Blog February 5, 2019
Preview: Etienne Charles's "Jab Molassie"

Trinidad isn't really known for its jazz , but as Etienne Charles's new video demonstrates, soca and calypso aren't the only music that can soundtrack the island nation's well-known Carnival street performances. 

On March 22, Charles is releasing an album inspired by Carnival traditions in Trinidad, Carnival: The Sound of a People, Vol. I. This first song and video are both inspired by the character Jab Molassie, the vengeful spirit of a slave put to death by being boiled in a vat of molasses.

“The men and women who play Jab Molassie are really down-to-earth people. Yet they transform into these demons, these vengeful spirits,” Charles said in a press release. “It replicates hell and suffering, and reminds us of our troubled past as a people, the atrocious acts perpetrated against us.”

The music does as well. The tin drumming emulates the percussion available to Trinidadians after the British banned skin drums in the 1880s. 

Charles visited the village of Paramin on Carnival Monday and sampled the musicians as they played. They showed Charles the melody they tease out of the iron, which he worked to emulate on a bass line. The album has a triumphant return of skin drums on the final track. 

If "Jab Molassie" is any indication, this album is going to work on a couple different levels--a history lesson written in music. And if the title is any indication, this album is only the beginning.


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