Upbeat (Spring 1995)

New Caribbean Music

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Shinehead (Elektra)

Shinehead, a prime mover in the fusion of dance hall and hip-hop, has come full circle in his latest release. He has taken a hardcore direction: presumably he found his earlier CDs were too crossover for a market which had been captivated by fog-horn-voice djs Shabba Ranks and Buju Banton. Troddin, the first track, is a clever explanation of the dj’s history and where he’s coming from. The others will no doubt find hardcore approval, but here Shinehead is less inspired, and many of the themes are below his intelligence and wit.

Caribbean Voices

University of the West Indies

The regional university is in the middle of a fund-raising drive to finance its development plan, and has produced an album of music by regional artists to help raise interest as well as funds. Available in CD and cassette form, the album features choirs and bands from Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. Jamaica’s Third World contributes Golden Hope and Faith, there are spirituals and religious pieces from the University Singers (Jamaica), the Cavite Chorale (Barbados) and Trinidad and Tobago’s Lydian Singers, and two tracks from the Amoco Renegades Steel Orchestra, who also team up with the Lydian Singers in thunderous versions of The Battle Hymn Of The Republic and Handel’s Hallelujah Chorus.

Hi-Bop Ska

The Skatalites (Shanachie)

Ska, Jamaica’s first indigenous urban pop music, is enjoying a resurgence in Europe and Japan, as a result of the music of its legendary exponents the Skatalites. Their 30th anniversary album Hi-Bop Ska rises to the occasion. Rather than settle for a replay of past glories, the Skatalites (minus Don Drummond, “Dizzy” Johnny Moore and Lester Sterling) are forward-looking with new tunes, two contributed by guest musicians — saxophonist David Murray and trumpeter Lester Bowie — with Monty Alexander guesting on piano and melodica. The rest of the writing is contributed by Tommy McCook and Roland Alphonso. Toots Hibbert and Prince Buster contribute two welcome surprises: Split Personality and Ska Ska. The group does not neglect tradition: The Guns Of Navarone and You’re Wondering Now, sung by Doreen Shaeffer, and Man In The Street have been recorded again. This is a first-rate CD, sparkling with fine musical skill and filled with echoes of Jamaica’s musical past.

Steelpan Music

Panazz Players (Kisskidee KR 1048, Trinidad)

Ten tracks by the 10-member pan ensemble that won the Pan Ramajay competition for small steelbands three years in succession. This collection of steelpan music includes the winning numbers from each year (1992-1994). The tracks are Misty, Makin’ Whoopee, Wave, I’ll Remember April, Pull The Bull, Carmen, Shadow Of Your Smile, Iron Man, Wade In The Water and Rainorama.

Rise And Shine

Aswad (Mesa)

Walking the tightrope of crossover and “roots” was a pitfall for Aswad, the British-based group. After their pop hit Don’ t Turn Around, their original fans deserted them, and Aswad reached for roots with an album entitled Too Wild, their last release on the Mango label. But that album also failed to do it, and Aswad parted company with Island Records for the second time. Recently they surfaced with Rise And Shine, which was produced by the group and licensed to the Mesa label. It’s a mix of message songs and lover’s rock tunes. The tracks step to lively rhythms, and the horn section, one of the group’s assets, is punchy, with some choice flashbacks to classic horn riffs from Jamaican pop (as in 2 Makes One) and their own signature on an updated Warrior Charging. Shine, one of the strongest tracks, has already reached the top five on the British charts. This album is good value: smooth vocal harmonies, dub effects, dj sampling, and crisp rhythms which sustain interest throughout. After incurring the displeasure of the fans, Aswad knows what it means to rise and shine.

A Journey Into Soca

Kurt Allen

Allen, a recent Calypso Monarch finalist in Trinidad, offers a blockbuster 13-minute medley on this album, skating through no less than 22 soca numbers new and old, including material by Shadow, SuperBlue, Kitchener and Sparrow. Other tracks include a remake of Bally’s Caribbean Woman, David Rudder’s Bacchanal Lady, Jump And Break Away by Chandelier, Tambu’s Free Up, Sniper’s classic Portrait Of Trinidad and Rose’s Fire.


Ajala (Kisskidee, Trinidad)

Ajala’s second album is a blend of soca and dance hall music, and includes his Carnival hits from the last three years. There are also two new releases: Jump And Sway, an upbeat party song and Road March contender, and Kitchie Boy, an uptempo tribute to the veteran calypsonian Lord Kitchener. Ajala slows the groove down for Rude Girl Party, a dance hall tune, and Stick It Up, his dance hall hit from the 1994 Carnival. From Carnival 1993 comes Jump Up And Get On Bad, which was a strong Road March contender. Background vocals are by Shades of Black, a Trinidad female trio making waves in Europe for their work with the zouk band Kassav.

