BOOMTOWN MINI TOURS – Kids FM Radio / Jus Now

There’s been a few of these ‘Boomtown Backstage Mini Tours’ – all are brilliant and well worth a watch but I had to share this latest one with my brother Keshav from Jus Now. I have a copy of this full interview at Kids FM Radio and it’s hilarious!

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Crazy Design X Shelow Shaq X Ceky Viciny – Pideme Excusa

After a brief trip to the Dominican Republic over a decade ago, I fell in love with Merengue and came home with bags of it. Since then nearly all the music I’ve enjoyed coming out of that half of the Island (the other half of course being Haiti) is either Merengue or a version of Reggaeton / Dembow, with the occasional Trap elements thrown in for good measure (though that’s pretty standard everywhere these days). This new track from 3 of the country’s rappers is very different however.

The beat is heavily influenced by the ceremonial carnivalesque music known as Gagá, a traditional processional style which originates from next door in Haiti (with its roots very firmly in Africa), where it is known as Rara. The only other track I know to modernise the music like this is 2015’s ‘Me Dite Duro – Carnaval Song’ from Los Teke Teke, a duo which Crazy Design is half of, though one of my favourite Haitian bands RAM have definitely incorporated it into some of their music, albeit a different way (check ‘Otsya‘ from their latest album for an example).

Steaming along at nearly 200bpm this track is taking no prisoners and I’m not sure I’ll ever get to play it out in a club (if you think your night can handle it let me know, I’m ready) but sat here at my office desk in the afternoon winter darkness, it’s given me just the energy boost I need.

To get an idea on the more traditional sounds of Gagá and Rara there’s a couple of old compilations that have made it to streaming sites: Caribbean Revels: Haitian Rara and Dominican Gaga on Smithsonian Folkways Recordings (1991) and Rara In Haiti Gaga In The Dominican Republic on Ethnic Folkways Library (1978).

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CLOCKENFLAP 2018 (PT 1)

So here we are back in Hong Kong. This is now my 6th time playing Clockenflap festival with Burnitov from the Chicken Brothers (7th for him as I missed a year). We got invited to play their Silent Disco after one of the festival directors caught us both in Festival No. 6, and they keep on bringing us back, so all respects due to them. It’s not just the playing I love here however, I always catch some fantastic music and this year is no exception. Today (Sunday) we have lined up the likes of: Oddisee & Good Compny; Chancha Via Circuito; Khalid; Blood Wine Or Honey; local Reggae band Sensi Lion; and the world’s youngest DJ, 3 year old DJ Archie (who played Kidztown with us at Boomtown this year). Sadly my set clashes with Roni Size and Erykah Badu but I think the rest should satisfy me for now. In fact the acts I’ve seen already are probably more than enough. Here’s a little rundown of my highlights so far.

Nina Las Vegas

I only really know Nina from an excellent Boiler Room set somebody played me recently, however she was a radio host on Australia’s Triple J for 11 years before leaving to set up a label (NLV Records) and concentrating on her DJing and production. As the first DJ on Friday, she set a great precedent. Both myself and Matt (Burnitov) danced our asses off the whole 90 minute set. She started off a little choppy but with a top class selection, then eventually found a solid groove and still managed to ride that all over the place, from Baile Funk to Ballroom, Gqom to the edges of Garage and even a little Ariana Grande. She kept it consistently interesting whilst never nerding out enough to lose the momentum, I’ll definitely be checking out more of her sets in the future.

I Kong

The first act I caught on Saturday was the Jamaican reggae veteran formerly known as Ricky Storm, who took to the main stage backed by Jahwazoo from Chengzu. I Kong himself is half Chinese and keen to build up the Reggae scene in this part of the world, I’d say he made a good start here in Hong Kong. Although there were a few obvious die hard Reggae fans in the audience, some mouthing the words as he played, the majority of the crowd felt to be just curious bystanders, who nevertheless warmed to the relatively gentle blend of rasta roots reggae and lovers rock. There was an obvious ease in the atmosphere and I Kong proved to be an engaging performer, sprightly above his years with strength and sweetness in his voice, albeit with some weathered roughness around the edges at times. The band played tight, despite being a relatively new collaboration (in Europe he tends to use Najavibes, I’m not sure about back home or the rest of the world) and all in all it proved to be yet another perfect start to the day,

Amadou & Mariam

Always a great act to watch and unquestionably the best crowd atmosphere so far, the , Malian couple and their excellent French band had the whole place in their hands from the second track. Watching Amadou & Mariam is a little like being taken to church, in fact some of their music has definite gospel overtones and there was plenty of clapping and joyful exuberance from the audience. I worked up quite a sweat, especially since it was still hitting 23 degrees here, even after dark,. Suffice to say I felt positively uplifted by the end, but the best gig of the night was still yet to come.

