Tuesday, May 3, 2011

'Sun Light': A Review of "Cité Soleil" by Tiwony

Damn I love surprises. Late last year I compiled a list by the name of "Most Wanted", which was a group of artists who I felt it would be really nice to hear from in the form of album releases in 2011, if it were all up to me. That list wasn’t merely a group of my favourite artists - It was a group of favourites of varying levels who I though that, through rumours in some cases or through a ‘sufficient’ passage of time in others ("sufficient" in my opinion, of course), were simply DUE to have albums this year - And I would’ve definitely appreciated it. Well, with the first third of the year now a thing of the past, my ‘wish list’ has been pretty well confirmed as one artist on the list, Ziggi Recado [#7], has delivered an album (the very impressive "Ziggi Recado") another name, Sara Lugo [#3] is set to release her debut set later this week, meanwhile, Saïk [#8], is apparently loaded and ready to go later this year with an album of his own in October. When you take all of that and combine it with the other nice things we’ve received this year, I can honestly say that, looking back and looking slightly ahead, 2011 has been an EXCELLENT year for Reggae album releases. As far as people who were fairly well known and didn’t make the list but have ‘chosen’ to make nice appearances this year, I’m definitely so pleased that we heard from someone like Danny I, whose "To His Majesty" set has still well carved out a place on my players. There was also the Uprising Roots band, with "Skyfiya", for which a mighty argument could be made as being THE best album of the year thus far and just yesterday Lion D brought forth his latest project as well. NOW, with all of that being said, I have to say that the single greatest bit of joy [mixed in with a tiny bit of shock] that I’ve received from noticing that a project was forthcoming was nearly two months ago when I saw that we were currently awaiting the third solo release from the DOMINANT Tiwony. Perhaps I shouldn’t have been as surprised as I was because, despite the fact that he didn’t have an official album release last year, 2010 was definitely a big one for the chanter from out of Guadeloupe. He released more than one big single (including one which I’m going to tell you about shortly) and just experienced a general rise in profile. This was all following his OUTSTANDING album from 2009, "Viv La Vi", after which, I didn’t think we’d be hearing from him, in that form for at least three more years - Sometimes I love being wrong.

Why, exactly, was it such a festive moment for me to see that Tiwony had new material coming? As I’ve (hopefully) said in the past, Tiwony is simply one of the most talented artists that we have in Reggae music today. While he was missing on my previously mentioned list, he definitely secured a spot on a list of My Favourites in 2009 and, nearly two years own, he may even rank higher on such a list these days. Tiwony’s music is just SERIOUS! He always seems to bring something heavy and very well planned and thought out, so with the mere experience of vibing his music - It is surely something which takes a bit of commitment on the part of the listener. Also, I should well mention that Tiwony always seems to rhyme with . . . The proverbial ‘chip on his shoulder’. It’s not that he’s frantic or really angry, but there seems to be this kind of outward reaching confidence which seems to say that, ‘I have a point to make and you’re going to listen to it’, but at the same time he manages to remain humble. All of that results in an artist who, at his best, can be absolutely devastating and had you told me, at the beginning of the year, that he was bring us an album this year, very rare in even rarer company is the name for whom I would have been MORE excited to hear that about than Tiwony.

"Fly" - 2007

Enter the Sun City. Said album has now arrived in the form of "Cité Soleil" and, given his raised stature in the music that I alluded to previously, I’m hoping that THIS is the album to take Tiwony to an even greater audience and introduce them to one of the most powerful voices that our music has ever had. If it does attract that ‘next level’ type of attention, when those new ears come, what they’ll hear is a version of the chanter who seems to be more at ease and at peace than on both previous releases, the aforementioned "Viv La Vi" as well his debut, "Fly". This album is more laid back and less ‘agitated’, ostensibly than the previous two and while I found that a little disappointing on my first listen through (I, of course, came looking for the FIRE from Tiwony, but the fire was there, it was just in a bit more subtle type of a blaze), after vibing this album maybe three or four times, it kind of begins unravel, in terms of the uniqueness of it, right in front of your ears. So, clearly this is one which is going to be more appreciated by the more conditioned and initiated listeners - Those coming for the musical marathon and not so much of the musical sprint. And actually, for those types (of whom I am) (at least in my mind), if you are someone coming back to Tiwony’s music, what you’ll find is that "Cité Soleil" is not an album which is that far of a musical leap from the previous two releases, and in several ways, it’s a step forward over them both, which is . . . Ridiculous when you consider not only how ruggedly proficient he’s been, but also the fact that it was only 2009 when we last heard from him. Could he possibly have improved noticeably, in any way, in less than twenty-four months? It’s unlikely. What is more probable, however, is that this album just places Tiwony in a situation to show things which he hasn’t to this extent previously. Such as??? Let’s take a look.

