Janelle De Souza
Out of the darkness of the pandemic, rapso group 3canal has emerged with a view to the future, not only that of the band, but of the artform, collaborating with a younger generation.
“There’s a fresh fire in the camp because of the number of people we’ve collaborated with. That’s a first for us, working with so many different artistes, producers and songwriters,” said band member Wendell Manwarren.
He said the collaborations were not at all planned as he and the other members, Roger Roberts and Stanton Kewley, had written many songs during “the lockdown.” But, he said, for some reason, this Carnival season, many people reached out to them.
The result was eight new songs recorded for the season with six of them being collaborations.
Manwarren said 3canal has always engaged in succession planning without being overly academic about it, making it part of the work and the process. This season, that planning came back to roost as most of the people they worked with had some kind of connection with the band.
He explained that the first track was Clear the Way by Carlysle “Juiceman” Roberts, musical director and leader of D’ All Stars Band. He said they were flattered that All Stars had a song ready-made for them and it “had vibes.”
When the band members went to the studio, the producer of the track thanked them for giving him his first opportunity on stage, way back when 3canal had a space in Longden Street, Arima.
“You just never know. We just made that little space, never thought about it, but that stuck with him and all these years later he was able to say, ‘I have a song for yuh.’”
One of the producers, Nicholai “Chaz” Chasseau, 22, was Manwarren’s nephew who started sending him beats during the pandemic. They decided to explore this new development, worked on the beats, and created Santimanitay.
3canal also collaborated with local dancehall artiste Rheon Elbourne, on the track Try Yuh Best. Elbourne used to be part of the band’s pre-show years ago.
“He has developed into an artiste on his own and he always had the intention of working with us. He said, ‘I have the song for you this year.’ He brought the song and played it, and everybody say, ‘That song bad!’ Of course we doing it.”
Songwriter and producer Jason “Shaft” Bishop, another friend from the Longden Street days, sent them a track, which they later named Kinds of the Jouvay. The song features Devon “Dev” Harris who, like 3canal, brings out a J’Ouvert band.
He said one of his favourite collaborations was Warzone with Joshua “De Pan Man” Regrello as he knew Regrello’s parents before he was born. His other favourite was Look We With The Band with The Brothers. The duo, Mogabi and Shermarke Thomas, were graduates of 3canal’s Backyard Jam series and were mentored by the band through The Tallman Foundation.
There was also a collaboration with Nickolai “Gyazette” Salcedo on Black Pierrot Grenade, which has an “old-school kaiso” flavour.
“For the sound to keep alive you have to move with the times, but you can’t lose yourself in the process. So there’s still plenty of we in it. None of it feels odd or forced.
“It’s good to step out of our comfort zone, enter into other zones, feel a different Carnival energy.”
Asked about the decision to do so many collaborations when, over the years, the band has done so few, he said, “It was two years of nothing, two years of inertia. You know what it is to come into an empty space like this (Big Black Box) when it’s supposed to be full of people and vibes? It was tough. So when the opportunities came, we decided from early to say yes.
“It had a very natural, organic feel to it. Nobody was plotting and scheming to hook up with anyone. None of it was premeditated. The time was right.”
3canal had always experimented with their sound and pushed boundaries, making music influenced by many different music genres, not just for J’Ouvert and Carnival but for an international audience. Yet, Manwarren described 3canal’s 2023 contributions as a new energy.
He admitted it was a challenge to find a balance with the different artistes while sticking to their rapso roots.
“What we always do is maintain our rapso parlance right through. We’re not going to switch our twang to fit a beat. You have to find where you sit down in the beat. The thing we will always hold firm to is, ‘Trini we speak.’”
That “new energy” will be presented at 3canal’s annual concert titled Outta The Darkness, which will be held at Soundforge, St James, on February 13 – one night only.
Soundforge was a panyard that was converted to a live performance space. It provides limited seating because the idea is for people to dance.
“You will get the vibes. You will get number of people that will bring the sense of spectacle. You getting some fashion and style, but right now the emphasis is more on human energy than the trappings.
“We are the ones that full it up. We are in focus, not competing with artwork and all that kinda thing. We wanted to bring it back to that human essence and energy.”
Spirit of innovation
3canal continues to encourage young people into their space, including the Backyard Jam series, which has been a way to showcase young artistes in the music industry.
Manwarren lamented that very few new artistes got opportunities to perform. He said they did not get hired to sing at fetes, and calypso tents were no longer spaces for young artistes to develop but were now full of stalwarts.
He recalled that 3canal was initially a J’Ouvert entity, and when its members first decided to create the J’Ouvert band in 1994, they learned a lot of Carnival history in order to “capture the soul” of the mas. And, since then, they informally taught the youths who entered their space.
“The transmission of our cultural legacy, that sense of valuing our traditions, cultural forms and expressions, looking at the Carnival in a deeper, wider, broader way, going past the more immediate aspects of it, touching on the history, is of paramount importance.”
He said the people of TT had “the Carnival imagination” which allowed them to innovate on tradition while maintaining certain basic elements. He believed the essence of mas must continue, to which 3canal was committed.
“One of my pet peeves is: Who is considering, not in an academic or financial way, how do we keep the soul of Trinidad Carnival alive? That spirit of innovation and imagination. That went out the door in many regards once we started ordering straight from China instead of making costumes here.”
He described 3canal’s space as a living laboratory, its shows as the part of the education process, and with the collaborations they are seeing the fruits of that labour.
He said the time, space and energy was right, so it was happening.
Manwarren believed the time was also right for 3canal to begin touring again so the band was making plans to do so. He said the members performed in New York in November with Gyazette and it was well-received.
And with 26 years as a musical entity, with a large body of work that could fit many different scenarios and occasions, they would love to get back on the European circuit.
“We are really grateful. For starting off with something without a plan or notion, to getting people to respond to the point where we’re still at it 26 years later, it’s a blessing. It’s a privilege.”
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