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The Essence of the West Indies Captured in 16 Songs

The Essence of the West Indies Captured in 16 Songs

It is nearly impossible to avoid looking back longingly at the 90s. It may have been the absence of advance technology – us and our inability to summon whatever music we wanted, whenever we felt like it – that may have made music such a sate pleasure as it was back then. Now however, the sounds of the 90s are likely at the center of many 90s, 80s and 70s babies’ nostalgia.

Although every Caribbean island had their share of local hits, there were definitely mainstream classics which together, serve almost as a West Indies, 90s soundtrack. Here are 16 songs(oldest to newest) which capture the essence of the West Indies in the 90s.

1) Black Stalin – Feeling to party (1991)

Granted this song was “birthed” in the same year as most 90s kids who are now old enough to recall it and it’s presence throughout the decade. However, If it was not part of your personal collection, you would likely remember it as a staple piece among your parents’ and/or elders’ music favs.

2) Terror Fabulous Feat. Nadine – Action (1994)

Action was released on Terror Fabulous’ second album Yaga Yaga. For 90s kids this one definitely falls into the “we were too young to actually know what we were singing and dancing to” category. Who wants to bet that the lyrics of Nadine’s classic chorus is known by all bonafide West Indians, or atleast all above the age of 23.

3) Mighty Shadow – Dingolay (1994)

This Trinidadian Calypsonian is known for his distinctive voice and his early Soul, Calypso hit, Dingolay. It was important to include this one in such a line up because then and even now, when we listen to it, we can feel the ingenuity in its lyrics and Mighty Shadow’s musical expression. It is a classic.

4) Chaka Demus and Pliers – Murder She Wrote (1994)

Is it even possible to talk about Dancehall without mentioning Chaka Demus and Pliers’ Murder She wrote? The fact that this song is still heard at Caribbean fetes and concerts currently is an indication of how big it was in the 90s.

Murder She Wrote was a huge international, commercial success upon its release in 1994 on the duo’s album“tease me.”

5) Bere Hammond – No Disturb Sign (1994)

Beres Hammond has been gifting the world with his musical talents since the 70s. The 90s however, saw a peak in his career and an era of classics. Many of his songs are treasured Jamaican, Caribbean masterpieces. No disturb Sign captures a West Indian essence, encompassing everything, including life’s mundanities, the possession of an insatiable love for another, and the desire for a good time – all back-dropped by one of the smoothest reggae melodies.

6) Dawn Penn – You Don’t Love Me (No No No) (1994)

Life is full of ups and downs. For women dealing with “love”, the ups feel like soaring way above the highest earthly elevations. The lows however, are like being shot down from the sky mid-flight. You don’t love me‘s” drawn out lyrics were relatable enough to be a hit in the 90s, and still are today.

7) Shaggy – Boombastic (1995)

Before his other mainstream hits like Angel and It Wasn’t Me came the hard-hitting commercial smasher Mr Boombastic aka ‘Mr. Lover Lover’. Mr. Boombastic came off of Shaggy’s third album and was featured in International ads and movies. Shaggy also won a Grammy for Best Reggae Album that same year.

8)Kassav’ – Dife Soupapé (1995)

A heralded band in the Caribbean, particularly in the French West Indies, Kassav is firmly established as regional/ international treasures. The group was formed in 1979 in Guadelopue and has been blessing the world with passionate, zouk music eversince. Released in 1995,  Dife Soupapé is one of their many hits.

 

9) Buju Banton – Murderer (1995)

“Murderer” is steeped in sociopolitics and was released on Banton’s Til Shiloh album, a deviation from his initial Dancehall sound.

Disclaimer, Buju Banton will show up a few more times on this list (merely because most persons still know all the words to so many of his songs). He is one of those musicians whose music you may seek out for a quick listen, only to end up devoting atleast an additional fifteen more minutes to the task.

10) Sanchez – Never Dis Di Man (1995)

Out of Jamaica once again, with roots in Reggae, Never Dis Di Man was set out to enlighten. It’s catchy cadence helped plant Sanches’s lyrics on everyone’s tongues in the 90s, including those of us who were too young to appreciate the message but were old enough to vibe to a good ol’ reggae tune.

11) Buju Banton – Untold Story (1995)

Untold Stories set Buju Banton up, for some, among the likes of Bob Marley, due to its conscious message and soulful delivery.

It is one of those songs where as young children, some of us sang along to its verses and chorus without knowing what we were truly singing till we grew older. Our understanding though, did not come with the usual shock at vulgar lyrics but rather, personal disappointment that things in Jamaica and the wider Caribbean were dire then and still are now.

12) Chris Garcia – Chutney Bacchanal (1996)

I do not mean to make this about me but, I did my first ever dance performance to this song (as far as I can remember). It was at my pre-school graduation and also marks the beginning of a life long love for performance art. This is the power of art.. the power of Chutney music.. the power of the 90s.

13) Lady Saw – Give me a Reason (1996)

A living legend she is. With a career spanning over two decades, Marion Hall, better known as Lady Saw, aka, the Queen of Dancehall has given us hit after hit and is known around the world for her gutsy style. Give me a Reason was released during the earlier stages of her career, but still stands as one of her greatest hits.

