Music buzz | Reviews (Mar/Apr 2023)

This month’s listening picks from the Caribbean — featuring new music by Keshav; Dibo D & Randal Corsen; Nailah Blackman; and Popcaan ft Toni-Ann Singh

  • Keshav  Remains (Heavy Drumz)
  • Dibo D & Randal Corsen  Muzik Sin Barera (ZenneZ Records)
  • Nailah Blackman  Teknique (Sokah Experience)
  • Popcaan ft Toni-Ann Singh  Next To Me (OVO Sound)


Remains (Heavy Drumz)

Multicultural Trinidadian (born there, raised everywhere, lives here) Keshav Chandradath Singh has released a singer-songwriter project — his premiere album, “for international consumption”, as he says, that positions this musician and producer outside of his popular soca and EDM milieu. The sombre tone of the album’s lyrics speaks to a relationship past its time, beyond redemption. This, however, should not be a turn off — Adele mined sorrow successfully on her album 21. That template of confession and reflection when coupled with cutting edge sound and music moves this album up the ladder of Caribbean-released pop music. On the track “Remains”, we hear: You put the gun to my back and shot me right through the chest / But you thought I’d fade into black, my spirit rises again. Love hurts. If this album is recovery from that hurt, listeners can move beyond the heartache towards danceable joy. A revelation.

Dibo D & Randal Corsen 

Muzik Sin Barera (ZenneZ Records)

The music of Curaçao is an enigma to many Caribbean people — not necessarily because of lack of access but, with the rich Papiamentu language, many may miss much in terms of the stories and ideas that show a commonality. Rhythms and melodies, however, can be easily heard and understood. Antillean composer, arranger and pianist Randal Corsen joins island favourite and sublime vocalist Dibo D to produce an elegant album that samples the native genres of the island and explores them in a way that suggests metropolitan production values are the norm there. Big band horns and strings are juxtaposed with contemporary island genres like ritmo kombiná, Latin pop, zouk, Brazilian funk, soukous, and folkloric danzas and heritage rhythms like tumba and seú (slave songs sung at harvest). Songs of hope and appreciation play alongside recovered boleros and old poems remade as ballads. Music without borders.

Nailah Blackman 

Teknique (Sokah Experience)

There is a new crop of singers from the Caribbean and the African continent — Shenseea, Koffee, Tems, Tiwa Savage, et al — making bold moves to put ethnic genres into the global consciousness. Add Nailah Blackman to that list, and this album as an example of how cross-fertilisation of global and regional riddims is introducing a new way of listening to pop music. Tight production — sampling Afro-Caribbean beats and mimicking Afrobeats — distinguishes this album of 19 songs that play out in just under an hour. Bangers, actually. Nailah and her team have crafted a series of tracks that range from the fun to the carnal to the thoughtful. The album opener “Best Friends” is a standout: Tether your love, for better days / Even in drought, you show me the rain… From there on, singing along and doing TikTok dances could easily happen. Nailah’s soca heritage is secure; what her grandfather Ras Shorty I created has evolved and is poised to blow up here.

Popcaan ft Toni-Ann Singh 

Next To Me (OVO Sound) • Single

When love is so intense that one becomes confused and insecure, it is a sign that things are either moving too fast too soon to comprehend, or that one is unaccustomed to true love. Either way, the idea that this couple could not just easily settle the doubts is a trope in a number of love songs going way back. Jamaican beauty queen and former Miss World Toni-Ann Singh joins dancehall star Popcaan on this track to give their separate perspectives on this romance. Singh tells us: Met a few lifetimes ago / You were Antony, I was Cleo / Made the world a place only we know. That enduring and complex love story inspired plays and movies. Her doubts, urging her to run away, are countered supportively by Popcaan: You don’t need to run away / Stay right next to me… / But if you wanna go, I will go. Blissfully, this is not a Shakespearean tragedy, but a modern dancehall ode to love. One can happily sing along to both sides of this love story.

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.