The 10th album of Morgan Heritage – also known as the Royal Family of Reggae – has been released independent of VP Records, on the new family owned record label CTBC Music Group. Despite the album title, the quintet (Peetah, Gramps, Una, Mr. Mojo and Lukes) actually mixes various genres into their 13-track album. Like all Morgan Heritage albums, Strictly Roots is characterized by excellent instrumentation and vocals.
Featuring artists Chronixx, Jemere Morgan, J Boog, J Mersa Marley and Shaggy make a fair contribution to the diversified album. Songs like Strictly Roots, Rise and Fall and Wanna Be Loved are typical Morgan Heritage standards, elaborating on their signature style of playing roots reggae, a genre that’s – to their disappointment – drowned out by dancehall. One of the songs that turned out very well is Child of JAH, a collaboration with Chronixx. It has a very smooth off-beat vocal flow that’s lifting up the song right after the intro.
The rest of the album follows three paths. Light It Up picks up a deep electronic beat and moves into the direction of hip-hop and dancehall, a bit like Damian Marley would do. Then there is the mellow and R&B tinted single material such as Perform and Done and Why Dem Come Around, songs appreciated by the public. Finally, perhaps in an attempt to attract a wider audience, the album is completed by no less than 4 cheesy pop songs: So Amazing, Put It On Me, Sunday Morning and Celebrate Life. I’m wondering how many people argue this to be an enrichment of the record.
The second edition of the Pal Mundo Festival in the Netherlands has confirmed its ambition towards a leading European Caribbean and Latin festival. Even though Marc Anthony was simply removed from the show bill after headlining for about 5 months (he supposedly postponed his European tour) and also one of his replacements (Carlos Vives) didn’t come to the festival, the remaining line-up still matched every other.
Although Krosfyah has not released any music for more than a decade, the soca group from Barbados easily managed to set the crowd on fire on the first night. It was a shame they only played half of their biggest hit Pump Me Up though. They were followed by reggaeton gangster Tego Calderon (Puerto Rico), whose show was very decent, despite the sometimes static performance and occasional playbacking. The night was well ended by veteran Juan Luis Guerra who never seems to have any problems getting a good live sound, despite the poor acoustics at the concert hall.
On day two a big mistake was made by unleashing Kassav + Friends way too early and way too short. Half of the people must have missed the zouk legends and featuring artists such as Jean-Marc Ferdinand, Zouk Machine and Princess Lover. I managed to listen to the majority of the show on the radio while driving to the event. The consecutive artists on the main stage were Yandel, from the reggaeton duo Wisin Y Yandel, and Romeo Santos, who closed the festival with the same show as last year.
Altogether both the festival and its venue have surely exceeded the previous edition. A lot of attention is given to fancy promotion graphics, photos, videos and special effects. This is a big asset. Next year it would be nice to hear some salsa as well.
Officially, the Carnival in Trinidad and Tobago this year is 15-16 February, but like every year almost every artists is boasting a number one hit. In fact the competition is ongoing throughout the year as if the carnival season is year round. Let’s see what has been out there recently and which songs are currently running up for this year Carnival’s anthem.
Machel Montano – Remedy
Put on Youtube in October 2014, but already tagged with ‘soca 2015’, Machel Montano’s first release for the Carnival Season 2015 is called Remedy. The song is being picked up and definitely a strong contestant. The video clip is focused on conveying the sticky lyrics (Oh Na Na Nah) and is still leaving behind other Machel Montano songs such as Like Ah Boss, Endless Wuk, Getting On Bad and Erupt. Rumors are out that Shaggy will join this song for a ‘refix’. Yes, this Trinidadian soca singer is always very productive as he is also featuring a lot of other artists.
Olatunji – Ola (Kan Kan Riddim)
So far, Olatunji Yearwood has scored the biggest soca hit 2015 with the help of the Kan Kan Riddim. It is a very distinct template that has successfully been adopted with the song Ola. Strangely, my first association with it was the World Cup In South Africa (Shakira – Waka Waka). Either way, as soon as the song kicks off it immediately makes you want to put it on repeat. The smooth soca riddim with Olatunji’s singing on top makes this tune also my personal favorite – probably because the African sense.
Destra Garcia – Piece Ah Dat
Ok, besides the previous two obvious hits let’s add a female artist whose song is seriously not getting enough attention. Destra Garcia’s Piece Ah Dat maybe isn’t so original, but it can be described as a perfect example of ‘the soca recipe’. Maybe the song better comes into its own when it will be brought live on stage during the Carnival festivals, supported by Destra’s enormous amount of energy.
The honorable mister Dean Fraser underlined 10 years of Tarrus Riley‘s musical history at the beginning of the concert in a lyrical way: “…when this singer started to sing he had many Challenges. And then these Challenges became Parables. And these Parables soon became very Contagious…”.
After an out of place acoustic album, the Jamaican reggae singer made a good comeback with his fifth album in February of this year: Love Situation. The album is a throwback to classic Jamaican rocksteady and currently being promoted in Europe.
The show was opened by female singer Alaine. Although not my taste of music, she managed to set the atmosphere before Tarrus Riley made his entrance. I have to admit I was afraid of an R&B-ish concert, but the Black Soil Band didn’t bring any of that. Dean Fraser’s musicians play very tight while visibly making fun on stage at the same time.
With decent (roots) reggae concerts becoming rare events these days, this was one of the most versatile shows that I’ve seen in a long time. Although using a lot of existing rhythms – both old and new – Tarrus Riley´s remarkable voice easily adapts the songs to be his own. On top of that, there is a lot of interaction with the audience.