"Viv La Vi" - 2009

Before we even got into the music, something stood out about this album initially. If you recall, the "Viv La Vi" album was billed as being from “Tiwony & Bredrens” and, subsequently and unsurprisingly, it had NINE combinations amongst its twenty tracks. While a strictly “Tiwony” release, this album also has NINE combinations and with two less tracks, in full, exactly half of it is combination tunes and judging from an interview I recently read of the artist, it isn’t a practice which he seems prepared to drop any time soon. With results like the previous album and his BIG new album, "Cité Soleil" from Blackwarell, that shouldn’t be a problem with most listeners and here, Tiwony links with some BIG and VERY INTERESTING names. In terms of all things current, the likely biggest piece (on paper) here is 'Love Gives You Wings', which happens to feature both Reggae stars Gyptian and Anthony B on the same track (!). Despite the very typical title, the tune quickly ascends into an absolutely lovely vibes and while I haven’t been too much of a fan of his as of late, following the release of his recent album, ”Rasta Love” (speaking of very typical titles), I do have to give credit where it’s due because Anthony B steals the show on the track and all three do well. Making an even greater impact is the legendary Winston McAnuff who joins in on the sublimely hard-hitting 'Tout N’est Pas Rose'. McAnuff’s voice sounds PERFECT on this track which is, essentially, a social commentary, but one of a grand and somewhat complex order. This is definitely one of my favourite tunes on the album and I’d suspect that, given the opportunity, it’ll be a future hit as well. And speaking of potential future hits, the very last track on the album (which is apparently hidden after the last track and is, thus, untitled) features a BIG row of artists on the same track. The tune, which is untitled, is probably called 'Stronger' and it features Turbulence, Kananga and Straïka D! Apparently Tiwony has been doing quite a bit of touring with Turbulence and I knew that going in so this link wasn’t so much of a shock, but the quartet comes strike gold with this MIGHTY tune. It almost goes in the direction of Drum & Bass at times which seems to fit all four artists completely, as they all serve up impressive bits on the inspirational tune which is not to be missed (Kananga is fire!).

Hopefully you’ll remember the name Speedy who is a label mate of Tiwony’s and featured on a pair of tracks on the "Viv La Vi" album. Unsurprisingly the singer has returned for ”Cité Soleil” on a cool and ’moody’ tune, 'Pas Même Un Adieu'. This one took a minute to grow on me and you’ll hear why as soon as you hear it, so spend a bit more time on it before passing your final judgment. Popular Zouk singer Medhy Custos (who has simply one of the coolest names in the world) checks in on 'Street Life' and, again, we have a tune with a ‘standard’ title which turns out to be pretty damn strong (especially later as Tiwony gets LOOSE and Custos does the same with his voice). 'Just Wanna Fly' is another of my favourite tunes on the album and it just so happens to feature an artist in Shalli who I don’t want to talk much of, but if you come back tomorrow, I’ll introduce you to her properly. Still, the tune is just GORGEOUS and it’s not the first time the two have linked. Apparently they’ve created a very nice bit of chemistry which is crystal clear ALL OVER this almost Zouk-like effort.

'African Whine' w/Da Brains

Before "Cité Soleil" hit shelves, it had already produced two winners and both of them are also combination tunes (told you there were a lot of them). The first to appear on the album is chaotically infectious 'Africa Whine' which features Tiwony alongside Senegalese Hip-Hop group, Da Brains. MAD! The intensity on this tune is almost Soca-ish, as if they were distinctly trying to create some dance, but what they managed to do, instead was to produce this tune which definitely has a bit of veiled poignancy to it as we’re really supposed to be thinking of something to unify all of Afrika and all of Afrika with the rest of the world as well (more on that in later). The ever increasingly popular Konshens guests on the song, which was the first that I heard which ended up being present on this album, 'Neva Give Up'. This is another song which has grown considerably on my tastes (although over a longer period of time here) and it’s now to the point where I think that it may be one of the better tunes from the respective catalogs of BOTH artists. It’s just so well done and it proved to be a nice sized hit for both as it went through. Still, one can be well assured that the most meaningful of all the links on the album for Tiwony - the most ‘special’, if you will - is 'So Special' which features veteran musician Vicky Edimo. When I first actually sat down and read Tiwony’s bio, it made a mention that he was the son of a musician from out of Cameroun - Vicky Edimo. And to my knowledge, it’s the very first time the two have linked professionally like such. If you were waiting for it, it was worth the wait as Father & Son come together and, fittingly, make a mighty song aimed at uplifting the family unit.

