Caribbean Playlist (September/October 2013)

Recent tunes to get your feet tapping (September/October 2013)

Bread Gyazette

The band Gyazette was formed in 2007 by self-taught guitarist Nikolai Salcedo and six other musicians. They have been an energetic addition to the live music circuit in Trinidad, with their unique sound described by Salcedo as “fresh kaiso with a contemporary edge.” Some have labeled it “nu kaiso,” and while the lyrics do lean in that direction, the band is more versatile than that.

You can’t help but hear the influence of the great David Rudder, André Tanker, and 3Canal on Gyazette’s eagerly anticipated debut EP, but that doesn’t mean they are copying them. What they have done is taken that sound, flipped it on its head, and added a rock sound with reggae beats.

Lyrically, the songs touch on topics like hunger and fighting inner demons, and there is some playfulness too. The title track “Bread” tells the story of a Trinidadian, unemployed, who needs to “wuk his car like a taxi” to get food. This is something that happens every day in Trinidad and Tobago, but Salcedo tells a good tale about how he turns the page on some would-be robbers and they end up feeding him. “Mango” is about working too hard, and to relieve this stress the singer must “go pick a mango” (you can decipher the lyrics however you please). The final song, “Longing for You”, brings a change of pace, and can be considered the ballad of the album, but it’s definitely a standout. The only drawback to this album is that it’s too short.

Jumbie in the Jukebox  Kobo Town

On listening to the second album release from the Toronto-based band Kobo Town, led by Trinidad-born Drew Gonsalves, you get the feeling it wasn’t by accident the first lines of the opening song, “Kaiso News”, are “If I had a choice I would choose to live back when calypso bought you the news.” Gonsalves paints a vivid picture of Trinidad past and present. He sings of the Trinidad Labour uprising of 1937 in “Road to Fyzabad”, as well as topics like emigration and paranoia, all the while transporting the listener directly to his home island. Tapping into the roots of calypso as social commentary, he sings of “Postcard Poverty”, where tourists come to Trinidad simply to take photos of the ghetto to show their friends at home. And when Gonzales sings about “Diego Martin”, the town where he grew up and which he left at age thirteen for Canada, you can hear in his voice the pain he felt as a young man separated from his home and country. If you love kaiso, calypso, alternative music, or just want to hear some great musical storytelling, this is the album to buy. If this reviewer could give it stars, it would receive five out of five.

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Losers Never Win desmond

Reggae, like other forms of music, has many categories. Some artists sing of their political views, some are lady lovers’ rockers, and some give off a dancehall vibe. desmond — yes, he goes by one name, with a lowercase d — does not fall into any of these categories.

You can tell he isn’t a typical reggae singer. His voice is very distinctive, as he is classically trained. This also shows in the music, which relies heavily on saxophone and piano, neither of which is heard much in reggae, but they are perfect for the sound he is going for, as he delivers positive messages in each of the three songs on his EP Losers Never Win.

The title track tells a straightforward story of a son wanting to be a winner in life, and his father giving him advice. Nothing groundbreaking there, but the arrangement of the music is very evocative. “Makes me Stronger”, venturing into R&B territory, tells of a relationship gone bad, where the singer claims “All the wrong you do is all right for me / Makes me stronger.” The final track returns to the reggae format and again is positive in its message.

If you’re looking for a unique new artist, give desmond a listen — his music is available on itunes and Amazon, or visit his website at



Single spotlight

Other Side of Love Sean Paul

Music is an ever-changing entity, and all artists must adapt to stay current and trendy. Sean Paul has tried to do exactly this on his new single — the first from his as yet untitled next album — and has hired hit-maker producers Benny Blanco and the Cataracs to give him an electronic/pop sound, pulling him away from his dancehall roots. The song is about a relationship break-up, and while other artists might have taken a sombre approach, Sean Paul gives it an upbeat swing. The production is flawless, but while it will be a hit in the clubs, Sean Paul really should stick to what he does best — his attempt to sing on this single is very distracting, even given the liberal use of autotune.