Calypsociation steelband released its latest CD offering
called "Made It."
This CD is one of the more interesting and
diverse steelband musical offerings we have heard in a
Calypsociation successfully explores different musical
concepts and movements for the steelband - all the while
remaining in the Caribbean motif and true to the art form.
In an interview exclusive with
When Steel Talks,
shares their thoughts on "Made It," and the future
direction of the group.
Calypsociation brings a new and refreshing voice to the
steelband music arena. Who are your influences?
Thank you for the compliment, we appreciate it greatly.
The members of our association are a bunch of
“Trini-fanatics”, at any given time you will find people
on the internet following the latest news on ‘When Steel
Talks”, watching pan videos on You tube, and gleaning
any and all pan information that’s out there. As a
result, our influences are very diverse, but primarily
it is the music of Trinidad that is our first and
foremost source; Clive Bradley, Beverley Griffith,
Boogsie Sharpe, Jit Samaroo, Ray Holman, Robert
Greenidge to name a few. And of course, Weather Report,
Steps Ahead, Sixun, Jaco Pastorius, Andy Narell, Eddy
Louis, Alain Jean Marie, Miles Davis, Charlie Parker,
Bach, Mozart, Chopin…
What was the
most difficult part of getting this project done?
There were no major roadblocks to getting this project
off the ground. Each step of the way was organized by
and with the entire group. We really took our time so
as to come together and agree on each decision. We
worked very hard until the results were satisfactory to
everyone. It was a real collaboration. The only real
difficulties came at the time of mixing. Putting
closure on each piece was very difficult because you
could go in so many different directions and each
direction would have had a distinctly different
3. WST -
The title of your album is "Made It;" what is the
significance of that?
Calypsociation Steelband has “Made it”. Ever since the
founding of our association in 1993 we’ve never produced
a solo CD. We’d only up until now co-produced CD’s.
For example, in 1998 we co-produced the” Steeldream” CD
with Laurent Ferlet as a result of the Steeldream
Project which united 150 steelpan players from France,
England, and Trinidad and Tobago in a celebration of the
150th anniversary of the abolition of slavery
in France. We collaborated with the Swiss who recorded
the First Steelpan European Festival in 2000. And, of
course, our collaboration with Andy Narell on “The
Passage”. It was this collaboration which really
inspired us and gave us the confidence to finally
produce a 100% Calypsociation Steelband CD. So you see,
after 14 years we finally “Made it!”
4. WST -
In the past Calypsociation was very closely associated
with Andy Narell. In our recent interview with Andy, he
explained that there was somewhat of a parting of the
ways. How has this impacted on the musical direction of
Calypsociation had a very close 4-year collaboration
with Andy Narell. We were lucky enough, as mentioned
above, to have been a big part of “The Passage”, we went
on a tour in the Bay Area and to the Portland Jazz
Festival [USA], and we really learned a lot from this
experience with Andy, as I’m sure we brought a lot to
him. As a matter of fact, Andy still has a group of
musicians from Calypsociation that he’s working with and
this project still rehearses in the panyard, so we still
have a good relationship with Andy. Our ‘parting of the
ways’ with Andy probably was another motivating factor
in the production of our CD, which enabled us to really
define our own style. The musical direction of the
Association has really remained on a steady course. We
have about 5 different levels of classes and we really
try to stick to a repertoire that consists of original
compositions and arrangements by our panyard talents,
Laurent Lalsingue, Mathieu Borgne, Julie Goldstein and
more recently Clement Bazin such as 123 Soleil,
Panipwoblem, panorama tunes like Pan in A Minor, Pan in
My House, bomb tunes, salsa, jazz and classical.
5. WST -
In "3X3" you move into African music motif with a 9/8
signature. It is an interesting place for a steelband
to go. What was your motivation, or should I ask,
inspiration, for going there?
