Playlist (May/June 2021) | Music reviews

This month’s listening picks from the Caribbean — featuring new music by Anthony Joseph; Delgres; various artists on Project Spotlight; and Annicia Banks

  • The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running For Their Lives
  • 4:00 am
  • Project Spotlight
  • Up Front

The Rich Are Only Defeated When Running For Their Lives 

Anthony Joseph (Heavenly Sweetness Records)

Creole griot and poet Anthony Joseph, self-described Black surrealist, on this album directly and subliminally namechecks Caribbean literary pioneers — Sam Selvon, Kamau Brathwaite, C.L.R. James, Anthony McNeill — as a celebration of many island lives. Rising cadences on fiery recitations say “listen to this,” revealing a Caribbean literary heritage married to music evolved in its evocation. This is not the poetry of protest, but a dissertation for the diaspora. The new UK jazz heroes — Shabaka Hutchings, Jason Yarde, et al — give the music here more urgency than a Congo Square memory, more variety than the blues, altogether re-framing Joseph’s words beyond the “bluesology” of Gil Scott-Heron and the dub poetry of Linton Kwesi Johnson. The frenetic swing of “Language” balances the dub rhythm of “Maka Dimwe”. Confident, eloquent — a new classic.

4:00 AM 

Delgres (PIAS Records)

Delgres is a Paris-based trio led by Guadaloupean Pascal Danae, whose music is described as “a brand of Creole blues built on strands of African and French Caribbean culture, Mississippi blues storytelling, and New Orleans grooves.” Danae, along with drummer Baptiste Brondy and sousaphone player Rafgee — who needs a bass? — on this, their second full-length album, continue the task of interpreting the chaos of disturbed lives. Blues chronicles pain, creole blues gives pain context. Sung in his native tongue — Kréyòl gwadloupéyen — the lyrics powerfully reflect Black anguish and the oppression of the immigrant from the Antillean perspective. Gritty musical minimalism is made conscious by the Kréyòl voice. We were once told that the blues is “a special kind of music which cannot be fully appreciated and felt unless listened to within its context of Negro American music.” This album and this band destroy permanently that old thesis. Creole blues reverses the gaze. Excellent.

Project Spotlight 

Various Artists (MusicTT)

This collection of eight performances featuring curated talent from Trinidad and Tobago should be marketed as a collection of songs. Very well written and produced songs. This could be the soundtrack to a whole host of viral TikTok dance videos. The accents differentiate this compilation of brilliant songs from any other catalogue of urban pop tunes awaiting placement in a TV series or film. Foreign music supervisors could have a fun time placing DNA 868 Muzik’s “I Doh Care” with his Trinidad-situated narrative of defiance and disregard for haters, but to deny the song is to deny reality. Every world culture speaks a truth beyond the generic love songs or juvenile anthems of positivity and assertive love. That is not to say that a few performances can’t go beyond the publisher’s pen. Juss Lizz shines on her anthem to “queendom,” “Best Side”. Darryl Gervais’s and Jhay C’s production gives this local effort an international appeal. Listen and dance!

Up Front 

Annicia Banks (RawVue Music)

In 2013, the Oscar-winning documentary film 20 Feet from Stardom showcased the stories of background singers and “the disconnection between talent and stardom.”  That disconnect is bridged with the release of this debut EP from Annicia Banks, background singer to legends. Dennis Brown, Judy Mowatt, Sister Carol, and Bunny Wailer have all been supported by Banks in studio and live performance, and on this album we hear why the Jamaican music industry has celebrated and desired her voice. The music here has the smooth reggae vibe so cherished by labels in the 1980s after the passing of Bob Marley, a sound that never ages. Dennis Brown’s classic “Love Has Found Its Way” is reinterpreted by Banks showcasing a voice that balances power, tone, and clarity. Her range is exploited on “Hush”, a cautionary admonition on the practicality of patience in the face of adversity. Seven songs, mainly composed by Banks, sing of love, life, and Jamaica. A talented star.

Funding provided by the 11th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme Direct Support Grants Programme.
The views expressed on this website are those of the the authors and do not reflect those of the Direct Support Grants Programme.