Playlist (May/Jun 2018) | Music reviews

This month’s listening picks, with reviews of the latest by Jeanine S. Ruiz; Michael Brun; King Kembe; and Sting and Shaggy

  • This is me
  • Bayo
  • Wuk up
  • Don't Make Me Wait

This Is Me

Jeanine S. Ruiz (self-released)

Young Trinidadian keyboardist Jeanine Ruiz releases her first EP as a musical autobiography of a life recently begun, and a testament to her emotional journey thus far. Going through the song titles — “Ambitious”, “Overthinker”, “Impulsive”, “Temperamental”, and “Dreamer” — one can gauge how far she has come and how far she may go. Listening to the music, one can hear the subtle influences of style that have touched her compositions: world fusion has a new advocate. Admittedly influenced by Japanese jazz pianist Hiromi Uehara, Ruiz has a sure-handedness in her playing and a keen sense of timing and cinematic breath in her arrangements, which catch a number of genres without being confusing. This is more than jazz-influenced trio playing — this debut signals a potential to inspire a waning instrumental music-listening audience, here and there, to stick around to track Ruiz’s continuing musical journey


Singles Spotlight

Bayo  

Michael Brun featuring Strong G, Baky, and J. Perry (Kid Coconut)

“Bayo” in Haitian Kweyol means “to give,” and with this new single from Haiti-born EDM DJ Michael Brun, Haiti is giving the world a lesson in what the country is and what it represents today. A spoken phrase in the song’s music video translates to “Haiti is like a pulse for the rest of the world,” and this new wave of music talent from the first black republic has taken that statement to heart. Brun, who has a Haitian father and Guyanese mother, along with fellow Haitian MCs Strong G, Baky, and J. Perry, also represents the multi-hued reality of the people of the island. Not that it matters much, but this celebratory dance music fused with elements of indigenous rara and konpa  gives an updated look and sound to an island that has been a centre of African diaspora culture for centuries. It recalibrates our concept of modern Haiti. “Bayo” is that beauty and potential “sonified.”


GEBE Wuk Up  

King Kembe (self-released)

Sint Maarten Carnival will happen in May, and “neither hurricane, nor rain, nor heat, nor darkness” — with apologies to Herodotus — will stop the celebrations on the island nation in its post–Hurricane Irma recovery. And part of that celebration is the release of new songs that reflect the Windward Islands’ and Dutch Caribbean’s take on soca, driven by a high beats-per-minute rhythm and urgent authentic vibe devoid of over-sampled electronic sounds. “GEBE Wuk Up” is a funny ditty about the unsure and unfortunate encounters of a couple dancing right through a seemingly familiar occurrence of electricity blackouts on the island — GEBE is the government-owned electricity company. Nothing stops the “wuk up” in the dark! Reference to regular power cuts in this season of renewal in Sint Maarten, when the power company admits to “doing its best to restore some normality,” is the wry prod that makes this song unforgettable.


Don’t Make Me Wait  

Sting and Shaggy (A&M Records)

Sting, frontman for seminal 1980s band The Police, joins Mr Boombastic himself, Shaggy, for a collaboration that has super hit potential written all over it. This first single off the forthcoming new joint album 44/876 oozes with a sure-fire confidence and sonic familiarity that suggests these two stars are on the right path for crossover success on the reggae and pop charts. “Don’t Make Me Wait” has the feeling of Marley’s “Waiting in Vain” — resisting waiting must be a Jamaican preoccupation — but the song lyrics channel the feeling that love can’t be rushed, and when the time is ripe, good things will come. Sting’s voice has that timbre that whispers sexily and rises to pierce at the higher registers, while Shaggy’s swinging dancehall chatting has a commanding presence that makes you listen up and sing along. The result is a duet that responds positively to the modern empathetic understanding that all men have to #WaitForLove.