Music buzz | Reviews (May/Jun 2023)

This month’s listening picks from the Caribbean — featuring new music by Etienne Charles; Cozier; David Walters; and Érol Josué

  • Traces
  • Neverland
  • Soul Tropical
  • Pelerinaj

Etienne Charles

Traces (Culture Shock Music)

One result of migration, forced and voluntary, is a blossoming of new music cultures. On his new album Traces — a limited edition in both vinyl and CD — Trinidadian jazz musician Etienne Charles continues his exposition of “New World” stories through music genres born where disparate peoples meet. Charles finds catalysts for composition in his colleagues’ origins. Performed here by a stellar quartet — each member with a different birthplace — playing cello, cuatro, double bass and trumpet, this album’s music reflects their individual cultures and traditions. Antillean waltzes and biguine from the Caribbean, festejo, merengue, joropo and choro from South America all provide sonic connections to tales, tributes and the legacies that define an expansive Creole soul. Charles the musician is the fortunate traveller who gloriously and majestically adds to his oeuvre by mining his African sojourns, his Latin American expeditions, and his Caribbean recollections and discoveries.


Neverland (Spooky Cozier)

In the Caribbean, a new generation of music producers is working towards making music that “crosses over” to a global market — with a sound that speaks its native language, yet incorporates supremely popular international dance elements. Hints of hip-hop have done wonders for reggaeton, Afrobeats, even dancehall. Cozier is one such producer who is finessing and pushing the rapso-dancehall-soca-R&B fusion genre called Trinibad towards an accessible entry point. Neverland, his first album, has the earmarks of a pioneering signpost for what the genre can do. A chill hip-hop vibe permeates the music so that the chatting and wordplay are not obscured by energetic beats. Vernacular lyrics and taboo topics delight as singers and rappers slur and speechify, bringing a unique youthful perspective of contemporary island life to the forefront. This album mirrors the calypso ethos and aesthetic — the lyrical exposition of an island reality — in a brand new way.

David Walters

Soul Tropical (Heavenly Sweetness)

David Walters is a France-based singer-songwriter, producer and DJ with roots in St Kitts and Martinique; he trades that heritage to success beyond the Antilles. Walters’ new album Soul Tropical conjures up two ideas that define how music from the Caribbean can be sold to a global audience: as a multi-lingual selection of conscious and poetic lyrics set to Afro-Caribbean rhythms, and as a melange of Afro-diasporic musical tropes and urgent electronic beats with allusions to what’s cool in temperate climates. Both work here and make this album a standout in the modern interpretation of an island music renaissance that is centred in the French Antilles. The tropical soul is in a celebratory mode. The Kwéyòl language — sung over zouk, biguine, soca, and even a disco vibe — works together with contemplative rap and spoken word, in both French and English, and broadens the listener’s understanding of Caribbean life and emotions.

Érol Josué

Pelerinaj (Village Hut Records)

Haitian Érol Josué is one of the world’s best known and most highly respected experts on Vodou, and is currently the country’s Director General of the National Bureau of Ethnology. With Josué’s album Pelerinaj (meaning pilgrimage), listeners will be in for a revelation that dispels the myths, biases, and ill-informed ideas of what Vodou music and spirituality are about. An eclectic and innovative blend of contemporary jazz, Kreyòl folk and sacred songs, improvisation, and electronic pop pepper the 17 tracks on this album. Josué says, I’m presenting a way of life using sacred and secular language. Even though these songs were composed for musicians to play, not for use in rituals, they represent spiritual knowledge. With a voice that carries the spirit of ancestors and the timbre of triumph, this music transcribes his Homeric journey to the centre, and the rekindling of a joyful healing and determined peace.


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.