Peaks in the concert where a Buju Banton tribute over Special Occassion, the hit song Gimme Likkle One Drop, the medley Let’s Do It Again / Protect The People / Karma and older songs such as Lion Paw and Good Girl Gone Bad.
A number of artists with strong roots in the Dutch Antilles have recently established their musical language and done justice to their talent. One of them is Ir-sais (Irgwin Placido Sluis), who was raised on the Caribbean island of Bonaire. His latest hit single is called ABC, an abbreviation for Aruba, Bonaire and Curacao. The lyrics are written in Papiamento and the genre could be referred to as a mix of zouk and pop music.
Check out the video below that leaves nothing to be desired for the promotion of the ABC-islands.
Ir-Sais has started a producer studio at his home, mixing zouk with pop and appealing to a growing crowd of Antilles music lovers. With the quality of songs like ABC one would soon expect an audience outside the Caribbean and the Netherlands and it is hoped that the Papiemento dialect is no hindrance. Wasn’t ABC one of the first signature songs of Michael Jackson when he was still part of the Jackson 5?
It is time for me to nominate a song for this year’s summer hit. Gente De Zona and Descemer Bueno have written and recorded the song earlier this year in Cuba, but it was only after their collaboration with Spanish singer-songwriter Enrique Iglesias when the song rocketed into a commercial success. Bailando has all the ingredients to become a summer smash, such as a swinging beat, Spanish guitar, catchy melody and lyrics full of mentions of party, dancing and sex.
Different versions of the song have been released, but I would like to share the ‘Spanglish’ version featuring Sean Paul. The video was filmed in Santa Domingo and lives up to the song’s name with a convincing choreography of sensual flamenco girls, street dancers and soccer.
Belgium is a country of high quality festivals, and the 16th anniversary of Afro-Latino Festival in Bree was no exception. Since the last couple of years, the line-up competes with the festival’s big brother, the Antilliaanse Feesten. This year’s edition featured Daddy Yankee, Busy Signal, Farruko, DLG, Kes the Band, Fonseca, Vena (ex-Aventura) and Orquesta SCC (La Excelencia).
Deep down the festival is more Latin and Caribbean than African. That’s okay, considering the fact that contemporary African artists are difficult to book without a network, especially compared to their South American counterparts. And a bit less reliable too.
The festival terrain had 3 stages and a 4th stage for DJ’s and dancing salsa. That’s a lot of space for only 7000 visitors. What striked me was the young crowd with many local people and families. This had an up side and a down side to it. Good was the laid back atmosphere at the festival terrain and the fact that one could easily obtain a front row seat. But, most guests didn’t seem to know any of the songs that were played and the night sometimes lacked the intensity of a real Latin party.
That could also be said from the campsite. Only one booming sound system, not much of drinking rum and no barbecues allowed, but a friendly vibe. In Bree they don’t have the commercial mentality of bigger festivals, no fights, no queuing in front of the shower and no tall security checks.
In conclusion the festival is highly recommended for next year, but unfortunately the organization is having financial problems due to a negative balance twice in a row.
Kassav’ was formed almost 35 years ago and the band has totally retained its strength. The core members (personal favorite Jacob Desvarieux, Georges Décimus, Jean Philippe Marthely, Jean Claude Naimro and Jocelyne Beroard) gave a very engaging and swinging show in Amsterdam. With an endless repertoire songs were often put into one big medley, loudly sang along by most of the audience, who seemed to know all the songs in French Antillean Creole, such as Siwo, Ou Lé, Zouk La Se Sel Medikaman Nou Ni, Soleil, Oh Madiana and Doméyis. It was an evening full of superior musicianship.
Caribbean Latin festival Pal Mundo in the Netherlands has launched itself by booking both El Rey del Reggaeton (Don Omar) and The King of Bachata (Romeo Santos). While Don Omar just didn´t show up because of a conflict with his tour manager, Romeo Santos gave a big show that saved the festival.
Nonetheless it were the artists on the two secondary stages that compensated for the numerous rookie mistakes of the festival and the poor shows by Elvis Crespo, Jowell & Randy and Tony Dize on the main stage. It was a shame the crowd preferred to stay in the large indoor stage which had the best atmosphere, disregarding artists like Luis Miguel del Amargue, Alison Hinds and Carimi.
I am very curious to see how this festival develops itself in the coming years. They should realize that the soul of a festival can not solely be generated by big artists that attract a more main stream audience. Yet it is Romeo’s powerful performance that combats this thesis.
Last night Linton Kwesi Johnson has opened my ears for poetry. It is true that there are a lot of similarities between writing a poem and writing lyrics.
For over 30 years, Linton Kwesi Johnson has been working on both the´words of music´ and ´the music of words’, as he liked to call it. In the context of being an African-Caribbean in Britain, it was politics that brought him into poetry, he proclaimed. Influenced by the sound systems and artists like U-roy in Jamaica in the late seventies, he has found his own style and voice in dub poetry. As a poetry writer LKJ has recited poems alongside Allen Ginsberg and Michael Horovitz. As a reggae singer, he has been singing alongside numerous artists, including Burning Spear, Jimmy Cliff and Toots & the Maytals.
The night was a (personal) history class, speaking about the displacement of Jamaicans to the UK, the abuse of the Vagrancy Act (Sonny’s Lettah), the dead of his father (Reggae Fi Dada), protests provoked by Swamp 81 actions (Di Great Insohreckshan) and more recent works reflecting on the end of the Cold War (New World Order) and the achievements of his generation (More Time). All these poems are also recorded on CD and well-known reggae songs, but it is hard to deny that the words have more impact when purely spoken.
If you are more into music than poetry, do watch his Live In Paris concert (2003), and acknowledge the music of his words.