T&T's reggae rennaissance
keep your ears open for prophet benjamin
just got a note from my man danish, a trinidadian selector/music-enthusiast who moved from new orleans to atlanta to san juan in the last year. every now and then danish hits me up with his impressions of the trinidadian or jamaican or wider caribbean music scene. his keen observations often identify emerging trends, as in this missive from last august, which i should have posted immediately as it is now out-of-date (and already was referring to a trip taken in june). still, as sudden as stylistic shifts can be in this music, his thoughts here remain an incisive summation of recent movements in reggae:
I was in JA in June for a couple weeks and just wanted to bounce off you what I noted as the current trends in the dancehall space.for those who are curious about the contemporary scene in T&T, i offer up (immediately this time) some selections from an email i just received from him:
- firstly, pertinent to your recent blog post, there are a couple riddims in JA (one of which has a Bounty called 'top billing') that actually have the drum pattern AND tempo of reggaeton...yuh know how the radio is, many times they do not tell you the riddim names. Reggaeton really is on de up and up...heard a track or two in France, even back home in T&T we're loving it (as we enjoy all 'wining' music).
- secondly, the 'one drop' seems to be no longer at the top, in my books. Sad to say, this was inevitable..phases in dancehall are, almost by definition, fleeting. This was one was positive for the most part but it has given away to something I rank as delightful, Man...I callin it 'retro'...Starting with the 'sleepy dog', a classic sounding ol' school riddim, slow tempo with a WICKED ol' school style Assassin, and another strong track from Vegas. The runaway tune on de riddim is Buju's 'Zoom Zoom' that sounds like it was recorded 12 years ago! Buju in particular has spearheaded this retro revolution and is singing girls tunes in the same vein as 'voice of jamaica' days...The 'throwback' riddim rewords the riddim of 'coca cola bottle shape' with some strong tracks from Vybz (showing his versatility with a ol' school pattern), Ele (for a change) AND Buju! De Buju DONE de place...'mi baby mother seh mi bad, mi too bad, mi too bad, mi too bad, mi too bad, mi too bad, mi too bad'...brrrrrap!
Was just home for Christmas/New Years as is customary, and it's an extra-exciting time for me as it is the start of the Carnival season and new releases-a plenty are pouring forth from the illegal street vendors, radio stations, etc.and before i could post this here entry, i received the following follow-up:
First thing to note: in the wake of the monumental success of Marlon Asher's "G#nja Farmer", it's heralded the era of 'Trini Reggae' with a cadre of talented local artistes making some truly quality conscious reggae music (the most prolific of which is a Bobo named Prophet Benjamin). There is a recently released compilation 'Reggae Roadblock' featuring the local reggae hits, both by lesser-knowns as well as a ragga-soca artist Benjai (with a WICKED weed tune called 'I got something'). Boss, it's truly an excellent conscious compilation, and has garnered immense support from the local party goers and radio DJ's (who often sadly are more partial to Jamaican and American artists/music outside of Carnival season)…so much so that the Carnival fetes thus far would feature at least Prophet Benjamin (who apparently has a WICKED combo with Bunji Garlin)…that is new ground, King...local reggae acts in Carnival fetes? And I know us, as a people, will appreciate it.
In the future, we might witness a couple more of the popular ragga soca artists voicing conscious reggae tracks; I know they have the talent to do so and with the slew of 'conscious soca' over the past few years from the likes of Maximus Dan, Bunji Garlin and even Machel Montano (known as a slackness artist for years, but perhaps on the best in the game), it's a natural progression (even moreso with the 'mainstream' reggae community's current love affair for the one-drop).
Am tuning into what's probably the top urban station at home www.red967fm.com online and just heard de Prophet Benjamin/Bunji compilation and it WICKED! Is actually a hype ragga soca track bunnin fire on police, etc…so, yeah, go search this stuff out if you want to hear what's running the airwaves in trini today. (and try these sites for some audio teasers: trini jungle juice | toronto-lime | 1extra.) meantime, i'll be sure to keep you posted of danish's musical intimations in the future. dude's off to india in a couple weeks, so who knows what news his next email will bring.