CREATIVE SPACE #21 OF 2022 – MY FIRST SPOTIFY PLAYLIST

CREATIVE SPACE #21 OF 2022 (Uploaded October 19th 2022)

CREATIVE SPACE is an award-winning series spotlighting local (Antiguan and Barbudan/Caribbean) art and culture. As a brand, it dates back to 2009, published exclusively in LIAT’s inflight magazine. It was revamped in 2018 as a blog series and syndicated as of 2019 on Antiguanice.com. Its publishing partner, as of 2020, is the Daily Observer newspaper. It has its first print run in the paper every other Wednesday, with the online extended edition with EXTRAS running here on the blog and full interviews and extras on AntiguanWriter on YouTube. In 2021, the twopart CREATIVE SPACE mini-series on marine culture placed third in the OECS clean oceans journalists challenge. CREATIVE SPACE is created, owned, and written by Joanne C. Hillhouse – Antiguan-Barbudan/Caribbean authorjournalist, producer, and freelance writer, editor, and trainer. 

Here’s a link to the issue as it appeared in the Daily Observer newspaper on October 19th 2022:

Below is the extended online edition (not a duplicate of the edition with publishing partner Observer Media) with EXTRAS. 

CREATIVE SPACE: MY FIRST SPOTIFY PLAYLIST

It’s called “Musical Women of Antigua-Barbuda 2022 Favourite Releases”. Let’s talk about them.

Laikan’s The Lore with Island Trap records is my first listen to this artist and I like the smoky quality of her voice; it hovers in her lower range but now and again climbs into some nice, melodic highs as well. The music is metronome-like, repetitive, but pulsing in a way that gets you grooving. The quality and vibe of the production and introspective nature of the lyrics makes this the kind of EP (of only five songs) I could listen to on a loop. That the Antiguan-Dominican singer-songwriter identifies as a poet comes through in her word play.  

A good example of this is my favourite track “Haunted”. The line “ghost me an’ then say me haunted” has been living rent free in my head. You ever been intimate (sexually or non-sexually) with someone and then when you meet in public they look right through you or, even if they acknowledge you, act like you never had a connection like that? It can make you feel a little mad (in both senses of that word), right? That’s what I think of as I turn this lyric over in my mind. The writer in me likes how it references the double and triple meaning of  “ghost me” (ignore), “haunted” (possessed), and “say me haunted” (obsessed); the gaslighting toxicity of it all. All to a slow wine of a beat that takes you “down down down”. The imagery – “slipping away like water/right through your fingers” – is nice too.

The lyricism in my second favourite track, “Who Then?”, is also fire: “No stranger to hoping/broke and working, knowing/this might never be enough/No stranger to sun, sea, sand/and poor man’s gold/like this is everything/No stranger to hotels burning through the coast/my blood is kerosene/these evils go unnoticed/we let em get away with everything”. The commentary re “who benefits/and who remains ignored” operates on a couple of levels. Love it. This is one I’d like to see pushed as a single if it isn’t already.

I knew “New Kinda Sun” was a favourite when it felt too short – I know I said this about the entire EP but it really does feel like the kind of song you could listen to on a loop; I like the production of it overall.

Joy Lapps’ 13-track Girl in the Yard is the Canadian pan player and composer of Antigua and Barbudan descent’s fifth album overall and first full-length album made up of exclusively original music. 

Joy has a light touch on the pan and favours collabs (her website confirms her preference for participatory and ensemble approaches to her music and music education). That said, the pan never disappears even as it plays well and generously with the other instruments – through the dramatic breaks, tempo changes, mood building, beautiful melodies, catchy rhythms, and sometimes indefinable emotional notes.

What I especially like about “Breathless”, my favourite track, is the lilting nature of the pan as it solos then waltzes with first the flute then the piano, making you want to sway late night with someone special under a Caribbean moon.

“Sharifa the Great”, meanwhile, has an epic feel to it, like there’s a whole story hidden in the notes. In a song intro on YouTube, Lapps explained that it’s about her big sister, Asha Juliet Sharifa Lapps: “It’s fiery, it’s dynamic, and I think when you hear it, you will feel the essence of Asha.”

