Friday, January 15, 2010

"The Uprising": A Review of Nhakente by Buggy

For most people around the world, certainly Barbados’ current greatest musical offering comes in the form of international Pop superstar, Rihanna and given all she's achieved, rightly so. Rihanna has definitely put the island on the global map in terms of being a location capable of producing talents immediately strong enough for successes on any musical level, but for those of us fortunate enough to have been paying attention for awhile (including, I’m sure, Rihanna herself) her successes have done little more than to reiterate a point that, despite that they can’t play football worth a damn, Bajans are as musically potent as virtually anyone in the entire world. Personally, the first thing to come to my mind in terms of Bajan music is probably the fact that CLEARLY the nation is the ‘home away from home’ when it comes to consistently OUTSTANDING Soca. With bonafide and undeniable superstars in the genre such as Edwin Yearwood & Krosfyah, as well as Alison Hinds & Square One and Rupee (and tons of others also), when it comes to big names in the still fairly young art form, if you’re looking for any outside of Soca’s ‘holy ground’, Trinidad, you’ll be looking a mighty long ass time if you skip over Barbados. Even more than that, if you look at that next level of big names and potential stars, in terms of name value and popularity (as well as actual talent and skill, in most cases), I’d put the likes of Biggie Irie, Peter Ram and Lil’ Rick up against most the most well known names from places like St. Vincy, Grenada and St. Lucia, the other heavily populated Soca (and GREAT) Soca locales. Still, like those islands and unlike Trinidad, Barbados has yet to make any significant progress on the Reggae front which would seem like the next logical step after having ‘conquered’ Soca and Pop (biggup Shontelle also). Off the top of my head, I would probably say (unless I’m missing someone obvious) (and I may be) that Barbados’ most well known Reggae artist would be the somewhat ‘mysterious’, but very popular (if a person can be both) (biggup Bjork) (and Prince) David Kirton who tends to make a brand of music which is extremely VARIED and Reggae (sometimes) is the foundation of it. There’re also young veteran Hotta Flames (who apparently has a very nice album out) as well a potentially wonderful artist I began listening to from awhile back, by the name of Ras Ali (who is already WICKED). Still, the one which, at least for now, has grown on me most is definitely the nearly sensational and wonderfully visible Mr. Buggy.

Besides having a name which is so familiar that you feel like you know him already, Buggy has ‘traveled’ in circles which I know quite well. I first ‘bumped’ into his music, SHOCKINGLY, on a couple of Soca compilations from probably the finest Soca producers in Barbados and some of the finest in the world, De Red Boyz. He had two songs (if I recall correctly) (I’m entirely too lazy to look that up at this time of night) on two of the Boyz’ releases, but DEFINITELY the one which caught my attentions and I still listen to now was the hyper-addictive ‘Hypocrites’. If you listen to enough Soca and even of the groovy variety (which is what DRB specialize in generally), you notice that actually making some big point isn’t always the case, but ‘Hypocrites’ was definitely one of the few on that release which had a point to make and Buggy definitely had a very ear-catching style to him also (more on that in a minute). Well, fast forward a couple of years or so and we’re dealing with what is to my knowledge Buggy’s debut solo album, the very colourful Nhakente. The album comes via Hot Island which is ran by a gentleman by the name of KB Sharp, which Buggy helped start (and it was also, apparently, released at virtually the same time as label mate (and CUTIE) Ayana John’s self-titled debut LP as well) who apparently handles the majority of the production as well. Now, when before you actually get into the album, there’re a few things very ‘different’ about Buggy that you probably may want to deal with beforehand. The first is that he apparently has too many names. Nhakente is not only the name of his album, but as you might be able to deduce from looking at the cover, it’s also part of his name (and it’s beautiful). And he’s also called ‘Fully Loaded’ which is also the name of his band, billed as one of the finest in all of Barbados (which may or may not contain the one name Garsha Blacks who apparently plays on the album). Secondly, and far more importantly, there’s the case of Buggy’s style. He seems to actually be ‘stuck’ (in the best possible sense of the word) between styles. When I listened to him on ‘Hypocrites’, again, he definitely had a very prominent Reggae edge to his style and yet while listening through Nhakente, I couldn’t help but find myself thinking that his actual style of delivery (which is very strange) was something birthed in Soca. Buggy doesn’t really SOUND like anyone that I can think of offhand (or even sitting down and trying to think about it like I am now). Normally I can take a very unusual sounding artist and put them in context on one scale or another, be it pacing, if not voice or voice, if not pacing (I.e. - Jah Cure sounds absolutely NOTHING like Luciano, but he sings on a similar pace), but I am at a complete loss of where to put Buggy in, in that scenario. He kind of sounds like he’s chanting (and at times singing, which he does quite well and should probably do more of) through a megaphone! He has a very LOUD effect to his voice, even when he isn’t trying to be loud. And on top of that, Buggy has been garnering quite a bit of attention definitely in and even outside of Barbados and it’s definitely just by my opinion. The man is WICKED! He writes very vast and ‘healthy’ songs. So when you take into account all of that very interesting material, just going in . . . and never mind the fact that he taps the greatest artist of all time on a quarter of his twelve track release and in the criteria of attracting my eye - He’s met that and then some. Let’s examine!

