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Let the music play
Before going any further, I must admit that I made an error in last Friday’s column when I expressed concern about the murder rate passing 400 for the first time in my lifetime.
Truth be told, the murder rate has previously crossed 500, registering 550 in 2008, and 509 the following year. Thanks to readers who responded to correct me. But, may I add, one murder, 40 or 400, in a country of 1.3 million citizens, is unacceptable. Up to press time yesterday, we had reached 22 murders for 2014 thus far. So who knows, we may yet break all records.
Six days before the official climax of Christmas, the soca switch began in earnest with Yorke Inc’s New Year’s Day Dutch Party, Ann Avenue, Diego Martin. Persistent rain put a damper on the party but guests stuck it out, dancing under tents until midnight.
Fashioned after the old-school, traditional house party, guests were required to walk with a bottle to the Yorke shindig, this year celebrating its 35th anniversary. The party was first held at Gerard Yorke’s Woodbrook residence on Alfredo Street. The first “party” was supposed to be a small lime in his gallery but ended up with a yard-full of people. Its first disc jockey was Christopher Poyer, succeeded by DJ Amitaf.
On New Year’s night the DJs were Duane of Slam 100FM, CG and Dr Ross of CT Vibe 105.1FM, King Int, Brandon, Keith Suite and Kabuki. Also seen were soca artistes Blackie and Oscar B.
Guests were greeted by a trio of samba dancers from N9 Dancers, led by Nalini Akal. They were complemented by the numerous elegantly-clad female guests in attendance.
The weekend’s fete activity reached fever on Friday night when Pan Trinbago officially launched the National Panorama competition at the Queen’s Park Savannah, Port-of-Spain. The following night, Tribe ICE, the first Carnival “big fete,” was held at Jean Pierre Complex, easily the biggest party on the weekend, with the largest turnout.
Pan Trinbago’s first attempt to launch a National Panorama in the form of a fete was a success, though not expected to make too much of a profit. Perhaps, for subsequent stagings of this event, Pan Trinbago ought to advertise on radio stations young people listen to, like Slam 100FM? Organisers claim that a magistrate ordered the steelband organisation to pay a hefty fee for 45 police officers. They have interpreted this as exploitation and stigmatisation against the steelband fraternity.
A surprisingly large crowd turned out early, some by 9 pm, for the all-pan affair, although most patrons seemed to be the regulars who attend pan events nationwide. This venture is Pan Trinbago’s attempt to return pan as a main source of music in Carnival fetes, apparently fashioned after Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars’ successful Soca by the River initiative. Seen among those in attendance were Arts & Multiculturalism Minister Dr Lincoln Douglas and deputy Port-of-Spain mayor Kerron Valentine.
Included on the billing were 2013 National Panorama champion Petrotrin Phase II Pan Groove, multiple champion Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars, Tobago’s Pan Explosion, Freelancers and Steel Fuzion. The latter pleasantly surprised everyone by bringing two vocalists who sang many of the popular songs by soca artistes including Machel, Bunji and Mr Famous. The fete went beyond 2 am, and was ended by Roy Cape All Stars, featuring Blaxx and Black Stalin.
Pressed for an explanation of allegations of financial impropriety by Pan Trinbago following last year’s Pan is Beautiful XII, president Keith Diaz assured that all outstanding prize monies would be paid to winners as soon as the Arts & Multiculturalism Ministry releases funds. He said “unsponsored bands” were already paid.
Soca music in the ear
Judging from the profusion of new music already heard on the airwaves, Carnival 2014 is expected to be a pulsating affair. For starters, lots of people are eagerly awaiting what’s to come from Bunji Garlin in the wake of his successes last year at the Soul Train and MTV Iggy awards. His Truck and Red Light District are on heavy rotation. The usual suspects, inclusive of Machel Montano, Destra, Benjai, Kes, Nadia Batson, Fay-Ann, Patrice Roberts, Denise Belfon, Blaxx and SuperBlue also have potential hits on rotation.
One of my favourite tracks this year is The Seamstress by Prophet Benjamin, who again reprises his humorous side as he did last year with Throw Wine.
