From building his name at the turntables, while still a student at St Mary’s College in the 90s to still being in demand at fetes today, Private Ryan has not just maintained relevance as a DJ but established a reputation as a game changer.
Long before podcasts became trendy, the popular DJ was blazing a trail with his Soca Brainwash Podcasts and Soca Starter Mixtapes, initiatives he started to show off his skills and connect the diaspora to new music while doing his marketing degree at Florida International University.
In 2014, he extended his brand with his own festival called Soca Brainwash. The Carnival Saturday fete has become a must-attend, particularly for the foreigners touching down in Trinidad and Tobago for Carnival. Within minutes of tickets going on sale, they are usually sold out.
Ryan (Alexander) has since exported the brand, staging Soca Brainwash events during Miami Carnival, New York, Jamaica, Canada and London.
His longevity in the music landscape boils down to his business acumen and his ability to evolve his brand.
Just before the pandemic, in 2019, Ryan started making forays as a producer, working with a number of artistes among them Freetown Collective. His most famous track to date is the group’s “Feel the Love”, the video for which became a marketing tool for Tourism Trinidad.
For Carnival 2023, the 39-year-old is spreading his wings even further.
Under the Battalion umbrella, he has expanded from music into more events and even mas.
Battalion is the umbrella company under which DJ Private Ryan is producing music, mas and events
With Battalion Events, he is staging a number of parties including a pre-J’ouvert Party called Imagine, and a Soca Baby boat ride alongside his staple, Soca Brainwash which celebrates its 10th birthday.
Imagine brings all the elements of J’ouvert and culture together in a party that will run from night into morning, while Soca Baby will revive soca hits of the past for a trip down nostalgia lane.
With Battalion Mas, Private Ryan is also making his debut on the road with his own section in Tribe called Aurum.
Battalion Music is where all his musical productions lie.
Mela Caribe is a new artiste that DJ Private Ryan has worked with this year
“This is the return of carnival and so the idea was to present everything together in an evolved way,” he said while sitting down with Loop News.
“Battalion by itself does represent a very diverse, very inclusive global kind of mindset where we can fuse things together where like-minded people could feel included in the events, in the diversity of the music that I produce diversity in the merchandise, diversity in just being part of it. That is where the versatility of the music comes in too because I can feed different pockets. I can make a “Feel the Love” and make a Jammette song at the same time,” he said.
With his ear keenly perked for the movements Soca seems to be finally making worldwide, Ryan has been producing songs that he said are ready for the global market.
His strategy is to put out a body of work that can satisfy the varied demands of the consumer all year long and he is getting ready to release his first album with tracks from Preedy, Patrice Roberts, Freetown Collective, Nessa Preppy, Kris Kennedy, Tameka Marshall and others.
“One of the things lacking in soca is people putting out a body of work. One of the things people could have learned from Machel, he puts his stuff into a body of work every year. Every year I will put out a body of work, it helps the industry, it helps us to get Grammy consideration,” he said.
Speaking about the increased focus the industry is placing on streaming; Ryan said there also needs to be a variety of music that would keep consumers engaged year-round.
“You could release a body of work and on that body of work are unreleased tracks that people could then go to the album to stream so you make sure you still keep people engaged with the music because the tracks should have a life post-Carnival,” he said.
Aurum, DJ Private Ryan’s section in Tribe
“Carnival is a way to amplify its presence because you can hear it loud on a truck and see the artiste perform but after that, you still have to market it,” he said, revealing that he has been working behind the scenes on licensing deals and collaborations with corporate entities for his music.
Asked what brings him the most joy between making music and playing it, Ryan said he would give the edge to DJing.
“But I would say that I love now being on both ends where you play music but I love creating music, It is exciting when you start piecing together a song and it is something different, I like to work on different types of projects,’ explained.
He said being a DJ has definitely influenced him as a producer since being able to read the room and feel moods informs how he makes music.
“Being a DJ informs my decisions on what I make and what type of songs I want to put on it,” he said, noting that once he has a beat he decides which artiste would be best to voice it.
In addition to producing, Ryan has also added songwriter to his growing list of accomplishments. He co-wrote “Sugar” with Mela Caribe, “Soucouyant” with GBM Nutron and David Rudder and “World of Fire”.
His plan is to one day establish the Battalion label through which he could sign artistes and manage their careers.
Imagine is a pre-J’ouvert party
Looking toward the future, Ryan said his vision is to provide a working template for those that come after could follow.
Though he still takes gigs as a DJ, he said the time might come when he would have to pull back in order to focus on his other commitments.
He said one consideration is to recruit DJs under the Battalion brand who can then go out and do gigs while he focuses on select events.
“I think I have had the longest run as a headline DJ in Trinidad and Tobago. If you think about my journey from Detrimental days playing in Base and Nuts as a young boy, going to college and then headlining in college, working on Red and doing all the Summer parties. Then creating Brainwash, still touring, still in all the major events. A lot of DJs in the spotlight eventually fall off and I am still going and still relevant. That comes with great responsibility but it makes you question what’s next,” he said.
He said elevation and balance are his focus for the next decade while aspiring to develop a reputation like DJ Khalid.
“My legacy or my journey may not necessarily be Khalid but it is Khalid-inspired because he also puts together bodies of work, he has all these collabs and the power to do that and I think I will have the power to pull together the Caribbean musically in a way that has not been done before.”
Keep up with DJ Private Ryan via his website or social media @djprivateryan
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