doesn’t mean it’s “definitive”. But there’s a positive lesson in all this: the next time I’m browsing the World Music racks and come across The Definitive Afghani Robab Music Compilation, I’ll think twice. (GP)

 

Leh We Do It!

Starr Perez (CRS Music Ltd. C-0071)

On this debut release, Starr Perez succeeds in stepping beyond the stereotypical soca-girl image and forging an original style. A mellow-voiced singer with an experimental edge, Perez’s penchant for soca dominates, though Curaçao producer Adeeb Oberoi infuses a merengue slant that permits Leh We Do It! to reflect the musical diversity of the region, calling up Suriname, the French Caribbean, Trinidad, Barbados and the rhythms of Africa. The result is a pepper pot of styles and rhythms ranging from haunting melodies to street-party vibes. The title song, Leh We Do It Tonight, is a fine example of Bajan soca merging well with a French island feel. Bajan soca over the past decade has evolved into a genre of its own: Perez exemplifies this evolution with good harmonies, party lyrics, kicking rhythms and her own sultry voice. Of the 12 tracks, seven were written by Oberoi, with Barbadian composers Gabby Carter and John King pitching in as well. (RK)

 

Jump to the Rhythm

Upstream (Chunk-A-Lunks)

This high-energy, cutting-edge dance CD mixes soca, reggae, rock, techno — and even a little funk and hip hop — with a subtle spiritual presence that makes it very special. Think Xtatik meets Ras Shorty I. The connection with Shorty is no accident. Upstream was founded in the 1980s by three of the late great’s kids: Haile, Dereck and Johnny Blackman. The group moved to southern California in the ’90s, but are rocking on in the same groove. By now they enjoy a substantial reputation, based on the cross-cultural Caribbean consciousness that infuses this irresistible recording. Jump to the Rhythm features several classic calypsos (Ras Shorty I’s Shanti Om, Brigo’s fabulous Lemme Go) along with a selection of originals. Finding this self-issued CD may be a little tricky. Your best bet may be to check the band’s website (www.upstreammusic.com) and order online. (MG)

 

REGGAE

Hey Punk . . . Get Riddim!

Various Artists (Victory World, VR127 )

According to the promo material, the “punk” in this dubious title refers to reggae’s influence on punk music, though in my view the “punk” of punk music and the “punk” of “Hey Punk” are two very different senses of the word, and it’s possible that buyers might not relish the idea of being addressed accordingly. But title aside — for those expecting an interesting concept compilation drawing revolutionary parallels among punk, roots and dancehall, this ain’t it. Stripped of its PR pretensions, however, Hey Punk is a collection of some quite seminal reggae moments, including Sizzla’s 1995 track Mother of Nations and Capleton’s Almshouse, one of the hits that marked his transition from slack-talking deejay to turbaned chanter. Add to that Gregory Isaacs’s classic groove Rumours, and cuts by Black Uhuru, Tenor Saw, Yellowman and Beenie Man, Chaka Demus and Pliers, Culture, Israel Vibration and Sugar Minott, and you have quite a line-up. My personal favourite is Scratch Attack’s spacey Come Along, an other-worldly incantation that proves once again that Lee “Scratch” Perry is indeed the dread from Jupiter. (GP)

 

JAZZ

Perpetual Emotion

Flora Purim (Narada Jazz, 72438-50625-2-0)

Flora  Purim’s husky voice cracks at times, and occasionally she hits the notes at an oblique angle, but the veteran Brazilian singer, who’s always been more jazz experimentalist than bossa nova whisperer, has long understood that it’s all about soul. Which is the reason she — just like Shirley Horn and Lena Horne, two other imperfect-voiced dames of a certain age — will still be cool and sexy at age 90. On Perpetual Emotion, her first recording since 1994, Purim serves up a heavenly hash of Brazilian and American standards, modern jazz classics like Chick Corea and Neville Potter’s Crystal Silence, and originals by herself and husband Airto Moreira, including her signature number Search for Peace, which she wrote with McCoy Tyner. The track I’ve found myself playing over and over is Jobim’s Fotografia, sung in both English and Portuguese and backed by the Manhattan Transfer-like O. K. Corral. With boss musical accompaniment by Airto, Oscar Castro de Neves, Gary Meek, Christian Jacob and Trey Henry. (GP)

