Caribbean Playlist (March/April 2015)

New releases to get you in the groove

  • I Rise
  • One for the People
  • Count On My Love
  • In Search Of

I Rise —  Etana

Florida-based reggae songstress Etana’s fourth album, I Rise, bubbles with the fervour of a celebration of the dynamism of roots reggae. Returning to Jamaica to work with legendary producer Clive Hunt, Etana delivers strong messages of empowerment in “I Rise”, rebuke in “Passing Through”, love in “Love Song”, regret in “Trigger”, and praise in “Selassie Is the Chapel” — from the many perspectives of the observer, the victim, the mother, the strong one. The lyrical range of these fourteen tracks gives the listener an overview of the other sides of Jamaica, beyond the familiar tourist blurb of “fun in the sun.” Real people live there, with real situations that Etana has chronicled so absolutely. There’s even a credits track where she shouts out all the performers and the producer. Etana’s voice evokes the sound of American soul, and the sound of live horns, the one-drop rhythm, and her hopeful harmonies makes this a potential classic.


Count On My Love  — Tessanne Chin

Eight months after its inauspicious release into the American marketplace, Tessanne Chin’s major label debut album continues to force arguments among critics on its merits versus the label’s efforts to sustain her music career with this release. Lost in all the buzz is the fact that this album is chock full of surprises and great music, selling the idea that this powerhouse singer, “The Voice of Jamaica,” should be a household name everywhere. Honing close to her pop music roots, with an equal dose of reggae to identify her as an island girl, Chin offers more than a collection of individual songs, but a testament to the power of a superlative voice that still echoes that lilting Jamaican accent. The art of moulding Caribbean songstresses to fit into a global music marketplace has seen super success with Bajan beauty Rihanna. Tessanne is her vocal counterpoint, and this album is a starting point for her ascension.


One For the People  — Angelique Sabrina

Young Bahamian singer Angelique Sabrina launched her first album, One For the People, just a couple months shy of her seventeenth birthday, making this collection of songs an audacious debut. Youth, beauty, and boundless untapped talent are hallmarks of modern pop stardom biographies, and Angelique delivers on those, adding industry credibility that should pique interest in this homegrown favourite. Already boasting hits with “Pull Up” and “Stop Sign”, featuring Bajan songbird Shontelle — both included here — this album makes the case that the little girl is becoming a woman. Love songs like “I’m Ready” speak confidently of desire: “Spending all my time trying to keep my oooh / But it feels so right when I’m loving you. / Boy, it’s not an issue, let’s make this official / I’m waiting on you to make your move.” MTV describes Angelique’s sound as “pop and R&B with a sizzling Caribbean touch.” Add to that seventeen tracks of island crossover fun.


Single Spotlight

In Search Of  Glenda

Cuban flautist and singer Glenda Lopez, now opting for a mononym, is living the ingénue fantasy. This Havana beauty, currently living in Slovakia, was earmarked to be a star by Israeli music exec Jeremy Hulsh, who plucked her from a performance video clip with her famous mother’s band Bellita y Jazztumbatá, and put her in recording studios in London and Havana to record her English-language debut album. This preview single from her forthcoming album showcases what has been described as the “new sound of Cuban jazz mixed with pop” — live Cuban horns mixed with a melody from American composer Alan Roy Scott and the cadence of Afro-Cuban percussion. That airy voice that made men go “ahh” during the rise of bossa nova in the 1960s returns in 2015 to make a new generation of listeners recalculate what exotic pop was and is, and how Cuban music has evolved in the diaspora.