Lt. Stitchie – Like An Arrow

Much as I loved the heavyweights of late 80s Dancehall such as Shabba Ranks and Ninjaman , my favourite Jamaican artists back then (not including Daddy Freddy as we’ll claim him as a Brit for these purposes) were Papa San and Lt. Stitchie. They had so much character and the best flows. Their 1989 Sting performance is an absolute highlight and subsequent appearances have been equally as strong. Although we don’t have both of them at Boomtown, I’m more than happy to have Stitchie alongside the mighty Manudigital on Lion’s Den. His pedigree is strong, the only artist to have 14 Number 1 songs in one calendar year and the first Dancehall artists on the Billboard charts, but just listen to this new track and he’s lost none of his style, power or charisma! I’m really looking forwards to his show.

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One of the things that people have really responded to about the weekly Soca show that myself, Dub Boy, Atki 2 and Jonesy Wales present on Ujima Radio, is when we explain a little more about the artist we’re playing, the island they’re from, or the idiosyncrasies of the music in general. We’re very aware that we’re not just catering for the hardcore Soca fans out there and in fact most are curious bystanders at best, so with that in mind, here’s a little more info on my brand new Power Shower mix, as I’m sure for the uninitiated it could be just as intimidating as it can be exciting.

In many ways, this was one of the easiest mixes to put together, these are mostly tracks I’m super hyped about hearing when I head to Trinidad & Tobago in a couple of weeks for my first Carnival there, which as a DJ who plays as much Soca as I do and co-hosts a radio show dedicated to the music, I almost feel ashamed admitting. Believe me, it’s only the starting point too really, there’s still many more Caribbean carnivals to be initiated into. Although Soca was birthed in T&T, its influence has spread much further afield. On this mix alone, there are also artists from St Vincent & The Grenadines, St Lucia, Grenada, Barbados and Dominica, all of which have their very own specific takes on both Soca and Carnival.

There are in fact many different styles of Soca: the R&B inspired Groovy Soca (or the arguably same styled Sweet Soca in Barbados); Afro-Soca with its West African Afrobeats influences; Chutney Soca with its strong East Indian elements; the bouncy Barbadian sound of Bashment Soca; and St Lucia’s fiery fusion of Soca with Angolan Kuduro, known largely as Dennery Segment; are some of the more popular. As the name suggests, this mix concentrates heavily on the high energy, fast tempo Power Soca, however there is also a strong presence from Dominican Bouyon, whose influence has really make an impact on the wider Soca scene this season, and the murkier tones of Grenadian Jab Jab, which should be familiar to anyone who’s followed my sporadic output of mixes (if not check out my Jab Jab Party mix next).

These influences are certainly apparent in this year’s contenders for Road March, a long-held tradition that essentially determines the biggest track of the year by which tune is played most at the judging points across the carnival. There are a few hopefuls in this mix, probably the favourite for this year is ‘Famalay’ a link-up between T&T’s leading artists Machel Montano and Bunji Garlin, and St Vincent power house Skinny Fabulous. It would be hard to think of a deadlier combo for a Power Soca track to be honest and it certainly doesn’t disappoint, however you can’t deny that the track also holds Bouyon at its core, with production from Dada Muzic out of Dominica.

For more on what Bouyon actually is, it’s worth checking out the Dominican special section on our radio show (from just after 1hr16mins here), but the other tracks you can hear in this mix are: ‘Canavalist’ from Carlyn XP, a fantastic track but perhaps the one I’m least sure about crossing over from Dominica into Trinidad & Tobago; ‘Waist Pun Fire’ from Skinny Fabulous again and Marzville representing Barbados; and those on the Simon Says Riddim (‘Simon Say’, ‘What A Mess’ and ‘Dutty Bad’), produced by Brooklyn based St Lucian artist and entrepreneur Motto, CEO of leading recording label Team Foxx music, pioneer of Dennery Segment (which he touches on here with his Skinny Fabulous collaboration ‘Pick Your Position’) and an undoubtedly dominating figure in this season’s big tunes.

Aside from Carlyn XP and Dada Muzic the only ‘proper’ Bouyon artist on the mix is Asa Banton, fast becoming the genre’s most recognisable export. Not only does he join Motto on ‘Simon Say’, but he also has his Motto produced track ‘Wet Fete King’ on the mix.

A ‘Wet Fete’ is probably quite self-explanatory, a party which involves soaking everybody in sight, often with the help of huge water trucks and hoses. There’s a couple of other dedications to these soggy celebrations on the mix, I briefly mentioned Motto’s ‘What A Mess (Get Di Party Wet)’ and there’s also the big bad Bunji Garlin himself with ‘Wet’ on the Anti-Stush riddim. These tracks were largely the inspiration for the name Power Shower, it’s also a pun that matches nicely with Super Soca Show, our weekly radio outings. Sadly, there’s a water shortage happening in Trinidad that might put paid to many of the Wet Fetes this carnival, with police promising heavy fines to anyone who ignores it, so I’m not sure I’ll get to indulge this time around.

