|By Seeta Persad ,
Roderick Gordon is confident, sure of extending his reign as the Monarch of Calypso into a third year.
Port of Spain, Trinidad (January 2016):- He is also intent on expanding his kingdom into the realm of Soca. And, is creating a new musical fiefdom to rule—”Jiggy Calypso”.
Gordon even as a more authoritative sounding sobriquet, “Chuck”, shedding the boyish, playful “Chucky” with which he rose to calypso glory in 2014 and 2015, and made his foray into soca.
Groomed in the techniques of composition by his late father, musician Roland Gordon, the reigning calypso monarch is fine-tuning this artform with a blend of new melodies, making calypso danceable for a new generation, somewhat like how American Grammy-award winning rapper Will Smith had millions getting “Jiggy With It” to hip-hop in the 1990s. But his aim is not about moving people to engage in mindless drunkenness and the excessive bacchanalia of Carnival characteristic especially of soca.
His goal is an up-tempo movement to inspire with songs that have content and meaning.
“All these rhythm and rhymes lead to the creation of my own genre of music called ‘Jiggy Calypso’,” he explains. “This is separate from what we have currently existing in the musical landscape in this country.
The soca may be melodic and danceable but lacks content. A lot of the artistes are singing on issues of party, woman and rum. They are singing the same topic but in different ways.
Singing about mas on the road but with no content, nothing to inspire or exude a certain feeling from the listener.” Gordon’s calypso rule began in 2014 with his social and political renditions of “Wey Yuh Think” and “Wedding of De Century”, and carried over into 2015 with “The Rose” and “I Believe”.
His last win led to a “big year” for Gordon, who says he “touched the diaspora, Europe, Central America” in his travels.
“To see how people respond to the music is motivation and re-validation of what I have been doing. Last year has been my foundation year.
I’ve learnt a lot and redefined my goals and renegotiated my own processes and now I’m able to step up and blossom into the flower that was planted and nurtured by my dad,” he reflects.
This year, Gordon is making a bid for a third calypso crown with a social commentary, “It Ain’t Wuk”, as song about love, compatibility and love for culture.
“There are several concepts intertwined into one song with a beautiful melody and dance-ability,” he says. His second selection is “Come Take It” a fusion of the genres of Caribbean music that the world can relate to.
“It is all about world music with elements of reggae, dancehall, soca, chutney and calypso.
It also addresses the social issue of unity,” Gordon says, noting he has been spending a lot of time creating experimenting with several rhythms which he intends to showcase on stage.
“The process and creation of the music comes from my involvement in both soca and calypso and finding that unique essence and balance within myself based on my own experiences and dictated by what I want to say and what comes naturally to me,” he says. Roderick “Chuck” Gordon must be known for the ability to form a creative identity as to what it means to be a Trinbagonian.
“That has been reflected in my music for the past two to three years. It’s not just about winning Calypso Monarch or Soca Monarch but about striking at the core of what it really means to be Trinbagonian and I want our artistes to start seeing that.” Of his Jiggy Calypso, Gordon says its content is not necessarily political but does address social matters, in particular racial division.
“The whole issue of a black African being unable to be taken home by a Hindu female which is the essence of our division…
coming out of the election last year we saw the preponderance of negativity and racial tension and it addresses this issue.
It also echoes the call for unity to lift our country and the call for us to take care of our elders and our children. It’s a call done in a Jiggy format.” On the direction of soca, Gordon welcomes the return of a single song, with no groovy or power categories, in the International Soca Monarch competition.
“I think it’s going to raise the quality and standard of the competition.
It is going to allow the better songs to come through because what we are going to (address), with the reformatting, is the issue of the power songs’ inability to capture the imagination,” he says.
He observes that many hailed the groovy songs as spectacular in last year’s competition (this segment was won by Olatunji Yearwood) but had to endure a long wait to the tail end of the competition for the two or three best power songs, which soca superstar Machel Montano once again dominated.
The industry is witnessing a reduced speed in songs, which Gordon says is good, observing that the rapid-fire pace of power songs, with no content, had been damaging the soca.
And so, Gordon advises young artistes in any genre, whether calypso, soca and chutney, to take care with what they create, and deliver a song with a message.
“Do your work, focus on your craft deliver and execute, but it must come from deep within. Have something to say not just about Carnival and competition but move forward. I think our industry lacks leadership and our artistes are not saying anything. They are not communicating messages of love and positivity and nationhood and identity and consciousness through our music.
I think it’s very ‘base level functioning’ and I its really time for us to develop a sense of what an artiste is. An artiste has something to say.”