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Caribbean Beat Magazine

Playlist (Jul/Aug 2020) | Music reviews

This month’s listening picks, with reviews of the latest by Freetown Collective; Jany McPherson; Jah9; and Rexy*

  • Yago
  • Mi Mundo
  • Note to Self
  • All Our Lives

Yago

Freetown Collective (Cheah Meng Sound)

Freetown Collective — Muhammed Muwakil and Lou Lyons, backed by Malene Joseph, Tishanna Williams, and Shanna Joseph — is a fresh incarnation of the nation music that has been looking for the “new native” since the 1970s in Trinidad and Tobago. Soca and reggae have been the pathways for many artists, but there are those who tread alternative routes, innovating those rhythms and exploring greater synergies through canny lyricism and harmonic adventure to find new global audiences. Yago is a short burst of brilliance, balancing words that inform with ideas which, while still young, are mature enough to speak for a generation of West Indian millennials. Popular notions of love and representation are made poetic, and swing with an enthusiastic pulse that can make crowds sing along. “Baby, come close to me, let me tell you something / Every time you look at me, it’s an eruption / A million bullets of love, it’s pure emotion.” A familiar calypso metaphor, reawakened with percussive motifs — this is evolved Carnival music.

Mi Mundo

Jany McPherson (Jazzit Records)

The solo piano album is an artistic statement of both skill and patience. Melody, harmony, and rhythm, the basic elements of music, are all brought to life by ten fingers, two hands. France-based Cuban pianist Janysett McPherson has produced a sublime piece of work that unfolds with a sense of understanding her space as a transplant from the Caribbean to the European metropole. Sonic references to a kind of pastoral vision blend with percussive jaunts that locate the heat of island tempos within a world wider than this archipelago. A cover of Ennio Morricone’s Cinema Paradiso theme song has McPherson exploring dissonance, but her right hand’s melodic lines gird the beautiful melody with a pathos that is reflected in the nostalgic theme of the movie. Caribbean musicians — Michel Camilo and Monty Alexander, for example — have long used the solo piano as a platform for musical identity. Mi Mundo, “My World,” showcases an awe-inspiring globetrotting musician.

Note to Self

Jah9 (VP Records)

Jah9 has been described as “reminiscent of that darkly operatic wailer for truth and justice, Nina Simone.” That comparison rings true when you listen to the lyrics — and, importantly, their rendering — on this new album. Spoken word mingles with a powerful, clear singing voice making the lyrics stand up, and you, the listener, rise to accept these odes. With fifteen songs that range from affirmations to solemn confirmations of self, respect for and pride of skin, this album could be seen as an outlier among other reggae albums by women vocalists in its sound and delivery. Jah9’s voice is powerful and direct enough to make converts of all. Livity is a Rastafari concept of natural living as a parallel to living faith. The songs on this album are celebrations of that credo. Poetic diction, broad consciousness, and a musical spirituality are keys to making this a keeper.

All Our Lives 

Rexy* (self-released)

Rexy* (Sherrexcia Rolle) is an heiress to a Bahamian airline company, but that does not prevent this lawyer-by-day from delving into the musical side of her life. This song is about “embracing the love and life I’ve always wanted,” she says. “I’m finally living the dreams of that little girl holding a hairbrush singing and dancing in the mirror.” Fulfilling childhood dreams is one thing, but making music that defines and speaks to the confident modern Caribbean woman is something many artists look forward to. Here is a catchy single that effuses a sly dancehall-soca riddim. The magic in the music is in the joy of repetition: “love you like I do,” and “we’ve been looking for a love like this” are phrases that don’t get boring on repeat. It is easy to get caught up in the simple pleasures of a pop song, and the tropical images conjured up by a solid production, so if the listener is in the mood for escape with a hint of affirmation, then this is a track for you.