Power Soca grew from a style called Jump & Wave and there’s echoes of that classic sound in here too, particularly from the originator Super Blue, who joins with rapso legends 3Canal on ‘Rag Storm’, predicting the mass waving of ‘flags and rags’ that such a song might inspire. Super Blue is credited for originally instigating this widely accepted sign of Soca appreciation.

Super Blue also opens the whole mix with his Machel Montano collaboration, ‘We Now Start To Party’. This is a particularly potent pairing as both have won the Road March more than any artist since the days of calypsonian ‘Grand Master’ Lord Kitchener (who at 11 wins before his death, still beats Super Blue by 1 win). Last year it was the pair’s first collaboration ‘Soca Kingdom’ that got the title, their 9th and 10th respectively, and you can learn more about that from another track on this mix ‘Road March Bacchanal 2’ by Iwer George.

It’s the track I left play the longest as it tells a story, plus with its reggae breakdowns it fooled my tiny attention span. Iwer was in the running for Road March last year with his track ‘Savannah’ but when ‘Soca Kingdom’ dropped, there was no hope for anyone else really. Iwer’s managed to turn his bitterness about this, into one of my favourite tracks of the season (there’s also been some pretty great but cutting follow ups by both he and Machel). I’d like to think it was in the running for Road March but Iwer’s putting his weight behind the next track on the mix, ‘Go’.

My other favourite for Road March would definitely be Run Wid It by Mr Killa, but the rules state that the majority of artists on the track must be from Trinidad & Tobago and he’s Grenadian (the rule does allow for Skinny Fabulous being from St Vincent on Famalay however). There is no doubt that it’s going to be a crowd favourite however, one of the reasons it’s my final tune on the mix.

If you hadn’t yet heard, the track is already causing a commotion both in T&T and back home in Grenada as people are literally taking the song at its word when it says to “pick up something, anything…. run with it”. After his performance at the Soca Monarch Semi Finals, the police had to put out a statement saying “There are a lot of offences that could stem from some of the actions taking place of being allowed by this particular song…. the song is a nice song and persons are very charged up when that song is playing (but) we are asking party goers to please be mindful and do not violate the rights of others.”

The track produced by another of the most prevalent producers on this mix, Stadic, borrows heavily from the Grenadian Soca style of Jab Jab and the main pioneer of that style Tallpree pops up on the same riddim (Planet Jab) with Fay-Ann Lyons, another force of nature on the scene who went from the family tradition of winning a Soca Monarch title (her dad is Super Blue who won the Power Monarch title 7 times), to this year running the competition herself. Her life partner in crime and fellow Soca Viking, Bunji Garlin (who incidentally has won the Power Monarch title 4 times) is also on the riddim.

There are a number of other fantastic tracks on here I haven’t covered but hopefully this has giving you a starting point to find out more if you’re in any way interested. Enjoy the mix, feel free to ask me any questions and don’t forget the Super Soca Show every Saturday on Ujima 98FM. I’ll be back to tell you all about my Carnival adventures when I get home.

As well as the YouTube link above, here’s the Mixcloud link. You can also message me on my Facebook page or Instagram for a download.

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Are You Ready For Bouyon?

With Trinidad & Tobago Carnival only a matter of weeks away, the amount of incredibly strong Soca tunes that are being unleashed currently would be exhausting if they weren’t all so damn exhilarating. The heavy influx of Afro Soca and RNB influenced Groovy Soca we had between summer and the end of last year has been trampled in the race for this year’s Road March (the most played song at Carnival), where undoubtedly the high-octane sound of Power Soca will be the ruling music of the celebrations. I look forwards to seeing which ones come out on top when I’m there this year.

Although things can always change last minute as Iwer George discovered last year (more about that in another post to come), most people’s smart money seems to be on a huge collaboration between the ruling giants of Trinidad Soca Machel Montano and Bunji Garlin, alongside Skinny Fabulous from St Vincent & the Grenadines (or Vincy as it’s often called) who has been relentlessly releasing some of the all time greatest Power tunes for the last few years. One stand out feature of the track that sets it apart from other Power tracks, most likely comes from the inclusion of top Dominican producer Krishna “DadaMuzic” Lawrence, who brings in elements from Dominica’s biggest musical export Bouyon (or perhaps Bouyon Soca is a more correct term to set it apart from the more traditional take on the term).

There have been increasing amounts of cross-pollination between the various Island styles and with Trinidad & Tobago being the main litmus test for global carnival hits it’s always taken note when artists there show any influences from outside the usual. Both Dennery Segment from St Lucia and Jab Jab from Grenada have been cropping up more and more and Machel has another tune out with Jacob of Guadeloupean band Kassav, those legendary pioneers of the ruling French Caribbean sound, Zouk. This season it seems Bouyon is the sound that is going to really start to break out of it’s home island. With Dominica’s carnival at the same time as T&T’s it makes total sense also.

