His dreadlocks and clothes are different, signalling there’s been a shift.
Olatunji Yearwood, 2015’s Groovy Soca Monarch, whose Afroscoa beat reshaped the music’s sound and style, is doing it again. As Carnival 2018 hastily approaches, Olatunji has brought his unique freshness with this year’s Bodyline, inspired, he told Newsday, by jazz and stride’s precursor, ragtime.
If the sound seems familiar to you, well it is upon ragtime’s shoulder that these musical genres stand. According to the US’s library of congress, www.loc.gov, ragtime is “a uniquely American, syncopated musical phenomenon, has been a strong presence in musical composition, entertainment, and scholarship for over a century. It emerged in its published form during the mid-1890s and quickly spread across the continent via published compositions.
By the early 1900s ragtime flooded the music publishing industry. The popularity and demand for ragtime also boosted sale of pianos and greatly swelled the ranks of the recording industry. The genre seemed to emanate primarily from the southern and mid-western states with the majority of activity occurring in Missouri -- although the east and west coasts also had their share of composers and performers. Ragtime's popularity promptly spread to Europe and there, as in America, soon became a fad.”
The root of Olatunji’s Bodyline also takes it course from TT’s greats like the late great Lord Kitchener, also a product of that time.
So it is no surprise, that he credits Lord Kitchener as an inspiration for Bodyline’s creation.
When asked by Newsday about the song’s genesis, he said, “Bodyline is a project, a ragtime mixed with soca twist and a vintage sound. It also have a new niche pool-party goer kind of bounce, which is soca vibes. That came about two years or three years ago working with System 32 (Electronic DJs and producers) when I had the song One life to Live. System 32 did the project and while we had the rhythm we were just working on it and I got that vibe. When I heard the rhythm I felt that kind of old school vibe. I felt a kind of Sammy Davis Jr, Cab Calloway kind of vibe, old school Kitchener was also inspiration as well. ”
Upon its release late last year, the song’s official video has gotten 105,654 views with over 2000 likes and 79 dislikes. The comments are overwhelmingly more positive than negative.
“How does this have dislikes? It’s mad creative and well done,” said one viewer. Another said, “Soca Swing. I dig it.”
The response to Bodyline has also received good reviews from people outside of TT, he said. He added, though, it initially did not receive much airplay and it has now begun to receive good rotation.
This song also ties into his fondness of “being different” and although it moves away from the Afro-soca beat which heightened his popularity, he is in no way done with that beat sound. “Not totally for this year,” he said when asked about it. “I am known for being different as well even though people know me for the Afro-soca beat. I like to be different. I was working on this material a while now and I think it’s time to work on this ragtime vibes and to switch it up a little bit,” he said about the musical shift.
He sings calypso as well and said he is focused on bringing back the “vintage new vibe.”
His Road March contender, Party Justice, was released two weeks ago and is also reminiscent of yesteryear. The backdrop for the official audio released on YouTube shows Olatunji holding posters with the words Party Justice, and among the many Olatunji’s photos in the backdrop are pictures of known freedom fighters like Martin Luther King Jr. It is with this that he also plans, if there is a Soca Monarch competition, to enter.
He said of the song, “It came from nothing, a wild vibes and then it turned into a real beautiful concept.” But, like many other soca artistes this year, Olatunji has also pulled on soca’s past and is bringing soca’s momentum with the revival of Power soca.
“The ultimate outcome is to bring back that real festive vibe in Carnival. In terms of the power vibes and fast soca, it really, really come back in a serious way. All the artistes and all the music, all the DJs, really coming together and getting the mixture of the soca beat.
“When we go into a party, people move and thing, is all well but we are Trinidad and Tobago and we does party different. We have a different kind of rhythm and energy. It always had fast songs.
“My goal is to bring back Carnival fun again, where you could always come and dress properly and dress nice but we can still party hard jump and wave and enjoy the music.”
So even as he embodies the classic wear of Sammy Davis Jr, be sure that Olatunji will do the party justice with music to jump and wave too.