Balance of musical trade - Ja, T&T exchange music
A walk down Charlotte Street, Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, in June 2017 was an aural trek through Jamaican popular music. From Tony Gregory's Gypsy to Gyptian's Hold You, songs by Tarrus Riley, Vybz Kartel, and Konshens, among others, Jamaican music blared from speakers outside shops and the stalls of vendors along the busy commercial strip.
It could have been Princess Street in Kingston, complete with billboards advertising events - including one near the general hospital with Alkaline's name.
In 2016, after yet another spat between the two most populous English-speaking countries in the Caribbean, though at different ends of the archipelago between North and South America, the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica (PSOJ) chairman said in a Gleaner article of June 29:
"Jamaica, without us even realising it, for many, many years has been the ATM for Trinidad. What exists now in CARICOM is a one-way street. We have an influx of goods coming from Trinidad. Trinidad, at this point in time, is the only beneficiary of CARICOM,"
The business of music seems uninterrupted by the occasional flare-ups among the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) members, what with carnival being established on a large scale by the late Byron Lee in the early 1990s and Jamaican performers heading to Trinidad on a regular basis.
Consistent concert organiser Horseman, who has done the Stars R Us vintage series and annual Mother's Day concert, among others, has gone into soca as well, bringing in Trinidadian performers. "The first soca event I did was in 2008," he said, that concert being Carnival Time. It established a format of using overseas and local acts, Beenie Man being the latter and Alison Hinds and Oscar B among the overseas performers.
Soca on the Beach, staged for the second consecutive year at Little Ochie, St Elizabeth, in April 2017, featured Patrice Roberts, Beenie Man, and Yellowman, among others. Horseman has also staged the Mighty Sparrow's 50th anniversary of music celebration, which also featured Singing Sandra and Calypso Rose, in Kingston (Mas Camp), Mandeville (Fayor's Entertainment Centre), and Montego Bay (Club Inferno).
Sending performers in the other direction, Horseman counts Josey Wales, Admiral Bailey, Flourgon, and Little John among the Jamaican artistes he has organised concerts with in Trinidad.
However, he points out that while there is an influx of soca performers, notably from Trinidad, during Jamaica's carnival period, there is no calendar of large events in Trinidad, utilising Jamaican performers. "When it is carnival time here, you have a main act every week," he said. "Carnival is sure. it is a calendar thing. With reggae (in Trinidad), it happens when someone is putting on a show. It is not like it is an annual thing. It is not like reggae shows every year in the United Kingdom and the United States."
Kes the Band and Destra are among the popular performers at the soca events held at Mas Camp during the soca season, which peaks with road marches in late April.
The website suntixx.com lists Redemption IV, slated for May 28, 2016, at the Hasley Crawford Training Ground. It featured Sizzla, Cocoa Tea, Sanchez, and Morgan Heritage, along with "local act" Ziggy Rankin. This year's staging on June 17 at the same venue featured Beres Hammond, Bushman, Junior Kelly, and Glen Washington, according to ticketgateway.com.
On Horseman's list of preferred Trinidadian performers he would put on a Jamaican stage are Bunji Garlin, Destra, and Machel Mantano. He bases their ability and pulling power not only on what he sees in traditional and social media, but also personal contacts in Trinidad who make recommendations.