Hot in 2019: Kees touches souls, Trini dancehall rises
The soca in 2019 was considered some of the best in years. Grenadian artistes stamped their presence as never before and for the first time in years, the Road March was too close to call. But soca wasn’t the only genre dominating the musical landscape of Trinidad and Tobago in 2019. Trini dancehall bubbled from the ghettos to capture the ears of youth across the country. Here are the artistes who were hot in 2019.
The Kes the Band frontman has been on an upward trajectory over the last few years but really gained a new fan base with the Afrobeats flavoured 'Hello' in 2018. This year, his collaboration with songwriter Jelani ‘Pops’ Shaw, yielded an anthem no one saw coming. Savannah Grass, an ode to the Queen’s Park Savannah, the mecca of mas, tugged on heartstrings throughout the country and beyond. The song’s video, coming after the death of Kees’ father, Bunny, an avid mas man, made the song even more poignant and to date has 8.3 million views. The song, despite its slower bpm, emerged a frontrunner for the Road March but lost to Famalay by 139 plays angering many, including Kees, who called for a review of the judging process. ‘Savannah Grass’ was recently awarded Calypso of the Year’ by the National Action Cultural Committee.
Trini Dancehall artistes
If the names Jahllano, Prince Swanny, K Lion, Rebel, Medz and Plumpy Boss don’t ring any bells, consider yourself officially out of touch with popular culture. These are just some of the stars of Trini dancehall, a wave that has been rising since 2016 when KG of Reality Records took Prince Swanny under his wings and became the pioneer for modern dancehall in T&T. Trinidad Ghost’s ‘Zesser’ which peaked at the height of Carnival, set off an explosion in local dancehall for the rest of the year. With social media the main driver, these artistes are racking up over a million views per video as their songs, which speak about life in the ghetto, find resonance among youth from all walks of life throughout the Caribbean.
Nadia Batson has been a boss songwriter for years but in 2019 her songwriting skills shoved her to an unprecedented level of fame when she penned two of Carnival’s biggest songs: Farmer Nappy’s ‘Hookin Meh’ and her own ‘So Long’ both produced by the Red Boyz out of Barbados. To date, Nappy’s video has 12 million views while Batson’s has 10 million. Batson was recognised as one of the Top 20 Stars of Gold by the National Action Cultural Committee for ‘So Long’.
This was the year of the Grenadian invasion. Mr Killa came in late in the Carnival season with ‘Run Wid It’ and thanks to clever social media marketing had everyone picking up everything including other people in fetes. He was a shoo-in to win the newly revamped International Soca Monarch and he definitely ran away with the Power Soca title, the first Caribbean artiste to do so. The ISM saw Grenadians pack the front of the stage to support not only Mr Killa but their other countrymen: V’ghn, who placed third in the Groovy segment, Mr Legz, Lil Natty and Thunda, and Mandella Linkz.
Machel added his 10th Road March title to his name with Famalay, a collaboration with St Vincent’s Skinny Fabulous and Bunji Garlin. The video for the song took the artistes to St Vincent and Dominica where the song was produced by Krishna ‘Dada’ Lawrence meshing the Nature Isle’s Bouyoun music with soca. Montano also collaborated with R&B singer Ashanti for the song ‘The Road’ and they shot the video during Carnival celebrations which the American singer chronicled in detail on her Instagram account. During the course of the year, Montano and Ashanti performed together in St Maarten and at the UN’s Play it Out concert in Antigua and Barbuda. Montano also graced the Coachella stage with Calypso Rose and was recently featured on a documentary about Canadian Rapper Drake.
Blackman continued to seal her reputation as one of the exciting new voices on the music scene. For Carnival 2019, she released a remake of Ras Shorty I’s ‘Corey Iron’ called ‘Iron Love’ which dominated Junior Panorama competition and in July, released her international EP, The Reel’ targeted to a global audience. She also toured a number of countries for the first time including Japan and performed at Coachella with Calypso Rose.
Nessa’s Issa Snack was the girls’ anthem of Carnival 2019 and the video was a delicious feast for the eyes showcasing the beauty of T&T women. To date, the video has 2.6 million views. Machel Montano and Jamaican singer Hood Celebrity featured on the remix.
Patrice continued to impress fans in 2019 with her clothing and hair choices and the plethora of music she released, all of which were hits. She also staged her very own sold-out show on Carnival Thursday called Strength of a Woman and became the ambassador for Lil Caesar’s Pizzeria.
Jerome Priscilla aka Rome had a taste of international stardom when he landed a role in the VH1 reality show Girls Cruise starring rap legend Lil Kim, TLC singer Chilli and R&B singer Mya among others. Rome was the Fun Director of the cruise and curated the experiences for the cast during filming in Barbados and T&T. He ended the year on a high with his sold-out Parang with Rome show a Woodford Café, Chaguanas.
At 80, Calypso Rose continues to blaze a trail internationally. She became the first calypsonian to perform at Coachella and the oldest, garnering attention from international media including TMZ.
The gospel singer put a positive vibe on dancehall with his song ‘Fed Up’. His sweet vocals urging the other dancehall singers to stop promoting gun lyrics and gunmen to put down their guns touched the nation and found itself on repeat play on the airwaves. The video to date has over four million views.