Mathieu Borgne: “I’ve always been very interested in
African rhythms because of my background in drums. I’ve
composed a number of 12/8, ¾, and 9/8 time pieces for
the steelpan for my small band ‘Steel Vibration”. In the
"ternaire" African beat, the swing is based on
the second half beat, like the “Sega” rhythm from the
Reunion or the Salegy of Madagascar. These beats remind
me of the Trinidad Parang and I feel that any good
steelband can play them and have a great new sound.
6. WST -
Calypsociation is not bashful in hugging faithfully, and
presenting authentic Caribbean rhythms and themes
throughout the CD. Have members spent much time in the
Caribbean? Particularly Trinidad?
Many of our Calypsociation musicians have participated
in either the Trinidad, London, or New York Panorama.
We’ve had musicians play with Desperados, Skiffle
Bunch, Valley Harps, and Tokyo??? , in New York,
Mathieu Borgne arranged "Ellie Man" by Jeff Narell for
“Women in Steel” and brought over 3 musicians to play
with them, and in London Calypsociation has had a very
tight relationship with Glissando since 2001, last year
Laurent Lalsingue even co-arranged “Colors Again” with
Rudy Smith for them. And, of course, many of our
members have gone to Trinidad for the Carnival and
Panorama as spectators. The founding fathers of
Calypsociation created the association after a
life-changing trip to T & T.
In "Sunday", you present an interesting and unapologetic
mix of a true steelband performing with an electric
guitar. What was the inspiration for this?
Mathieu Borgne: ‘I believe it’s only natural and
ultimately very interesting to mix different rhythm
styles and different instruments in with the steelpan.
I play the double second in a Caribbean jazz quartet
called Djazil, so I asked the guitarist of this group,
Cedric Baud, if he would like to play a concert with us
and we all really liked the sound. It seemed only
natural to ask him to play on the CD. We also included
flutist Benoit Sauve to play on the CD as a result of a
concert where he played with us and I believe this
really lead to an innovative, interesting mix of sounds
that gives us a particular style and a new feel to
8. WST -
Throughout your cuts, there are percussive shots that
remind the listener of "Panorama". How important was
the concept of a 'panorama feel' to this project?
As Panorama is a very important concept in steelpan
music, it is inevitably very important to us. We try to
motivate all of the members of our association to
experience the Panorama at least once, by either playing
in a group or at the very least by going to a London,
New York, or T & T Panorama. Our panyard is a true
reflection of the T & T panyard experience, we teach our
music by rote, in the Trinidad tradition and each group
plays at least one or two pure Trini panorama tunes. We
really wanted to reflect this by beginning and ending
the CD with Panorama tunes, as if leaving on a musical
journey and coming full circle back home to Trinidad
with “Party Tonight” by Clive Bradley.
9. WST -
What was the most rewarding part of this project?
This CD, being the fruit of such a collaborative group
effort gave us a great sense of solidarity and worth
because each and every one of us is proud of the
result. We feel that our style and musical sound is
well represented in this piece of work and obviously it
will be a perfect tool for getting concerts, an agent
maybe, partnership or sponsorship.
10. WST -
You guys obviously know your history. Who's idea was it
to perform "Don't Rock Me So" in a retro format?
Once again, this was a group idea that is a direct
result of our passion for the history and evolution of
this instrument. We’ve spent countless hours listening
to everything that was ever recorded on a steelpan and
we were inspired by a tenor from the 60’s that Laurent
Lalsingue got from his father. This particular
instrument, brought over to Guadeloupe from Antigua by
English sugar cane workers, was the first instrument
that belonged to Lalsingue’s father and was used to
create the group “Les Alizes” in Port Louis in the
60’s. Since then, Pierre Lalsingue recreated an ALizes
group in the north of France where Laurent was raised
playing the steelpan from the young age of 4 alongside
11. WST -
On this CD Calypsociation truly lives up to its name as
you take the listener on a musical journey throughout
the Caribbean with the various musical styles found in
the region. I particularly like the Haitian feel and
percussive approach to "Sweet Mango." How did that piece
Laurent has a true history with this type of music due
to his West French Indies background that we mentioned
earlier. To get a really clear idea of just where this
influence has taken him, it’s a good idea to listen to
his quartet “C2J” in which he plays the double alto.
