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Working, waiting and winning

Saturday, February 27 2016

THE Badjohn Republic’s first foray into soca has earned them their first Road March title and Monk Monte his eighth.

The artiste also known as Machel Montano, tapped the DJ/ Production team to produce a song that invokes a wave of emotions, from nostalgia to frenzy, hyping masqueraders for the stage long before Carnival Monday and Tuesday.

“Waiting on The Stage” became the pulse of Carnival Monday and Tuesday, and MM now sits among a pantheon of greats, a select few with five or more Road March titles to their names, among them King Radio, Roaring Lion, The Mighty Sparrow, Superblue and the all-time ruler of the road, Lord Kitchener.

Badjohn Republic is Keegan Taylor, the first ever Junior Soca Monarch and a former Synergy Soca Star, producer Kyle Phillips and Khion De Las – a musician, music teacher and performer.

Their diverse backgrounds promise a lot from their future as members of the Precision Global music label. But just how did a group of young men emerge from relative obscurity to become the breakthrough story of an already burgeoning pool of young talented music producers.

First things first, let’s clear one thing up, the song that played 300 times more than its closest contender isn’t really Electronic Dance Music (EDM).

“Truth is we have not gone full EDM, we still have stayed true to our traditions in calypso and soca and even to the very core if it, the lavway,” says one third of the Republic.

He, however, does concede that some elements did find their way on to the track and the streets of Trinidad and Tobago, he believes, picked the perfect moment.

“There is no time like the present as this genre of music has grown in popularity, to the extent where even in a Caribbean context even various levels of the market from grassroot to uptown have shown appreciation for the music especially when the mood is set and constructed for it. (The success of) shows like Life In Colour and Major Lazer in Trinidad are a testament to that.” He points to the examples of soca standard bearers Bunji Garlin and Montano and their work with EDM standouts Skrillex, Afrojack and Major Lazer –which is equal parts Trini, Jamaican and American– asking, “If not now then when.” The DJ/production and entertainment entity seeks to apply its Caribbean, urban edgy and modern sound to various musical genres and not just soca.

“Our sound essentially begins sounding like something that you might be familiar with,” they explain, “but don’t be surprised if our creative input leads us to disturb your norms by a strange element from another genre to the one we would be creating at the moment.

We are not limited to one genre and are open to exploration of various types of sound.” As part of another collective, Taylor and his co-conspirator re-imagined stickfighting lavways to add a modern edge to the ancient martial art of kalinda, he can still be found on the fringes of the ring. And that’s how the Badjohn Republic behaved, fists clenched, waiting among the gayelle’s spectators for more than five years.

In April 2014, they began their dance.“We wanted to capture the emotions and energy of the masquerader in it rawest form and one of the strongest emotions is the anticipation of crossing the stage.

In 2014 when we conceived the words of the song, we were also experimenting with the EDM as it was just starting to penetrate even Trinidad and Tobago’s pop culture.” Then the first swing; “Machel came into the studio and heard the song and saw the potential immediately.

The song was supposed to be released in 2015 but the team decided to hold it back for 2016.

We kept adding to it and working on it keeping it current. And in 2016, after much waiting and anticipation, it is now a reality.” The song was written in Montano’s voice, inspired by years of observing masqueraders’ obsession with the ply and metal structure that’s erected every year in reverence to one of this country’s oldest and most treasured rites.

Belasco “Fisheye” John, found within the pages of Derek Walcott’s The Dragon Can’t Dance, is both badjohn and stickfighter, who can’t reconcile himself to participate in modernity.

en’t that, The republic is but one prong of their trident, Badjohn Creative and Badjohn Collective, explore design and marketing as well as bring fellow creatives together to further hone their talents These badjohns ar In a space that often forgets to look behind and pull others up the ladder, their resolve to include these aspects in their growing brand is admirable and worthy of emulation.

“As a brand we also aspire to provide training and education for youth and to have our own events while constantly building our brand,” they say, while slipping in a plug for “badjohn TV.” On Ash Wednesday, even as bleary-eyed Trinbagonians returned to life without music trucks leading processions through the country’s streets, the announcement of another overwhelming MM victory in the Road March came, bringing with it, relief and gratitude in the Republic.

“We are very grateful to all our supporters for their undying support to Precision Global Music Ltd for their faith in us as a new entity, and to Machel Montano for sharing in our vision to take the music to higher heights, we are proud to stand with him during this season as champions of the road.”

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