David Byrne

I was devastated to miss the recent tour back in the UK, in fact my only experience of David Byrne had been Talking Heads’ legendary Stop Making Sense DVD which I’ve watched numerous times. I’d totally forgot he was performing at Clockenflap and I was thankful my set only clashed by half an hour, both other days and all previous years I’m playing the final set so headliners are usually not even an option to see. I rushed over to catch the last hour and just caught the end of ‘This Must Be The Place’ which then went straight into ‘Once In A Lifetime’. It was impossible not to be drawn straight in and although I really missed not having crew around to revel in that moment, I managed a few shared smiles and appreciative nods with the folk around me. By the time ‘Road To Nowhere’ came on, I’d moved deeper into the crowd and found a couple of pissed up Brits to jump around in a huddle with.

He’s certainly not lost any of his flair for performance and positioning since Stop Making Sense, visually the show was about as stunning as you can make a dozen or so people in grey suits. The band were in constant motion, with not one fixed instrument or amp on stage, often in one straight line but forever switching. At times it even felt like I was at a Broadway musical, though I mean that in the classiest way possible of course.

I’m not as familiar with David’s solo material (though what I’ve heard of the new album is excellent so far) but not once did my concentration or appreciation waver. He finished with a cover of Janelle Monae’s powerful protest tune ‘Hell You Talmbout’, a bold move for an undeniably bold show. I’d say this was easily one of the best shows I’ve seen, in fact I did say it to him afterwards backstage. There’s nothing more embarrassing than realising you’ve gone a bit too fan boy, there’s a certain light that switches off in people’s eyes when you do that, but that said he did remain perfectly polite and lovely, and what the hell I meant it.

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SHADOW (1941 – 2018)

Some sad news in today that legendary Calypsonian – Shadow (or Mighty Shadow as he was also known) passed away at the age of 77. Many people here in the UK got to see him via Channel 4 films such as Carnival in 1983 and Kaiso in 1985 but he was something of a people’s champion in the Calypso world. Despite rarely getting the same recognition by the establishment as the likes of Sparrow or Kitchener, he still maintained a strong influence on the scene and many credit him with being instrumental to the birth of Soca with his high energy Kaiso that often lay heavy on the drums and bass. I’ve pulled out a few of his tracks that I feel best outline his impressive history.

The Threat
From 1971, this could largely be considered his calling card. It’s a direct challenge to the ruling Calypsonians of the day, Mighty Sparrow and Lord Kitchener.

Bassman
In 1974 he finally went head to head with Sparrow in the Calypso Monarch finals. He lost out on the title once again but he did win both first and second place in the Road March contest that year with this track and ‘Ah Come Out To Play’.

Jump Judges Jump
Frustrated by his lack of titles, he penned this attack on the Calypso Monarch judges in 1977.

Bacchanal Time
This funky little number was the title track from a 1978 comedy film he starred in alongside Calypso Rose and Crazy amongst others.

D’Hardest
Always up for experimentation, this track from his 1980 album D’Hardest is delving into Disco territory. This is probably his most sought after track by DJs but was tagged onto an Analog Africa 2017 re-release of his equally funky 1984 album ‘Sweet Sweet Dreams’.

Dingolay
We played this on the Super Soca Show recently, it’s one of my favourites and it was a big hit for Shadow in 1992. Such an uplifting track and if you didn’t know, Dingolay means to dance joyfully and expressively like nobody is watching.

Scratch Meh Back
Eventually Shadow would win the Calypso Monarch title, but it took him until 2000. This ode to getting old was one of his winning songs.

Stranger
In 2001 Shadow won both the Road March and the Soca Monarch title with this track, only the second artist to do so since Super Blue (who won both in 1993 and 2000).

This is by no stretch a comprehensive over view of the enigmatic and ground breaking artist, but hopefully these tracks should give anybody who has joined the Shadow party a little too late, enough interest to discover more from the great man themselves.

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Lura – Alguem di Alguem

Portuguese singer Lura gives a big nod to her Cape Verdean roots here with some straight up funaná vibes, which very much reminds me of the older Bouyon tracks from Dominica with it’s use of accordion over fast paced African rhythms.