Other tracks worth a listen include Carnival Virgins (Blaxx); Bruck It (Machel Montano); Run Away (KI & Olatunji); Professor Feter (KI); Lolita (KI & Neval Chatelal); SeeAlice/Tief Back Mih Woman (Blackie); Drink Something (Shal Marshall); Mash Up/Virgin (Destra); Liar Liar (Marcia Miranda); Shake Yuh Bum Bum (Timaya); Chutney Tabanca (Patch); Boom Boom (Anslem Douglas); Doh Beg (Kerwin Du Bois); Catch Me (Faye-Ann Lyons); On the Truck (Ms Alysha); Loose (Nadia Batson & Lyrikal); Lockdown (Kerwin Du Bois & Lyrikal); Bad Habits (Kes); Rolly Polly (Mr Killa); Wet Fete (Gyptian & Kes); Play de Music – Mango Riddem (Kes); Never See Come See (Kes); Cheap Man (Godfrey Cherry Ince); Never Done (5 Star Akeil & Nadia Batson); To Meh Heart (5 Star Akeil); Sunani (Shurwayne Winchester & Neval Chetelal); Give It All to Mih/Lick It In (Benjai); Inside ah Dat (Peter C Lewis); Party Behind Mih (Crystal “CC” Charles); and, everything on the San Fernando rhythm.
Pan in the air
Songs designed for the steelband and this year’s festival are as infectious and jumpy as the other soca offerings. For instance, there’s SuperBlue with Spankin’ in Tribute to Anthony Williams, a ditty written by the singer and produced by Juelio at Nu Generation Studios.
Other sweet pan songs include Pan is Carnival, composed by Pelham Goddard, with lyrics by Alvin Daniel and sung by Roderick “Chucky” Gordon, and Crazy’s Pan in Yuh Pweffen.
Also producing a pan song is defending joint International Power Soca monarch Machel Montano, with No Scene, while Destra continues her commitment to the national instrument with First Time.
In terms of what steelbands may be playing, Republic Bank Exodus’ choice is Pan is Carnival while PCS Silver Stars has opted for Liam Teague’s The Reason. Veteran Woodbrook band, now based on Mucurapo Road, White Oak Starlift will be playing Keith Salcedo’s arrangement of Montano’s Happiest Man Alive. In the East, Solo Harmonites has chosen Men of Steel, to be arranged by Seion Gomez; and, birdsong has retained the services of US panman/composer Andy Narell to arrange We Kinda Music.
Going South, La Brea Nightingales, which shook up the Savannah at last year’s competition, is returning with Pan in the Atmosphere, arranged by Terrence “BJ” Marcelle. Another southern band to reckon with, Siparia Deltones, musically led by Carlton Zanda Alexander, will perform Play More Local.
Like last year when Clive Telemaque composed a humdinger of a song for Neal & Massy Trinidad All Stars, he’s back again with two compositions this year, named Excitement and This It. I am certain one of Telemaque’s bands, Tobago’s Carib Dixieland, will play one of these songs.
I am saddened that no one will ever hear Emmanuel “Oba” Synette’s newest composition, one which I would have liked hearing Robert Greenidge arrange for Witco Desperadoes. Synette was the composer of In My House and Picture on My Wall, songs which gave Desperadoes back-to-back National Panorama titles in 1999 and 2000. But, the laid back individual that he is, he seems to prefer playing his compositions for passengers in his vehicle instead of pushing them on the air or for steelbands.
Going for king
The “serious”, conventional calypsoes are also out and two lovely ones are by former national monarchs Singing Sandra and Kurt Allen. Sandra’s ditty is named Madiba, a comprehensively composed song by Christophe “Quasar” Grant and arranged by south’s Junior “Ibo” Joseph. Allen, who is a past International Soca Monarch as well, has penned the thought-provoking Mountain, an inspirational double entendre inspired by El Tucuche, Trinidad’s tallest mountain.
And, so the music of Carnival 2014 is out and aplenty, and is one commodity this year’s festival will not short on.
Carnival 2014 Hot Tracks
• Spankin’ – SuperBlue
• Epic – Machel Montano
• Happiest Man Alive – Machel Montano
• Monster Winer - Kerwin Du Bois, feat Lil Rick
• Behaving the Worst – Skinny Fabulous
• Red Light District – Bunji Garlin
• Truck on the Road – Bunji Garlin
• Roll Call – Destra
• Blazin’ – Chucky
• Play More Local – Mr Famous
• Conquer Meh – Lyrikal
• Bum Bum – Timaya
• Just a Little Bit – Destra
• Feel 2 Wuk – Shal Marshall
• Ten to One – Blaxx