Number three for me is “Lulu’s Dream” which gets fiercer the deeper it goes; love the use of sax and electric guitar solos as well. This one, per the intro posted on her YouTube channel, is about another of Joy’s sisters, Sabira Rashida Lulu Lapps. Joy accurately describe the funky Afro-Brazilian tinged tune as “warm but powerful”.

Asher Otto’s Before It’s Too Late, a solo work dropping shortly after her announced break with Itchy Feet, has no skips; it is a thematically cohesive six song break-up (of the lovelorn variety) R-n-B LP.   

From the guitar intro, I was ready for some acoustic soul and “I’m going to be alright” delivered; it has an unadorned quality even with its earnest lyrics and delivery. “I’m going out tonight/I’m going to be alright” – simple and affirming; mid-tempo music that doesn’t get in the way of the beautiful Lauryn Hill-esque texture of Asher’s voice. A strong opener.

My second favourite track, “Say Goodbye” has a for-the-girls anthemic quality – à la Beyonce’s “To the Left” and other songs of that R ‘n B sub-genre of drama-free moving-on fed-up-ness. It’s in the delivery of lines like “I wasted my time/waiting for you/to make up your mind/I finally realized/you’re not gonna change/so, say goodbye”. When a woman’s fed up indeed.

“Crazy”, like the Patsy Cline Country song it shares a title with, meanwhile, gives me torch song vibes. Stripped down with mostly a haunting piano as accompaniment, and hypnotic drum pattern, it truly allows Asher’s voice to unleash its power while retaining full emotional resonance.

As you listen to this first Jhohadli Spotify playlist and seek out the full albums, be reminded that when it comes to Antiguan and Barbudan music, much as we love them, it’s not all soca and calypso.

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EXTRAS

Asher’s actually become something of a CREATIVE SPACE regular having been featured in 2018’s Musical Harmony, and mentioned in 2019’s Women’s Empowerment Luncheon: Moments from Memory, and 2022’s The Stuff that Dreams are made of (A Woman’s History Month Feature) – so be sure to check those out.

I interviewed Joy Lapps 10 years ago for Wadadli Pen. You can read that interview here.

I actually reached out to both Asher and Joy for interviews on learning of their new releases but have to date received no reply to my phone messages or emails. When I started listening to Laikan, who is a new discovery for me, I pivoted to just writing about the music; what I favoured and why. It was an opportunity for me to immerse myself in the music – which, if you know me, is always as it should have been.

Every spoil ah wan style, as we say.

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In this article, I list my top 3 of the new releases from each of the three named artists. Here are my so-close also-rans:

Laikan’s “Jus Kool” – introspective lyrics – right away I want to stop and listen – musically, it’s a vibe though as well. Full lyrics to all songs from The Lore here. I appreciate the lyrics being accessible, which can be a challenge with local artists. Listen to the LP on Spotify (& all evidence to the contrary, this is not a sponsored post – though, to be clear, CREATIVE SPACE is in the market for sponsored digital exclusives as I note at the end of each post).

Joy LappsGirl in the Yard – best album cover by the way and love that the title references the pan yard explicitly – also has select songs, such as “Sharifa the Great” (official audio and live recording), posted to YouTube. & I liked most of the rest of the album so my also-rans are in order –

“Juliet Blooms” interpolates various Caribbean sounds including calypso and Spanish music – it’s jazzy – and fun – feels Chick Corea/Spain-ish but not in a derivative way – in the way it fuses different influences, has a Spanish lilt, and the dynamics keep you on your toes – flute, hand claps, congas.

“Granny’s Pan” – has an old school feel to it – like when you watch those scratchy black and white reels of vintage pan – interesting how they create that sound with the iron bang ting a ling tagging along and the pan having a certain lonely thinness to the sound.

Asher Otto’s’s “Karma” is more of the break-up vibe but with a vaguely retro beat; a dance-a-long as surely as “Show Me” – an uptempo song with Asher’s voice riding the beat nicely – is a sing-a-long which in terms of narrative and emotional arc might have been a stronger closer for the EP in terms of the ordering of the songs.

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“Lapps’ presence as a female leader on a steelpan recording is rare, trendsetting and welcomed.” – Caribbean Beat on Joy Lapps’ Girl in the Yard. Read the full review.

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