Music buzz (November/December 2007)

The first legal downloading site for Trinidad and Tobago music • the Kalalu World Music Festival in St Lucia


Righteous Riddums

Online music download sites are being promoted as the newest weapon in the Caribbean musician’s fight against music piracy.

While you can access the work of international musicians on popular sites like iTunes, Rhapsody and LimeWire, the work of Caribbean musicians has been difficult to find on the Internet. Yes, you will find some back-catalogue work from the greats, and a few more recent tracks from today’s popular musicians, but wouldn’t it be nice to go to one Caribbean music site and find all the calypso, steelband, zouk, gospel or reggae that your heart desires?

Of course, like everything else on the fast-growing Wild Web frontier, some folks have found a way to make some of it available, albeit illegally. A Google search for Caribbean music online will turn up less than a handful of sites dedicated to the cause of Caribbean music. But the recently launched Trinidadtunes.com site is the first legal site for downloading music from Trinidad and Tobago.

Riddums Productions, trinidadmusicstore.com and the Caribbean Music Group.com spent a year setting it up, principally because of the time it took to get the legal rights for all the music they wanted to make available.

Riddums is led by two female powerhouses on Trinidad and Tobago’s entertainment circuit, Rosemary Hezekiah and Lorraine O’Connor.

“Online music is the future of the music industry,” O’Connor says. “In ten years or less, CDs will be obsolete, like LPs are today. Most artists are being very receptive to the idea, while some need to understand the process more clearly. We are offering each producer/artist an account number to view the activity on their songs, so they can see how many times their tracks were downloaded and how much money is due to them.”

This transparency will certainly go a long way to bring peace of mind to local recording artists who have been taken advantage of year after year by music pirates.

O’Connor says the organisation hopes to spread its wings to offer music videos and cover all Caribbean music eventually.

In the meantime, she’s hoping artists use the opportunity to make singles for the upcoming Carnival season available for download online, as CD sales have been diminishing.

Downloads at Trinidadtunes.com are US99 cents a pop.

Tracy Assing

 

Kalalu for Christmas

If you have a Christmas gift in mind for yourself, or anyone with half an ear for global rhythms, then how about the third annual Kalalu World Music Festival in St Lucia?

From December 6–9, Samaan Park in Choc Bay Valley, a short drive out of Castries on the north west coast, will host a roster of world music luminaries, including Congo’s soukous sapeur extraordinaire Soule Ngofo Man; Ivory Coast’s (and probably West Africa’s) most gorgeous vocal trio Les Go de Koteba—who make Destiny’s Child look and sound like a sorry bunch of synthetic flatfoots; Haitian konpa heavyweights Magnum Band and compatriots Strings, with their tropical take on flamenco; Cuban reggaetón sensation Qbanito and salsa band Orquesta Broadway; Gregory Isaacs, reggae’s Cool Ruler; legendary South African singer/songwriter Vusi Mahlasela; Chris Combette with his Antillean fusion from Guyane; and Trinidadian Indo-calypso-jazz fusionist Mungal Patasar.

Among local artistes supporting the international lineup are the Vertex Band, L’Addicion, and the legendary Papius Folk band, who keep the island’s traditional music vibrant and are quite capable of upstaging the best, when they switch from the quadrille to their own interpretations of such Caribbean classics as the Mighty Shadow’s Bassman From Hell.

The regional festival scene is dominated by “jazz” festivals which, apart from Havana Jazz and the biannual Martinique festival, are really occasions for patrons either to indulge in nostalgia for the music of their younger days—R&B, funk, soul—or to connect with commercial mass culture in the form of hip hop, rap or smooth jazz. Kalalu is a welcome departure in terms of authentic world music.

Not since Trinidad’s flash in the world music pan, World Beat, back in 1999, has there been an event which brings the source of so much Creole music, direct from west and central Africa, to the Caribbean. Past performers include such Congolese rumba and soukous supremos as Kekele, Sakis and Diblo Dibala, jazz fusionist and Santana collaborator Idrissa Diop, South African legends trumpeter Hugh Masekela and singer Lorraine Klaasen, and Guinean griot Sekouba Bambino. Another bonus is the Cape Verdean input from bands like Ferro Gaita and singers Maria de Barros and Gabriela Mendes.