Run Come

General Grant (Chrysalis, UK)

Trinidad and Tobago’s General Grant made the American Billboard rap charts last year with Shot Call. His second album offers ten tracks featuring grant’s binghi style, a cousin to American rap and Jamaican dub; the lyrics focus on social issues in Trinidad, with uplifting messages for the younger generation. The tracks include Stand By Me, a love rap; System Fail, which demands that we all stop blaming youth for society’s problems; and Assassination, an anti-crime song. Soca singer Anslem Douglas shares lead vocals with Grant.

Dance De Limbo; The Swing

Various artists (Select Entertainment, Trinidad, CRA 9.203.3)

Calypso/soca samplers from Trinidad come thick and fast these days. The first of these two volumes features the 1994 Road March King Preacher (represented here by his Soca Bogle), Iwer George (Party Hot Hot Hot, Jock Yuh Waist And Wine, Ting Ting Ting, Nah Do Dat), Happy (Protection) and Carl and Carol Jacobs (Dance De Limbo, One Life, Start To Wine, Savage). The second has more Iwer George (Bad Injection, Do The Iwer, Plant A Garden, Butterfly), but also includes the veteran Nappy Myers and his welcome Old Time Days. Other artists on Volume II are Frontpage (The Swing, Move Yuh Hand, Me Nah Leggo), Kurt Allen (By Any Means Necessary, Powers Of Belief) and Trini Tony/DJ Ré doing Smokey Robinson’s My Girl.

The Heavy Roller

Lord Kitchener (JW, Trinidad)

Kitchener, Trinidad and Tobago’s all-time Road March king, comes out strong for Carnival 1995. Apart from the Panorama speciality The Heavy Roller, there is a poignant plea for racial integration in Pan And Tassa, and a peppy party song called The Last Jump, in which Kitch says his lady can dance with anyone for Carnival so long as she remembers to keep the last dance for him.

Rapso Tribes

Various artists (Kisskidee, Trinidad)

A promotional jam for the rapso culture, this is a follow-up to Kisskidee’s Ragga Binghi album and a preview for the upcoming album by Kindred, one of rapso’s best-known groups, due this summer. There are 10 tracks here, including traditional rapsos by Kindred and Black Mail, a Trinidad group now making headway in Europe, who first appeared on the Kisskidee Jam album. Rapso Tribes includes some experimental rapso-flavoured calypso with hip-hop rhythms by Hat Squad and KMC.

The Best Of Sound Revolution

Sound Revolution (Kisskidee, Trinidad)

Sound Revolution is one of Trinidad and Tobago’s best-known brass bands, and here are their biggest hits from Carnivals gone by. They include Shake It, Put Your Hand On Your Head And Wine, Dollar Wine, Stay, Play The Music, and two tracks for Carnival 1995 — Last Wave and Don’t Stop The Party. The collection neatly shows up the development of Sound Revolution over the years.

Roy Cape Time

Roy Cape (Ice Records, Barbados)

A rare album by Trinidadian saxophonist Roy Cape and his Kaiso All Stars, best known for their outstanding work in the calypso tents. The band has travelled around the world backing many leading singers, notably Black Stalin. Now the band’s own music takes centre stage: the tracks include authentic calypso and music written for Cape’s group by Stalin, Shadow, Merchant and others. Lead singers Marvin and Nigel Lewis wrote the uptempo Soca Go Kill Them Dead and a Caribbean blend called Ragga Soca. The band does its own version of “ring bang”, a hardcore calypso rhythm developed by Eddy Grant in his Down To The Ground.

Off The Culture

Various artists (Kisskidee, Trinidad)

Following last year’s Soca Factory, this is another soca sampler featuring some of the hottest soca stars around. The artists include Anslem Douglas, the coastguardsman turned soca singer, who is best known for his 1994 hit Ragga Poom Poom; here he sings Free Up and Play Yourself. Denyse Plummer, who shares with Calypso Rose the honour of being the most successful calypso queen in history, contributes two tracks, including A Tribute To Lara, in honour of the record-breaking cricketer.

Happy Living: Gas Music From Earth

Yann Tomita (Sony SRCS 7415)

Pan from Japan. Japanese pannist Yann Tomita has been experimenting with pan in his Audio Science Laboratory, and on earlier albums has plunged his Astro Age Steel Orchestra into acid rock and country music, surf music and jazz, creating an “astro-age” sound by hooking the pans up to an array of electronics. This album is truly a gas: amid the electronic experimentations and the surrealist approach to pan music can be found “Trinidad Bill” Trotman and calypsonian Relator singing the classic 1964 Kitchener number Hold On To Your Man. Other tracks include Astro-Ager, Flying Saucer At Big Country, Free Sex At Pan Yard, Bikini Rock, Love In Music, Flying Saucer On The Road. It’s out of this world.