 

Jazz de Soca

Arnold Duprey (AGD Records, AGD001)

This debut album from Arnold Duprey, a well-known figure on the Las Vegas tour circuit and sometime arranger for various steel orchestras in his native Trinidad, may not be ground-breaking, but it isn’t harsh on the ears either. The music has a Latin feel, and while some numbers suffer from repetitiousness, the overall effect is laid-back and pleasant, without the frenetic energy of some other pan jazz offerings. Duprey is joined on this outing by James D’Arrigo on sax and Brett Hansen on guitar, but the absence of a live drummer and keyboardist denies Jazz de Soca the finish that would take it to another level. (Duprey tries to handle these duties himself, when he’d be better served concentrating on the steelpan, where he excels.) In a few cases, too, the sound engineering leaves something to be desired: steelpans are notoriously hard to record, and a couple of the tracks are marred by slight distortion. But all in all, a soft touch for the pan jazz lover, and a decent addition to any pan jazz collection. (AP)

 

Mustique Blues 2001

Various Artists (Basil Charles Educational Foundation, BCEF 2001)

Basil’s Bar on Mustique sounds like quite a joint. Apart from having been called the greatest bar in the world, it also incorporates a boutique and a furniture store, and, for a couple of weeks at the end of January, it becomes the home of the Mustique Blues Festival. Started in 1996 by Basil Charles and Dana Gillespie, the festival attracts blues artists from around the world, including Caribbean performers like Barbados’s Marisa Lindsay. This is a strikingly good live recording of 14 festival numbers by an array of bluespeople, including Big Joe Louis, Steve “Big Man” Clayton, Dino Baptiste, and Gillespie herself. Proceeds from the Festival and the sale of CDs go to the Basil Charles Educational Foundation, which supports education in St Vincent. For CDs and more info visit the Festival’s website: www.basilsmustique.com/blues.htm. (GP)

 

STEELPAN

Exodus II — The Power And The Glory

Exodus Steel Orchestra (Sanch, CD 0102)

The Exodus Steel Orchestra has won more awards in recent times than it can probably remember, including the 20th Century Champions and the 2001 Panorama competition. These nine selections from the Exodus songbook include several numbers specially composed for the band (e.g. A Happy Song, Play My Music, Pan Parade) as well as classics like Kitchener’s Rainorama and off-season pop pieces like Bailamos and the Bee Gees’ Staying Alive. All the selections are arranged by the band’s musical director Pelham Goddard. (GP)

 

FOLK

Caribbean Folk Songs

La Petite Musicale (Sanch, CD 0104)

La Petite Musicale is a Caribbean institution. Founded in Trinidad in 1940 by Olive Walke, the choir has defined a style of performance that has become almost inseparable from the music itself. This is a collection of folk numbers ranging from the very familiar (Every Time Ah Pass, Après Carnival La, O Belem, Boykin) to the (to me, at least) more obscure — testimony to the extensive research carried out by the group over the years. In typical La Petite style, the music is jaunty and lively, with robust accompaniment on strings, flute, percussion and steelpan. As we’ve come to expect with Sanch productions, the liner notes are detailed and informative. (GP)

 

MUSIC NOTES

Diamonds in the Valley, a two-track CD (ballad and instrumental) by Jamaican-Trinidadian couple Michael and Beverley Case, accompanies a book written by the Cases which chronicles their life. The project has been supported by BWIA. Singer/songwriter Suzanne Kovacs, who divides her time between Trinidad, Venezuela and Miami, has recorded two upbeat Latin-flavoured numbers, Woman Del Callao and Musique Magique. Interested parties may contact Ms Kovacs at suzannekovacs@hotmail.com. Trinidadian composer Illuma says he has plans to record a follow-up to his unreleased 1997 CD A Variety in the near future. (GP)

 

Kudos to the Copyright Organisation of Trinidad and Tobago (COTT) for the CD On Demand program, an anti-piracy initiative that came into effect over the 2002 Carnival season. For those who may not know, CD On Demand allows buyers to create customised music compilations by submitting a list of desired tracks to select record stores. Proceeds from sales go where they should — to the creators of the music, not the guy with the CD burner. (GP)

Reviews by: Michael Goodwin, Roxan Kinas, Anthony Petit, Georgia Popplewell.

Music editor: Georgia Popplewell