The Northern Illinois University (NIU) Steelband has dedicated its annual Spring concert to Trinidadian pan icon Cliff Alexis who recently retired after 30 years of co-directing the NIU steelband...
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Soca/EDM hybrid EP gives taste of great things to come
Electronic dance music (EDM) and Caribbean rhythms were made for each other. Major Lazer’s popular and critically well-received records and performances are evidence, along with singles by Bunji Garlin, his wife, Fay-Ann Lyons, and Machel Montano.
Jus Now, a DJ outfit in the vein of Major Lazer, has also become a key part of this increasingly successful relationship. They produced Garlin’s 2014 megahit Truck on D Road and released a successful collaboration with him and Stylo G last year, Tun Up.
Now the duo—made up of UK DJ Sam Interface and Trini DJ/producer Lazabeam—has released their first commercial collection, a five-song EP called Cyah Help It, that is receiving critical buzz.
“A lot of soca is very specifically Carnival-oriented, but what Sam and I, as well as a few other producers out there, are doing is making records that can appeal to a much wider demographic that have never been to Carnival before,” Lazabeam—real name Keshav Chandradath Singh—told music magazine The FADER.
“There are elements of Trinidad, Brazil, India, Africa, and of course the UK—(all) cultures we've been in close contact with over the last couple of years," he said.
“We definitely pay attention to the elements that the world enjoys about each other’s cultures,” Intercept said in a blog interview. “The soca-infused sound also provides an alternative Caribbean style of party music which people seem to be gravitating to more and more.”
Garlin explained to Rolling Stone magazine last year how the current scene evolved.
"Some of the soca songs started borrowing synths from EDM. At the same time EDM was borrowing some bass lines and stuff from dancehall. Then hip-hop was borrowing synths from EDM, and dancehall was borrowing from hip hop,” he said. “So everyone basically kind of started mirroring each other, so the whole world of music started to become a more palatable place."
The title track on Cyah Help It is an exhilarating mesh of African and Indian drumming and galloping dance beats, with rapping by Garlin and the UK’s Ms Dynamite thrown into the mix. The track was featured on NPR’s Songs We Love segment.
“A mixture of soundbwoy killing and party starting, it's a combination of style and pattern that keeps things unexpected, an uninhibited bruk-out destined to shell down bashment parties that are not limited by tempo or genre,” wrote NPR’s Eóin MacManus.
He continued: “If a Carnival parade was to trample across the Atlantic, all the way from St Pauls to Independence Square, this could be its 2015 anthem.”
Machine-gun-fire rhythms and marching band drumming propel the second track, Badder Than, which features vocal snippets from the Olatunji 2013 hit Bam Bam: “Bus up the place … badder than the Taliban.”
Wave Something—another Garlin collab that also features Kerwin Prescott—is lyrically most representative of traditional soca—“All hands up in the air,” Garlin sings—except it rides on a boom-glitch drum and bass sound and African drumming.
The EP slows down with the trippy dub track Culture, featuring Coreysan, his deep, reverberating vocal repeating new age spoken word: “Culture, cultivation of thought, cultivation of mind, cultivation of spirit, earth and sky, you and I.” If you start to get too relaxed, the song is occasionally disrupted by short bursts of hard drum and bass with what sounds like a helicopter propellers sunk somewhere in the mix. Cyah Help It is exciting and suggestive of great things to come.