Buggy’s style of writing is also very nice, as I alluded to. I am very curious why, despite the fact that he writes in such a deep way, they (whoever “they” are, presumably Buggy & Sharp) decided to max the album out at just twelve tunes (including an intro) because I’m sure he could rather easily fill up one of the twenty track releases that I find myself listening to constantly these days. I could’ve rather happily dealt with that type of substance here, but as for what is here: Getting things started on Buggy’s SPARKLING solo release Nhakente is the aforementioned Intro. It’s pretty much a ‘mission statement’ of sorts. Despite its brevity and it’s kind of matter-of-fact kind of way, it’s very good and it definitely serves its purpose and makes you want to hear more. “More”, in the immediate sense, just so happens to be what is my choice as the album’s greatest creation, ‘Peace Pipe’. Despite obvious reasons to be attracted to other tunes, it’s DEFINITELY the beautiful simplicity of ‘Peace Pipe’ which reigns supreme on Nhakente. The tune is essentially an anti-violence one which offers a very unique, but very simple alternative to picking up the gun - the peace pipe! The tune, at times, borders on lyrical perfection to my ears, (“Mi know how it feels to hold a gun, but Jah Jah gimme the solution. HIM tell mi just, draw fi yuh peace pipe”) (“Some man a warring to get di biggest title. Di biggest title Jah claim already”) and is just a powerful statement by Buggy. HUGE tune. I’ll skip the next tune and head directly into the very nice ‘The Way It Is’. This tune is the obligatory acoustic track (apparently Buggy and Co. didn’t get the message that you’re supposed to END the album with such a tune in Reggae) and it is WONDERFUL. The tune has a kind of a ‘comfort’ to it, despite offering somewhat vivid and colourful images of despair at times, as Buggy tries his best to offer some type of ‘light at the end of the tunnel’, proverbially, by telling the masses to keep our heads up and to take the next step and try to make the BEST of whatever situation you may find yourself in, because that’s just the way it is (“somebody’s going to cry tonight, somebody’s going to make love”). I’ll skip that next tune, again, and stop at another winner on the album, the obligatory Mama tune, ‘Footsteps’. This one is very well written and it’s yet another example of how Buggy takes the most unconventional of routes, at least in my opinion. I’ve heard probably thousands of ‘mama songs’ in my days and I don’t know one of them which takes this direction in giving thanks to Mama for her resourcefulness and, by extension, her decision making in guiding the ‘footsteps’. Very well done.

Buggy takes that ‘love’ for Mama on ‘Footsteps’ and pushes it in a different direction - to the special lady in his life on ‘Love Of My Heart’. Yes. The title is very sappy and it the tune does have those types of elements at times, but ultimately it’s pretty good (and it progressing gets stronger as it goes along). The tune ‘High’ is the only tune on Nhakente which I just don’t enjoy. It’s another lover’s type of a song (although very strangely done), but I will say that I have now more appreciation of it than I did after the first few times I listened through it (its power, however much it has, is DEFINITELY in its lyrics, because the tune itself is very strange sounding). Buggy certainly takes the necessary steps and ‘rights the ship’ as the album winds down. Check ‘I See Dem’, which was apparently quite a big hit for the artist in Barbados and you can easily see why. On the tune he essentially warns all to be wary of all who we deal with and again, he borders on absolute perfection lyrically at times, particularly in the early stages of the tune when he says, “It’s like I have the eyesight of an eagle, the heart of a lion, the spirit of a quarter-million people. The blood of my King runs into my veins. That cures my pain!” BEAUTIFUL! The downright destructive ‘Taking Advantage’ reaches to the heights of Nhakente and is a HUGE tune. It also keeps the vibes of ‘I See Dem’ going in terms of the message of seeing a person’s true intent despite the image they present of themselves. It also builds on that in speaking of GREEDY ass people and people who can never take no (or HELL NO) for an answer. And the album comes to its conclusion with another stellar effort, ‘We Nuh Need Dat’. As if directly paying close attention to the two previous tunes, as well as a few earlier on, Buggy neatly and nearly PERFECTLY ties things together by casting away all negativity by saying “we nah need dat”, and truly we don’t. “Put down the war ting cause we nah need dat. Looks like we have a hunger for blood and waan feed dat. Just open up your heart to Rasta love, receive dat. Showers of blessings, can’t you see that?” In the latter stages of the album Buggy REALLY turns up the lyrical levels on the album and from the way it comes across, I’d argue that he can still do even better!

OH! Okay, there is an issue of the other three tunes on Nhakente, ‘The Family’, ‘The Children’ and ‘So In Love’, which ridiculously happen to feature my most favouritest artist of all time, Sizzla Kalonji. Apparently the two became quite good friends and vibed very nicely and it’s to that end we have three HAILE unexpected combinations. The absolutely MOVING ‘The Children’ is the best of the bunch to my ears and one of the best on the album full on. I also really like ‘The Family’, which has this SENSATIONAL and EPIC opening and ultimately descends into this ‘cool’ sound which my wife pointed out as a tone from an old Dr. Dre tune (’Footsteps’ also seems to use a version of that riddim as well)! And lastly is, ’So In Love’, which took a moment to grow on me (and it comes immediately after ‘High’, which didn’t help), but it’s an effective kind of lover’s/dance tune and there’s always room for something like that. Adding Sizzla on so many tracks of course in my eyes is a wonderful thing and furthermore it clearly lends some star power and credence to the album and Buggy himself as - If Kalonji approves, who the hell am I to say No!

Overall, I’m absolutely recommending you pick up Buggy’s Nhakente. The only prevailing critique I have (besides ‘High’ and I may grow to like that song someday) is that Buggy is potentially SO interesting that limiting him to ultimately eleven vocal tracks just doesn’t seem very fair! I could think of a few different types of songs I’d like to hear him do, not the least of which is a Soca tune and there isn’t one on the album. So, to that end I’m already looking forward to the next release. Whenever or even if ever we get it (and I’m sure we will), Reggae fans worldwide will be wise to take a look into the vibes of a Mr. Buggy Nhakente: Fully Loaded Ryan Chase. As, if Nhakente is any indication, and it most certainly is, Bajan Reggae is truly something to keep an eye on and in Buggy, they may just have a potential superstar.

Rated 4.25/5
Hot Island/CRS Music

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