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So let’s address the pandemic in the room.

Last year was a rough one for many for obvious, COVID-19 related reasons, and it continues to be a challenging time for countries around the globe. For those of us in the Caribbean diaspora, however, we were dealt a further crushing blow when it was announced that there would be absolutely no Carnival celebrations for 2021. At all. Whatsoever.

Barring all of the cultural and financial reasons why Carnival is such an important event for us Trinbagonians in particular, we also lost the opportunity to simply enjoy each other’s company as we lose ourselves in festivity. However, this hasn’t stopped popular soca artistes from trying to maintain a sense of normalcy, still putting out music despite the state of the world at large being against them. So to commemorate this Covid Carnival season, we at Agendr Audio have come up with our top 5 picks of the season!

Backyard Jam

Farmer Nappy

Starting the list off strong, Nappy’s submission for the season manages to capture both the homely vibe of house limes and small parties. What makes this song so good is that there is nothing but appreciation and uplifting of the smaller aspects of our culture that have become so important to us. Many other artists have come at the pandemic from the angle of loss - they miss going to fetes, miss performing, miss everything to do with the season. While that is a valid and interesting approach in itself, Nappy’s song stands out among the others because he writes from an entirely different place, both emotionally and physically - the BACKYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHD!!

Before the Covidpocalypse, it was so easy to get caught up in spending thousands on huge parties, VIP tickets and elaborate costumes. But with this piece, saturated with a lively rhythm section and punchy brass lines that give the songs its old school vibe, Farmer Nappy brings the concept of a lime down to its bare bones - people coming together. He reminds us here that we don’t need the large scale parties to enjoy ourselves in such trying times.


Patrice Roberts

Patrice’s Tender follows up on the promises of its title - a slow, soothing piece with a visually stunning music video. There are so many elements of this riddim in particular that work very well together. Produced by ADVOKIT Productions, Tender seems to be a Southern Caribbean take on the recent Afrobeat trend. Patrice’s cadence matches well with the clave-esque percussion patterns, smooth, soca-influenced guitars and offbeat piano chords that are reminiscent of the most sugary Lover’s Rock you can think of.

The Tender Touch Riddim wears its influence on its sleeve, and somehow that makes it all glue together even better. Tender gets a special shoutout from us, however, because of its cohesion and ability to see a theme through to its end, as the Afrobeat influences can be seen even in the music video. Patrice herself is decked out in her full African queen garb, a look that suits her incredibly well as she leans back on her throne.

All House Is Road

Bunji Garlin

It warms the cockles of my cold dead heart to see that the pandemic hasn’t stopped experimentation in soca music. I, personally, am extremely biased towards JabJab type riddims as they tend to be my favourite each year but I’m doubly biased towards this song because it incorporates another lesser-known love of mine - 8 bit tunes!

Bunji and his producers, XplicitMevon & NMG Music, give us their version of a COVID-inspired road march. Lyrically, Bunji seeks to uplift the listener by celebrating in the comfort of their own homes. This song also serves to correct an issue with 8 bit music that I personally have, which is the monotony of it. Because 8 bit music and remixes are so minimalistic by nature, they can get slightly irritating to listen to over a period of time because all you’re hearing are squeaky, high pitched synths over and over again. However, the synth used in this song to mimic 8 bit music is layered in perfectly with the elements of Jab Jab rhythms that we know and love, like the syncopated iron and even some heavier lead synths.

This tune also makes me excited to see the end of the pandemic. I can easily imagine how good this would sound coming from big trucks on J’ouvert morning, where we can hear All House Is Road in all its JabJab-meets-SuperMario madness.

Hornin’ First

Viking Ding Dong

The last few years have been sorely lacking in things to make you laugh and bring some joy back into your life. However, With Viking Ding Dong’s 2021 release, he seeks to bring a sense of humor back into a society that has become more somber with each passing day.

Viking Ding Dong’s Hornin’ First benefits from the fact that there is no mention of COVID or a pandemic even once. Instead, Ding Dong takes the chance to write this year’s obligatory horning song, packed with funny one-liners that you could just picture yourself screaming at the top of your lungs once fetes become a thing again. In terms of production, though, Hornin’ First is extremely minimal, repetitive without being monotonous and far too catchy for its own good.

While my inner (and outer) feminist is screaming at me that I should not be yelling along to lyrics like “I HORNIN FIRST, AAAALLL DEM GYAL IS THE WORST” I can put that aside for a moment and appreciate the song what it is and what it tries to accomplish. It’s clear that the intention of the song is to be some light-hearted fun, something that’s been sorely lacking. Ding Dong plays up the comedy and intentional childishness of the song with catchy sing-along parts, reminiscent of a schoolyard nursery rhyme and accentuated by sharp brass. All in all, the song is a well-put together, hilarious story told in an entertaining way.

Long Time Refix

Machel Montano

Okay, we might be cheating a little with this one here, but a good song is a good no matter how many times it’s been released.

It’s safe to say that Machel Montano is something of a juggernaut when it comes to soca music - he is easily the most well known overseas and commercially successful locally. Montano also has a discography spanning over many years and 40-some-odd albums. Machel Montano releases a lot of music every year.

So is it really surprising that, in the span of Montano’s substantial career, he also kind of predicted the pandemic?!

All jokes, obviously, but the coincidence is uncanny. Long Time was originally released in 2019 on the Hickle Juice Riddim. The song was good back then - even pre-COVID, listeners could sympathize with the tabance of missing fetes and parties. Now, though, the songs takes an entirely different meaning, because now we can’t go to fetes or parties. The kind of tabanca that Machel sings about in the refixed version has a whole new meaning now, more earnest now than it was back in 2019. The producers on this new, refixed version - Parry Jack, Shertz "Problem Child” James and Montano himself - drum up all sorts of nostalgic feelings as they outfil this track with new instrumentation, more inspired by live instrumentals.

Most importantly, though, the release of a song like Long Time serves to remind us of something; it reminds us that there was a time before the pandemic, and therefore, there will be a time after where we can get back to (mostly) normal.

That’s it for Agendr’s Carnival Picks! We hope everyone stays safe and sanitized for the season.

You can check out the songs mentioned in this article to create the perfect Covid Carnival playlist.

Shannon Young

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