The Kalalu mix is sweetened with liberal servings of a distinctly Creole variety, which to date have included Dominican salsa singer Jose “El Canario” Alberto, Puerto Rican Yerba Buena, Cuban Orquesta Sensacion, Haitian Emeline Michel, Trinidadian singers Ella Andall and Ras Shorty’s son Isaac; Lucian guitarist Boo Hinkson and the Blue Mango group.

Festival director Adrian Augier says the diversity of Trinidad’s World Beat initially inspired the Kalalu concept, but adds: “We’d like it to become the world music festival of the Caribbean. The Creole vibe makes it easy to bridge cultural differences, and St Lucia is a cultural crossroads. We want it to be a place where musicians come and enjoy themselves and interact with our local musicians.”

So get down to the crossroads early December and taste the Kalalu.

Simon Lee

For more information check the website: www.kalalu.com

Live at the Little Carib Theatre
Mungal Patasar and Pantar
(Pantarmusic 2007)

Pantar, according to creator Mungal Patasar’s definition of the genre, is the marriage of the pan and the sitar.

And on this, the group’s latest outing, taped at this Trinidadian band’s April 11, 2007 concert at the Little Carib Theatre in Port of Spain, east meets west for a delicious musical explosion.

Just nine tracks long, the disc opens with the feel-good sitar and flute-driven Dreadlocks, ending with the funkified and danceable Tendonitis, whose combination of electric guitar, tassa drums and sitar is a sweet surprise.

In between, the Pantar sound comes alive in the bossanova-style Joshua, while on Rema the band serves up some hot and peppery soca chutney.

Even 70s soul, reminiscent of that featured in Foxy Brown and Shaft themes, figures on the disc, as in the track Awake.

Patasar wrote all but one song on this disc, with the lone exception, Joshua, written by Harold Headley.

Live at the Little Carib Theatre really achieves Pantar’s philosophy of making music that eclipses physical and ethnic boundaries.

Friends for Life
Arthur Marcial

One word describes this Arthur Marcial disc: mellow.

Hugs and Kisses, the disc’s opener and a Sergio Mendes soundalike, sets the tone for an album that may not be big on vocals, but allows Marcial’s riffs to take centre stage.

And when the vocals are introduced, as heard on songs like Long Time Nuh See and You Make Me Feel Good, they really light up the choruses.

Mango Tree is an island jazz number on which Marcial’s fretwork is literally like the fruit—dripping sweet.

Marcial, also a singer, lets his vocals be heard on the track But A A Look Who Here and on Friends for Life, which features a cameo from vocalist Stephen Encinas.

Marcial also gives a taste of his harmonica-playing skills on You’re A Part of Me .

Of all the songs, Are You Smiling is the one that you may want to play and over again. It is on this happy little song that background vocalists Michelle Williams and Natalie Yorke really show their strengths.

Kiss and Make Up is also another groovy track that is also worthy of pressing the repeat button.

The songs contained on Friends for Life are all original, yet all have a familiar ring to them, and that’s what maybe contributes to this disc’s musical appeal.

Trini Groove
NFM Pantasy

Old favourites and just a couple of originals from member Duvonne Stewart make for a nostalgic Trini Groove CD.

Songs like The Carnival is Over, given new life by singer Mavis John, George Benson’s On Broadway, and even Pal Joey Lewis’s Pint Ah Wine all get some airtime here.

Stewart, who also plays the tenor pan and serves as the arranger of all, contributes My Turn and Trini Groove to the 12-track songset.

The disc’s only fault is the inconsistency of the sound levels. On one track the music may be low and then on another considerably higher.

Once you get past that, you’re in for a really good musical treat.

NFM Pantasy is made up of players Ross Thomas (captain and double-second pan), Quielle Bosland (triple guitar), Garfield Hopson (bass), Leason Jacobs on drums and Donald Noel on congas.

Tracks for the disc were taped at one of the band’s Under the Trees shows at the Hotel Normandie in Port of Spain.

Essiba Small