Dis 1. 4. Raf — Andy Narell
(Listen 2 Records)
As if driving home the point that the pendulum of commercial influence for steel pan appears to be moving away from Trinidad was not enough, now comes a new release by American steel pan musician Andy Narell boasting not one but two CDs of refined exploitation of the sound and ambience of the steel pan in the context of a jazz quartet, and as musical partner with piano. Dis 1. 4. Raf, a tribute to the late Caribbean jazz pioneer Raf Robertson, is another rung in the ladder of success of Narell. With his cohort of players from Cuba and Guadeloupe, Narell weaves a new path for the national instrument of Trinidad and Tobago to tread, encompassing influences beyond the archipelago. On the second CD, a duet, he juxtaposes the enhanced idea of modern percussive and rhythmic sounds from the New World — the steel pan — and the Old World — the piano — to subdued and subtle brilliance.
The Robin Imamshah Files — Various Artists
By the 1970s, the arc of influence in Caribbean music was veering heavily towards the United States, with its pop and R&B developments making inroads globally in islands and countries that wanted to dance. Young people were making grooves which, at the time, were local in their influence, but global in their vision. The commerce did not always reflect their desire. Now, forty years later, Cree Records out of Germany is repackaging this island music for the world. This limited edition of popular Trinidadian producer Robin Imamshah’s output in the latter part of the 1970s — five hundred copies of a vinyl compilation of six songs on three 45-rpm records — reveals what those young musicians were aiming at. American soul, funk, rock, calypso, and the nascent soca were all absorbed to define a new direction in music, a “Trinidad Boogie,” if you will. Imamshah’s sure-handed grasp of musical trends of that time results in a half dozen gems that still can move feet.
Moving On — Jason “Fridge” Seecharan
Smooth-voiced Trinidadian crooner Jason “Fridge” Seecharan stepped out of the popular R&B vocal quartet H2O Flo some years ago to make a name for himself. His debut full-length album is aptly titled Moving On, as it signals a strengthening of the idea that he has left the others behind and is finding a voice that works effectively among the myriad island pop singers crooning to the ladies. Reggae has its share, but Seecharan has an almost falsetto sound that belies his nickname — “Fridge” is imposing in person — and he puts that voice to good use on these eleven songs, which include a catchy Christmas song that could become a Caribbean standard if well marketed. The tracks feature smooth jazz, modern reggae, Indo-Caribbean fusion, and pop-soca, and make the case that popular music in the Caribbean continues to find the new groove, with high production values that work well. Its gets better every year.
All Night Long — Rochelle
Suriname and other Dutch-speaking territories in the Caribbean have given the world a slew of talented singers and musicians who continue to enthral. These artists also retain the DNA of Caribbean-ness in their sound as they make it “out there.” Rochelle Perts — her father is from Suriname — won the Dutch version of the TV show X Factor in 2011, and it shows. This girl can sing! In 2016 she returns with a new single, “All Night Long”, echoing the growing trend in pop music that is finally embracing the rhythms of modern Caribbean dance music. Dancehall and soca are two modern beats you feel and hear subliminally in the twang of her patois in this mid-tempo groove song. Rochelle suggests slyly — “Spark my firestone / We dance in the danger zone / Come feel how my river flows” — that she’s ready to go all night long.