Even if you don’t speak Portuguese this is an infectious number which I keep on coming back to at the moment, I think she might have another hit on her hands.

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Alexx A-Game – Go Harda

It can be tricky keeping up with the current wave of Jamaican Bashment artists, partly due to the fact that I find the levels of nihilism, materialism, misogyny and throwaway violence in much of the lyrics slightly nauseating, and the lack of depth often permeates through the production itself. To put it simply, I’m not feeling it. However, that said there is still a number of artists who keep piquing my interest and Alexx A-Game is right up there.

It helps that my first encounters were his Swing Ting collaborations, the Manchester based label have a strong knack in spinning that end of Jamaican music into underground UK friendly flavours that bang. He popped up with Fox and Serocee on the Famous Eno track ‘Gangsters’, as well as Swing Ting’s own productions ‘Free Up Your Mind’ and ‘A-Game Every Day’. Swing Ting also released their edits of his track ‘Braver’. If you’ve not heard any of these then a good place to start is the Swing Ting Presents Alexx A-Game mixtape.

Outside of there, his other collaborations include ‘High’ with Germany’s Ghetto Vanessa for Equiknoxx’s label and ‘Superwoman (Remix)’ with Blossom & Hot16 out of Portland, Oregon. His straight up Bashment tracks still carry a positive vibe and on Irievibrations’ Gratitude Riddim he went full Roots & Culture on the same riddim as Anthony B, Exco Levi and Gentleman (with Konshens – who is perhaps a good comparison for a similar more established artist).

This particular track is on the Lion Pride Riddim which originally surfaced last year with tracks from Agent Sasco, UK singer Bud and Gregory Isaacs (not sure on the story there) amongst others. The riddim is produced by Flow Productions and Upsetta Records out of LA and must have proven popular as they’ve now released a second wave, which aside from Alex includes Bugle, Busy Signal and Tanya Stephens. It follows a similar acoustic style to Alex’s 2016 track ‘Rise Up Now’ but with more of a Nyabinghi vibe, I have it on heavy rotation right now.

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Rikki Jai – The Remedy / Ravi B – Start Over

Each week on our Super Soca Show we include a ‘Chutney Tune Of The Week’. Of course, even if you’re unaware of the music, it should be obvious that I’m not talking about the* fruity food stuff, but the Soca derivative which further accentuates the music’s East Indian influences. I’ve not posted much on here before, but there’s two tunes currently that I feel need to be shared.

I should perhaps first explain that there is a popular trend in Trinidad & Tobago of taking classic Bollywood tracks or melodies and revamping them Chutney Soca style. In fact just before the island’s 2017 Carnival, there was something of a backlash against the usage of such tunes in the Chutney Soca Monarch competition, but the practice remains popular. These are two such tracks, however as is often the case with both artists, they’ve taken the melodies and changed the original Hindi lyrics into catchy drinking anthems.

First up is Rikki Jai, whose big hits include Barman (adapted from Dil Mera Ek Aas Ka Panchhi) where the song is built around Rikki asking the barman for some Guiness and Puncheon (rum) to help him get ready for a long night of loving (he also asks for some supligen energy drink and ginseng), and Alone (adapted from Deewana Hua Badal) where he opts for feteing alone with a bottle of rum over carnival, as his partner has left him. In this latest offering, he adapts the melody from the classic Jaoon Kahan Bata Aye Dil whilst facing his various relationship problems with a bottle of rum (the remedy). I’m not sure he’s the best role model in this respect, but he does know how to make a highly addictive track.

Be careful with this one, I didn’t pay it much attention at first, and then I couldn’t get “So bring the Johnnie Walker” out of my head, now I can’t stop playing it.

Ravi B’s alcohol infused Bollywood remakes include lamenting the raise in rum prices for Budget (adapted from Mohan Ki Muraliya Baje) and Ah Drinka (adapted from O Saathi Re Tere Bina), which follows similar lines to The Remedy, with rum definitely taking precedent over his partner. In Start Over, his partner’s left him and it’s whiskey this time which is set to see him through the break up. Although rum is by far the favourite tipple of most singers, Johnnie Walker does find it’s way into a few Chutney songs, possibly as it’s one of India’s most popular spirits.

The melody for this one is actually from a fairly recent Bollywood hit, Tere Sang Yaara, a song from Rustom. I have to admit, although the original love song is a more popular track, I’m a much bigger fan of this version!

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