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Bunji Garlin Gives Us Something Different

May 17, 2013
Photo from screenshot.

Photo from screenshot.

Ash Wednesday has come and gone. The colorful feathers, jewels, satin and chrome of Trinidad and Tobago‘s Carnival costumes, packed away with memories of drunken debauchery and endless nights slowly  fading into the back of your mind. And then… and then… the anthem of Carnival 2013 comes roaring back to life. This morning I open my laptop and the first thing I see is the official video for Bunji Garlin‘s “Differentology.” And the memories come flooding back. The twin islands, now well-rested after a couple of months, are – as Garlin so clearly lets his listeners know – ready for road. And with a song as popular as “Differentology,” – already making the club rounds worldwide with the Major Lazer remix – the addition of a video is sure to continue the push of soca into the mainstream.

Soca’s sound is very distinctive; a mashup of Trinidad and Tobago’s traditional calypso (the melody) with an electronic-esque cadence (the beat) influenced from the neighboring French Antilles and a hint of Indian instrumentation for balance. Unlike dancehall or reggaeton, soca has yet to make a major dent outside of the Caribbean. Machel Montano is probably the most well-known soca artist, but his music still hasn’t permeated the world music landscape like, say, a Shaggy or Sean Paul or Daddy Yankee. But, that might change with the creative push Garlin is putting into his art. Just follow his Twitter feed to know that he considers himself an artist, not just a singer. He is making a dedicated effort to push the boundaries of the way in which soca is perceived and the visual/aural way in which it is created. “Differentology” is the study of that which is different. And different, the song is. So, it makes sense that the video, as well, embraces an aesthetic that is different than the bulk of the images shown to the world outside of the Caribbean about Carnival.

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Photo from screenshot.

Pulling in vintage footage of Carnival celebrations of yore, alongside some classic Carnival characters, the native volcanic mud representing the J’ouvert and revelers of today, the video tells a story (note, “a” story, not necessarily “the” story; everyone’s interpretation is different. Get it?) of the Carnival experience. And throughout, floating on his own island, is guitarist Nigel Rojas, who strums that indelible Spanish guitar riff that helped make the song so memorable. There’s no question that the video will be met with mixed reviews. Garlin’s doing something different. And different always generates heat. But, he’s doing something different. And that, my friends, is art.

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Not yet following me on Twitter? Get on the sofa: @josephrileyland

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