'Neva Give Up' w/Konshens

Yes! Those are the combinations on "Cité Soleil" (I told you there were a lot of them) (I still hope someone can put together a Tiwony/Bunji Garlin tune, however). There’re some really big tunes in there (most of them are “big”, actually), but a great deal of the actual class of the album, including its TOP moment, comes with Tiwony going alone. That distinction, in my opinion, doesn’t go to the album’s opener, 'Mon Continent' but this sprawlingly beautiful offering certainly isn’t far from it. The tune is another which speaks on unity in the world, and specifically Afrikan unity and, as we’ll see in just a second, it is this type of ideology which gives this album its biggest star of a tune (oh and the riddim on ‘Mon Continent‘ is sparkling!). Certainly we should mention 'Africa Is Calling' here which is a tune which brings a bit more of the FORCE from the chanter on a much more uptempo type of vibes. This is kind of snarled-face rugged Dancehall and on that vibes, it’s the second best song of its kind after - 'Guerrier'. HEAVY! Although the tune falls kind of in the realm of Hip-Hop which isn’t my favourite thing, you cannot look over a truly DOMINANT lyrical and vocal display by Tiwony as the WARRIOR on the vibes (biggup Little Guerrier). Tiwony also turns the intensity up on 'Ils Veulent Faya' to, again, an almost Soca-like degree. This is just another very fun tune like 'Africa Whine' and you could very well make the argument that it is the stronger of the two even (I think I still may favour 'Africa Whine' by the slightest of margins) (and you listen to this song and tell me Bunji Garlin joining in wouldn’t be MADNESS!). It also stands as a very fun demonstration of Tiwony’s extraordinary skillset.

'L'Union Fait La Force'

As for the remaining six songs on the album - They’re all pretty SPECIAL songs. The best of them is also the album’s best, the MASSIVE 'L'Union Fait La Force'. TEARS! Another unity anthem, this one takes it to another division of quality as it goes about setting itself apart from the rest of the album in that respect. Unbeknownst to me the song is also (apparently) the latest single from "Cité Soleil" and it’s very easy to see why. Something else - With about a minute remaining in the tune it switches from the STERLING Roots Reggae gem that it is into a full on Nyahbinghi chant. This one is no average song, it is a musical experience and one of the greatest from an artist who has already supplied us with so many. MAMMOTH! Not far from that (although clearly) is 'Ca Court Après' which is a HUGE praising track for the album. This one catches a powerful meditation type of vibes and, as it you get near the middle of the track, already TRYING really hard to follow along, you literally get LOST in the lyrics as Tiwony kind of melds his voice into the riddim. And then there’s the piece of madness which is 'Y Cho'. When the song begins it almost sounds as if it’s going to hit some version of the [Throwback] Giggy Riddim, but it quickly stops and goes in a wide variety of directions. It’s Soca, it’s traditional Kreyol music, it’s Reggae, it’s Dancehall, it’s a musical kaleidoscope of a song which pinnacles when the drums REALLY kick in.

Vicky Edimo - Tiwony's Father

And finally, I mention three tunes which have a bit in common, 'Rayon De Soleil', the title track and 'Pitit Toussaint' Tiwony has reportedly spent a great deal of his time doing and attempting to do charitable work for Haiti, following the tragedy there last year. The Cité Soleil is actually a very poor city in Haiti and obviously the final song is a tribute to the hard lucked island and its great hero Toussaint L’Ouverture, while the first of these three is simply a GORGEOUS song and one of the album’s best on an album full of “bests”.

Overall, as does tend to happen when I write such expansive pieces on particular albums, I do enjoy this one just a bit more than I did when I began to write about it. It’s even more colourful and vibrant than I had eventually planned on saying. I still wouldn’t necessarily go as far as to say that it’s as BRIGHT as the previous two albums (and I mean that in terms of the sound being more energetic and electric), but as I said, this is a project whose power comes more in the lyrics and in the subtleties of it. The version of Tiwony heard on "Cité Soleil" seems to be a more focused version and while I previously referred to him as seeming to have a ’chip on his shoulder’, this is a focused man on a mission! He has a great deal to say and that comes through in droves on the album. Is it his best work to date??? I don’t know if I can go that far just yet, but as 2011 continues along, I’m just SO happy the man gave me the opportunity to even ponder the question. Very, very well done.

Rated: 4.50/5
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1 comment:

  1. Achis.. I love it when you educate me.. Thanks for this post. Bless