Laurent Lalsingue: “In this piece I wanted to
experiment with ‘Kompa’, also known as compas or direct
compas which is a Haitian genre consisting of a
combination of folklore, Tipico, Cuban and African
rhythms, giving it a more contemporary feel than what I
was used to playing as a kid in my father’s group. I
was looking at something a little more soul-funk
influenced, simpler, more entertaining. The steelpan
really brings out this open, swinging sound.
12. WST -
You end with the album with "Party Tonight" - a piece
written by the late great master arranger Clive
Bradley. What are your thoughts on this piece?
Everyone here really loves Bradley, his style, and most
of all we are all fans of his music. Mathieu, Laurent
and Julie Goldstein, a teacher here in the school, were
lucky enough to have spent time with Bradley at the New
York and Trinidad Panoramas. Mathieu: “We really loved
liming with Bradley, listening to his music and drinking Caribs with him."
He was very friendly and extremely generous to us,
explaining his music, his method for choosing strum
notes or the way he would piece together transitions
within a song. Every single year we pay homage to
Bradley by arranging one of his songs. Every person in
our association knows "High Mass," "Pan in My House," "Picture on My Wall,"
"Stranger," "Looking for Horn," "Trini to
de bone," and "Savannah on Fire" - all arranged by Bradley.
"Party Tonight" as a closing piece was an important choice
to us because it was the only original tune he composed
and arranged for the Panorama and, of course with it
they [Desperadoes] won.
13. WST -
This "Made It" album has a much more 'deliberate' feel
than your past work. Is this a case of maturity, or -
the direction of the group, and in this regard - more
reflective of Calypsociation's signature voice?
It’s definitely a fine mix of all of that. We have
gained a lot of maturity through our various experiences
and our musical orientation reflects the identity of
Calypsociation Steelband as a group. This CD is a
direct result of the past 7 or 8 years most of us have
played together as a group and the fact that each and
every one of us has brought an interesting facet to the
identity of the group as a whole. In our past 14 years
of existence, we’ve tried to maintain a strong tie with
Trinidad and the ways of the steelbands there, playing
not only traditional Caribbean music, but also jazz
standards, pop music and classical. However, each of us
coming from such different horizons and bringing bits
and pieces to the whole has definitely been a large part
of creating our signature “voice” as you say.
Calypsociation is considered on of the best steelbands
in Europe. Are the majority of your players French
Yes, all of our musicians are French with the exception
of one of our bassists, Isabel an American who’s been
living in France for the past 17 years. Joy Lapps, a
Canadian tenor, played with us all during 2006, and even
played on the drum takes of “Made It!”.
There are a lot of talented musicians here in France and
it is one of our motivating forces that helps us in the
promotion of the steelpan and its endless possibilities
throughout France and Europe.
Your group visited the US in 2005. Will you be
traveling anytime in the near future outside of France?
We would love the opportunity to go on tour outside of
France anytime anyone extends us an invitation. It’s
not a very simple undertaking to travel far with 2 six
basses, 2 tenor basses, a four cello, etc… We were able
to tour with all of those instruments plus our own high
pans in the US thanks to Jim Munzenrider from Chabot
College who lent us the necessary pans. At least now we
know it can be done and how it can be done, so the sky’s
the limit… Let’s get something in the works!
16. WST -
On this CD Calypsociation challenged the expected norms
for the steelband, both in terms of musical
accompaniment and musical style/direction. What can we
expect next from Calypsociation?
very much for the compliment. Since the recording,
we’ve already composed and learned 3 new pieces. A
composition by Laurent Lalsingue, a French West Indies
mazurka written in a minor chord, a composition by
Mathieu Borgne inspired and based on a Cuban timba
rhythm, with a little more of a syncopated feel, where
montunos replace strums, and finally a Panorama-style
arrangement of Pan in Harmony by Clement Bazin, a born
and bred Calypsociation member and our latest panyard
talent. We’re already planning for our next CD, in
which we hope to continue to progress and confirm our
style and push new limits in steelband music.