Sunday, 22 January 2017

A Prologue to an Island Opus - Carnival: The Sound of a People at Queen’s Hall¹

In the heat and heart of the Carnival fête season when “we doh business”, Etienne Charles will allow us to imagine what creole intelligence sounds and looks like. On Sunday January 29, he will debut and preview at the Queen's Hall selections of his newest extended piece—a planned 3-CD length oratorio—called Carnival: The Sound of a People that locates the musical response of Afro-Caribbean people within this island space to the circumstances of slavery, colonialism and freedom. Adoption, adaptation and incorporation of the cultural traditions rendered with an ear to the broader musical tradition of the Americas, jazz, has allowed Charles to produce music that recognises local audiences' penchant to move to rhythm, and a global audiences' willingness to discover and be awed by the brilliance of New World African music.

Etienne Charles with 'Slim' and the
Moruga Bois drummers. © Maria Nunes
Errol Hill, in his book The Trinidad Carnival: Mandate for a National Theatre, wrote that “Carnival is inconceivable without music.” Music is indeed a central pillar of the Trinidad Carnival. Charles, with the award of a 2015 fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, was allowed to research and explore the music of the Carnivalesque processions, the canboulay and j'ouvert, the drum dances, the sacred and secular music with the call-and-response led by the chantwell, and other African cultural survivals in the Caribbean from pre-Emancipation to present. He embedded himself in the communities that retain the traditions of the blue devil, the jab jab, the black Indian, and in the gayelle of the stickfighter to capture the rhythm and song of the kalenda and the caliso.

Sunday, 1 January 2017

Caribbean Beat Caribbean Playlist - January/February 2017ª


Family Tree Grégory Privat Trio 

(ACT Music)

Martiniquan pianist Grégory Privat reveals in his new album of music, Family Tree, the subtle links between the Caribbean trove of rhythms and melodies and the grand vocabulary of jazz. Supported this time by bassist Linley Marthe originally from Mauritius and fellow Martniquan Tilo Bertholo on drums, Privat with his fluid playing centres the idea that the roots of jazz are firmly planted in the Caribbean creole culture that was present at the genesis of jazz. The music finds inspiration in the beguine, the bèlè and gwoka of his native Martinique and Guadeloupe. Bassist and drummer Marthe and Bertholo respectively, despite their creole backgrounds, evince the African DNA of the new world rhythms that a Caribbean perspective has produced. Privat is a fine musician with solid classical and jazz training who on this album finds the core impulse of a iconoclast to dynamically paint anew the heritage and beauty of jazz that is found in these Antilles.

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Double Take Elan Trotman's Tropicality 

(Island Muzik Productions)

“First impressions are the most lasting,” is a popular proverb that makes the case for a grand debut to cement a perfect memory. Well, certainly not this time as Barbadian saxophonist Elan Trotman has recast a number of his previously released songs from his many years as a recording artist and given them a second look, a double take if you will. He has refreshed the sound and arrangements of his Caribbean-rhythm infused smooth jazz to make them shine through—to Caribbean ears at least—with the positioning of the steelpan in a more forward position. His vocals on Bill Withers' classic “Lovely Day” are direct and make one smile at the simple charm of this song. “Tradewinds” is the antithesis to a dull day in the tropics; lilting and easy to dance to. His band of fellow Berklee College of Music alumni, Tropicality, has the musical chops to make this new impression far from diminished.
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  1. More Caribbean Playlist reviews appear in the January/February 2017 issue of Caribbean Beat magazine.
© 2017, Nigel A. Campbell. All Rights Reserved.