This month’s listening picks from the Caribbean — featuring new music by Dechode Mode; Bob Marley and The Wailers; Charlie Halloran; and Levi Silvanie
The Triquetra of Love
Dechode Mode (Mark Made Group)
The Trinidadian husband and wife duo of Dechode Mode — decoding the echo — have been making a kind of dreamy electronica music that explores emotions. Their metaphorical lyrics suggest that relationships are sometimes complex character studies in search of definition and explication. This short three-song EP, we are told, represents “a story of love in practice [exploring] a scenario in which love either thrives or dies.” Collectively, the impact is powerful if one is tuned into deciphering how songs, when well written, can expand our understanding of the human psyche, good, bad, or ugly. Individually, the song lyrics paint a storyline of how love works in a real world outside the fantasy of manufactured romance, and how one can read the truth of a relationship. The presence of this candid recording among the plethora of island options on the subject of love gives hope that new voices are coming to the fore to smash stereotypes.
The Capitol Session ’73
Bob Marley and The Wailers (Mercury Studios)
For the avid collector or “completist” in search of everything by the legend, this album chronicling a performance of early Island Records–era Wailers music is another gem in the crown that is reggae. (The band would not be credited as “Bob Marley and The Wailers” until 1974). Circumstance and serendipity together often play a part in how music is created, and how we as listeners are blessed to receive it. This is the soundtrack to a recently unearthed filmed in-studio concert by the band that had been “chucked off” the 1973 Sly and the Family Stone tour for either being too good or just misunderstood by the audiences. “Get Up, Stand Up”, “Duppy Conqueror”, “Stir It Up”, and other songs from the Catch a Fire and Burnin’ albums provide snapshots of a time before reggae’s eventual global spread. On the US West Coast, seeds were planted then that today reveal the template and legacy of great songcraft and eternal musical allure.
Charlie Halloran (ArtistShare)
Before quick airline travel to the sunny Caribbean was both utilitarian and a vital part of the tourism product, cruising from ports north to the islands was an adventure in itself that required patience and a tropical assimilation. Hailing from New Orleans, a kind of cultural Caribbean North Pole, Charlie Halloran has reimagined the zeitgeist of the era and recreated “the musical experience aboard cruises run by the Alcoa Steamship Co. out of New Orleans from 1949 to 1959.” A broad dance music repertoire from Trinidad, Guadeloupe, New Orleans, and Venezuela gives the listener an appreciation of what the Caribbean aesthetic sounded and looked like to foreign tourism execs. Calypso, beguine, and joropo are played energetically and well. The songs of Trinidadians Lionel Belasco and Pat Castagne are given new life as the idea of cruising “down to the Spanish main” becomes not so much a bygone dream, but a way of restoring majesty to local music.
Levi Silvanie (self-released)
The psychological impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, now at the two-year mark, and the effects of quarantine and isolation have brought on anxiety and fear among many people worldwide. Curaçaon singer-songwriter Levi Silvanie offers a song with a message of encouragement for uneasy souls and a remedy for the doldrums. His lyrics share uplifting support and altruistic action: “Paralysed by emotions / You barely feel a thing / Your fire’s burning out / And all hope is running out / I’m here with you / Making sure you see it through.” The melody moves from a wistful slow pulse towards a crescendo, from a minor key to major, all reflecting ascent towards hope and probable breakthrough. Silvanie has connected this song with an advocacy effort on his part to assuage mental health issues among his fans. The assertion that “you gotta keep on moving” is advice that should be heeded in this time, in any language.
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