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Bunji Garlin

Takes a new musical direction

By Wayne Bowman wayne.bowman@trinidadexpress.com

Twitter and other social media have for the past couple weeks been abuzz with comments on a song by four-time International Power Soca Monarch, Bunji Garlin in which he, well, stepped out of the box to create a phenomenal item of soca.

The song, "Differentology", is built on a rather eccentric rhythm and features haunting piano riffs and a fantastic bit of flamenco guitar played live by Nigel Rojas of the band, Orange Sky. You will also hear Rojas' raspy vocals subtly placed in the background, which adds to the mystic air of the uniquely crafted soca.

Garlin sings about the Carnival experience in a manner that makes one want to just get out on the road in costume and dance, jump, wine, in a nutshell let loose and imbibe. On Twitter especially, there have been thousands of comments from people as far as Sweden passionately expressing their love of the song.

People have written that it will win Garlin the Groovy Soca Monarch and National Road March titles. But remember, the season is only now opening. Speaking of the Soca Monarch, however, because Garlin's wife, Fay Ann Lyons-Alvarez attended the launch of the 2013 edition of the competition last week, speculation began over whether or not the couple will be back on the Soca Monarch stage next year.

"I have made myself very clear on that issue, but then again if the fans want us to return we will have to make a decision. Me getting back into the competition will really be to please the people if they really want to see me back on that platform. At this stage we don't have the time to waste focusing on any kind of petty rivalry or any individual. We are focused on building the soca industry and making music," Garlin said.

Returning to "Differentology", the song came into being when one evening Garlin was waiting for his wife to finish up with her law classes. He decided to go to Black Ice Studios and hang out for a while. Producers, Keron "The Sheriff" Thompson and Jarrod "J-Rod" Faria decided that if Garlin was going to come and lime they would get in some work. Thomson began to play a couple riffs on guitar and… better let Garlin tell the story.

"Fay's classes were three to four hours, so I went over to the studio to kill time, but Sheriff said if I was coming over, we had to do something. He picked up an electric guitar and started to play a couple chords and the vibes began to flow. That guitar part is not in the final mix. The melody came easy and I decided that I wanted to keep the lyrics simple, which is more challenging for me than doing more complex lyrics."

"I wanted some guitar in and after the chorus and Fay said, why not Nigel Rojas? When I called him, he said he was happy that I did because he thought we would work well together since we both think outside of the box musically. He came and laid down the track in one take playing an electric/acoustic guitar and not a Spanish guitar as everyone thought. I never knew that Nigel played flamenco. You see how much talent we have here that we are not even aware of? I've decided that I am going to be more aware," Garlin said.

Apart from "Differentology", Garlin has already released several other songs including, "Touchless", "Ragga Soca", "Good Oye" and "Stages" for C2K13. He said he is building another CD collection to be released soon. The songs this year are each unique and nothing like what he's done before. Interestingly though, people are saying that he has returned to the style they knew Garlin for back in the early days of his career.

"People saying that I've returned to my old style, but I've never done anything like the music I have done now at any time before. This is new to me and what I have been wanting to do for a long time now, but it was not the right time before. You see, we live in a society where as soon as you step out of the norm people react and want to reject what you are doing because it's not what they are accustomed to.

"We have so much talent here that people don't know of. When we perform in rural areas we see young people with phenomenal talent and doing things differently. When we try to bring them out from where they are to mainstream the controllers, as I will call them, don't want to give them a chance. We have trouble accepting what is new and different. We have to see it 100 times on the television then we want it," Garlin said.

Garlin said parents must now realise the days of only wanting children to pursue medicine, law or accounting are over. He said when parents see that their children have interests and are gifted in sport, music and the arts they should encourage them and support them. A career in sport or music can provide what one needs to acquire towards eventually pursuing that law degree or studying towards a career in medicine, Garlin believes.

This year Garlin launched a clothing line and other merchandising items with success. His Armada T-shirts have sold out and a line of Ipad cases also did well. Garlin did not simply decide he wanted to do jerseys and call someone to rush a design and print up a batch of T-shirts. He and his team researched the industry and examined the quality of designer brands such as Hollister and Aeropostal to ensure what they produced was of high quality and that people would want to be seen wearing them.

2012 also saw Garlin, Fay Ann Lyons-Alvarez and their manager, Ian Pantin hitting the roads of Europe on an exploratory tour that saw them performing in places where soca music had not been played before. When they played in places like Milan, Italy and Amsterdam people came down from London and other places in droves to catch their shows. As they went along, Garlin and Lyons-Alvarez tweeted about what was taking place for the purpose of encouraging young developing soca artistes to do the same.

"The only way to spread seed successfully is to find new land and cultivate it. You have to dig it up, fertilise it then plant the seed and nurture it as it grows. You can't continue to plant on the same piece of land constantly and expect good crop every time. You need to let it rest and sow in new ground. That is what we are doing when we go out into new territories. We have to create opportunities and can't just sit back waiting for them to call."

"We need to take the music to them like how the merchants of long ago brought their wares to diverse places and introduced them to the people there. And when you get out there, you still have to continue exploration because even if you get into the music festivals one year it does not mean you will be there the next because they are always looking for different artistes and acts to feature."

"Here we have an attitude that this soca music is for that group of people and that style of soca music is for this group of people. But when we are out there everybody is loving all the music together. They just love soca. I congratulate all the soca artistes who have worked hard to build their respective careers and fan bases that have remained dedicated to them through whatever pressure they went through."

"It takes pressure, however, to create a diamond and we do have many diamonds in this soca arena. It's time for us to take our artistes and send them out so and so and so," Garlin said.

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