We’ve been playing Bouyon artists on our weekly Super Soca Show radio slot since the very beginning and it’s worth listening back to show number 16 from back in October, where we go a little more in-depth into it’s artists and origins, but here’s a couple of the other crossover tunes out at the moment, both actually produced by St Lucian super producer, vocalist and all round entrepreneur Lashley ‘Motto’ Winter, who as well as being a pioneer of Dennery Segment, heads up one of the biggest Soca music labels, Team Foxx. He’s definitely been dabbling in a wide assortment of sounds this season and this particular one suits him very well indeed.

As well as having my current favourite for this year’s Soca Monarch title, Patrice Roberts on the riddim (I intend to do a round up of all her 2019 tunes soon, there’s plenty and they’re all great – I’ll include her version of this riddim then), Motto has jumped on the track himself alongside the ‘Bouyon Boss’ Asa Bantan, undoubtedly one of Dominica’s most popular artists. There’s also an appearance here from WCK playing the conch shell, an instrument consistent with both Bouyon and Jab Jab. WCK were one of the original pioneering Bouyon bands back in the 1980s, alongside Triple Kay so it’s a savvy nod of respect to include them here. You can download the whole ‘Simon Says’ riddim here.

Machel Montano is Soca’s biggest artist, so when he steps onto a Bouyon vibe twice in a season you know people are going to take notice of that. Motto gives a nod to WCK once again, this time using an accordion sample from one of their tracks. This is more of a traditional take, the accordion being an important component in it’s roots, drawn in from Dominica’s traditional Jing Ping folk music. Although it seems many newer artists have started to phase it out, or at least use it in a less obvious way, the accordion is still very much a part of Bouyon and it lends an authentic feel to this one.

I’m sure there will be more to come, but if you’re feeling the sound then Dominica has it’s own host of great acts such as P.G. Goons, Keks Mafia, Fetty Mark, DeLuxe and of course Asa Bantan and Triple Kay.

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On our weekly Super Soca Show (Ujima 98FM every Saturday 12-2pm in case you’d forgotten) we like to keep listeners up to date with the latest music and news from Carnivals across the Caribbean (though we have also covered Miami, Brooklyn, Notting Hill and of course St Pauls here in Bristol). With so many huge tunes coming out for Trinidad & Tobago carnival (and to some degree Dominica) we missed the first few of the year. So although we’ll do a little round up this week, I thought I’d give a little more information, and some of the relevant tunes, on here.

Montserrat Festival

Not to be confused with the St Patrick’s day week long festival that takes place on the ‘Emerald Isle of the Caribbean’, the island’s main Carnival celebrations happen at the end of December, though it culminates on January 1st’s ‘Jump Up Day’, which means it’s only fair to include it here. Here’s the winners from their main musical contests.

Calypso King Garnett “Sylk” Thompson
Queen of Queens Regional Female Calyspo Monarch Thalia King (Antigua)
Groovy Soca Monarch Trevon Pollard
Power Soca Monarch Woo and Nyne (Small Island)

Crucian Christmas

St Croix’s carnival climax is Three Kings Day, which took place on 5th January this year. Soca artists to play that day included Patrice Roberts, Ricardo Drue and King Bubba, as well as more local heroes such as Nikki Brooks and Spectrum Band, the 9 times Road March winners from St Thomas (the next island over). I’ve been trying hard to to find out the Soca Party Monarch winners, but can’t find the Groovy or the Jumpy artist who took the crown. If anyone can help me out please let me know and I’ll update the post. Previous Jumpy winner Adam O took the ‘People’s Choice’ award back to his current home of Atlanta, but the most impressive win comes from the Calypso Monarch – Caribbean Queen who took the title for the fourth time in a row.

Road March Blackest & The Fusion Band – Guh Head And Wuk Up
People’s Choice Award Adam O – Sexy Dance
Calypso Monarch Caribbean Queen
Groovy Monarch ?
Jumpy Monarch ?

Sugar Mas

The Calypso Monarch finals for the St Kitts & Nevis carnival were dominated by women, as for the first time ever ladies took all the top spots with Miss Independent taking the title for the second year in a row. Last year she was the first female to win the competition. Here’s the full run down of awards.

Calypso Monarch Winner Miss Independent
1st Runner Up Queen Diva
2nd Runner Up Charis D
3rd Runner Up Brown Sugar

Whilst the winning Soca representatives were…

Soca Monarch Rucas H.E
Road March The Small Axe Band – Get Jiggy Wid It

Which was the band’s sixth Road March in seven years!

I’ll try and keep on top of the other Carnivals as they come in but make sure you keep listening to the Super Soca Show where you’ll definite hear about them. If you’re not in Bristol (where Ujima can be found on 98FM) then you can listen online at plus we archive our shows on our Mixcloud.

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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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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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