Machel Montano (Monk Music)
Soca is now the Caribbean’s de facto festival music. Machel Montano’s wish to take soca to the universe is partly on its way to that destination. And with this album, which includes the 2019 T&T Carnival Road March “Famalay”, the soca superstar is now doing the things that make a global music industry take notice. An album of nineteen tracks fits easily into the modern music streaming environment, and his widespread collaborations with Caribbean and US artists like Super Blue, Bunji Garlin, Skinny Fabulous, and Ashanti point to an understanding that this music is bigger than one island.
St Lucian Dennery Segment, Dominican bouyon, Jamaican dancehall, and vocal colours from Belize and Martinique all accent the hybridity that is evident in modern Caribbean music. Now is really the time for a rekindling of our greatness as Caribbean folk, and G.O.A.T., Montano’s forty-fifth album in his over-three-decade career, is the template for our collective significance.
Rise of the Protester
Reginald Cyntje (self-released)
In a series of splendid jazz albums, trombonist and composer Reginald Cyntje has been musically chronicling the range of human emotions, and providing a musical engagement with the human spirit, the soul, the cerebral self. An intelligent understanding of ourselves culminates in this new recording, Rise of the Protester, which documents the resistance of the “hue man” to bondage, to deprivation, to prejudice, and to injustice in both Caribbean and American spaces, reflecting Cyntje’s multiple heritages as a Dominican raised in the US Virgin Islands, and now living in the United States. Taking his cues from a historical record of resistance, literal and figurative — from the likes of Harriet Tubman and “Queen” Mary Thomas of St Croix to Malcolm X and others — Cyntje’s evolution of protest is given gravitas with music that engages the urgent rhythms of Caribbean movement and the contemplative space of jazz. This is by no means mournful dissonance, but a joyous celebration of spirit wanting to be free.
M.R.I. featuring Tico (On Lock Records)
“Modern dancehall” is a genre term created by digital musical platforms to make sense of a new wave of Electronic Dance Music (EDM) with more than a hint of Caribbean rhythm and vibe. Some call it CDM. On a first listen, this new single by M.R.I sounds minimalist, but grows as the drum and bass percolate with that syncopated rhythm so characteristic of Caribbean music. Singer Tico adds a vocal that sounds just about right in this setting to make bodies move on a dance floor — not too loud to overwhelm, high-pitched and clear enough to hear. “Shy” is a simple ditty about a guy’s self-awareness that his banter is weak because of apparent diffidence, and the recognition that this dilemma can lead to solitary nights and days. The Trinidad-based On Lock Record’s tag line is “Caribbean roots, global sound,” and this song just about has all those elements.
My Good Day
Ronald “Boo” Hinkson (Zephryn Records)
St Lucian music icon and guitarist Ronald “Boo” Hinkson has a career equivalent to that of an ambassador for his native island and its annual jazz festival. The languid pleasures of Caribbean life are mirrored in the tropical smooth jazz feel of this song. Featuring the vocals of Irvin “Ace” Loctar and Shannon Pinel, and Hinkson’s “signature feathery touch,” this song’s inspirational message of hope and gratitude is made clearer when you grasp the relationship between our Caribbean realities and the vision of the tourist brochure. “Survival is the triumph of stubbornness,” said St Lucian poet Derek Walcott, and in these lyrics, you get the sense that a good day is just around the corner from a series of regular bad yesterdays. The jazz guitar in the hands of giants like Wes Montgomery and George Benson became the smooth sonic antidote to melancholy, and Hinkson merrily continues that tradition here.