14) Buju Banton – Wanna be Loved (1996)

Not much else to say. He is a great artist and his 90’s success is undeniable. Wanna be Loved never gets old, really. Add his 1997 hits Destiny and Hills and Valleys to the list too.

15) Beenie Man – Sim Simma (Who am I?) (1997)

The king himself released Who Am I as the second track off his album Many Moods and Moses. The song was produced on the Playground Riddim and was written by Beenie himself. It’s basically a dancehall anthem at this point.

16) Mr. Vegas – Heads High (1998)

Last on our list and rounding things out, we have this piece of vintage, Caribbean gold. Mr. Vegas is another Jamaican artist with so many globally successful records it is hard to keep track of them all. Heads High is one of those songs you would hear belting through the neighbourhood on a Saturday morning back in the day. #ClassicCaribbean

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5 Caribbean Art Festivals To Look Out For

For years Caribbean Artists have ploughed the fields of creativity in order to bear works that adequately reflect the region’s unique stories and perspectives. Interestingly, with each passing year, the margins of artistic platforms widen (a feat perhaps of the rapid technological advancement characterizing this age), allowing for increased opportunity and audience interaction; more places and spaces where artists can share their work. Yet, many still express that there is a lack of respect shown towards their craft. Nonetheless, several Caribbean Artists refuse to be pushed beyond despair into a place where they are made to abandon their beliefs in their work and their purpose.

In the hopes of one day having a more than thriving Art culture here in the Caribbean, I went searching for consistently held regional Art Festivals, ones which serve as platforms for both new and seasoned, regional writing, filmmaking and performance talent. Below are five that everyone should look out for.

 

1) The Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival

In 2016, some 26 films were featured at the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival; an annual event held in Port of Spain to showcase the work of Trinidadian, Caribbean and international filmmakers, and to highlight projects that appeal to the Caribbean Diaspora. Among selected and screened projects are feature length films and documentaries, as well as short and experimental films.
Actual screenings are put on for about two weeks in September, however entries are accepted as early as February of the same year.
The committee behind the Trinidad & Tobago Film Festival encourages Caribbean Filmmakers to submit their work for free via their website http://ttfilmfestival.com/ where more information regarding the festivals history as well as submission regulations can also be found.

 

2) Calabash International Literary Festival

One of the longest running Art Festivals in the Caribbean, the Calabash International Literary Festival was founded in the year 2000. Held in Treasure Beach, Jamaica the event is hosted on a benial basis, on even years.
This event attracts book lovers, authors and anyone willing to bask in a downpour of reggae, relaxation and literary prowess, in a quaint South coastal Jamaican village. The Calabash International Literary Festival Trust which operates the event also provides publishing seminars and writing workshops throughout the duration of the festival.

For more information visit: http://www.calabashfestival.org/.

 

3) Carifesta – The Caribbean Festival of the Arts

‘Carifesta xiii’ is slated to be held in Barbados with the theme “Asserting Our Culture, Celebrating Ourselves” from August 17th to August 27th of this year.
With a name most Caribbean nationals are already familiar with, this event stages a number of creative Caribbean “music, dance, drama, painting, sculpture, folk art, photography and literature” talents.
The festival which comes around every few years, aims to highlight the kaleidoscopic vibrancy and diversity of Caribbean and South American cultures and artistry.

For more information visit www.carifesta.net.

 

4) GIMISTORY; The Cayman Islands International Storytelling Festival

Storytelling is rooted in tradition and is one of the world’s oldest art-forms.
From November 25th to December 3rd story tellers from all over the world travel to each district of the Cayman Islands as well Cayman Brac and Little Cayman, to perform stories some of which meant to reveal details of ancient “myths and legends”, as well as to evoke “laughter, drama and wonderment”.

The event, which began in 1997 and is held annually, serves as a canvas for the imaginations of audience dwellers. With its storytellers as the brushes, each word strokes the assorted colours and layers of the world’s heritages.
Through an application process the festival’s founders and operators welcome anyone to its stages.

For more information visit http://www.artscayman.org/gimistory.

5) Caribbean Youth Film Festival

A fairly new festival aimed at creating opportunity and a platform for precisely younger filmmakers, The Caribbean Youth Film Festival is a four day event held in Saint Lucia. This year the festival, which is held annually, will run from August 7th to August 17th making it five years now since its inception.

The Caribbean Youth Film Festival committee invites anyone ’35 and under’ to submit his/ her work (short films only) which will be screened to local and international audience members.
In the spirit of cultivating the Caribbean’s film landscape, the committee adds to its roster workshops and seminars held around the time of the festival as well as throughout the year, for persons of all ages and backgrounds, whether new to the art of filmmaking or seasoned.

For more information visit facebook.com/CYFFestival.

Some say, ultimately, it really depends on a person’s will and dedication to his/her craft to determine whether they can build themselves up and together as an Artist. Knowing that there is an audience ready and willing to bare witness to ones work however, can serve as motivation, especially in a culture where emerging Artists may feel invisible.