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Friday 22 March 2019
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Spirit of the rag

SuperBlue, 3canal celebrate Carnival icon

SuperBlue and Chinese Laundry celebrate their collaboration on Rag Storm at Ojo World studios, Tragerete Road, Port of Spain. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB
SuperBlue and Chinese Laundry celebrate their collaboration on Rag Storm at Ojo World studios, Tragerete Road, Port of Spain. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB

"..the beauty of a rag and the spirit of a rag – yuh have to bring it back. I want it to be back in the fete like how it was for Carnival. It is a rag storm."– SuperBlue

The late Winston Bailey (Shadow) urged tourists to “wave it.”

Destra Garcia encouraged audiences to “let it fly.”

And Iwer George commanded his fans to “show me yuh rag.”

This year, Austin Lyons, known to the entertainment world as SuperBlue, is demanding Carnival lovers to do all of the above, “100 times over” in an all-out celebration of “the rag.”

His song Rag Storm, a collaboration with rapso group 3canal, is being touted as the ultimate fete and road jam and is already an early Road March contender.

The song exudes a pulsating appeal that’s typically SuperBlue – but with a twist which, the soca icon said, only his diehard fans might be able to discern.

Of Rag Storm, which was released on Boxing Day, SuperBlue declared: “I am coming like never before. This is something that has never been seen and done before. I just coming.”

While some may regard it as a piece of cloth, SuperBlue believes the rag has long been synonymous with TT Carnival.

However, he feels it has never truly received its just due in the festival, until now.

“Rags are very important things in the Carnival,” he said in an interview on Wednesday at Ojo World Headquarters, Tragerete Road, Port of Spain, where he had completed an intense rehearsal session with the song’s executive producer Tony Chow Lin On, aka Chinese Laundry.

SuperBlue declares the rag is part of the beauty of Carnival. PHOTO BY ROGER JACOB

“In the fetes now, you get a thing with a light. But when I climb up a (speaker) box, the rags are for everything. It is convenient. You could eat something and wipe yuh hand. If yuh sweat, you could wipe your face and stick it in yuh waist. It also comes in different colours and are very cheap.

"So the beauty of a rag and the spirit of a rag – yuh have to bring it back. I want it to be back in the fete like how it was for Carnival. It is a rag storm.”

Ten-time Road March champion, as well as a seven-time winner of the International Soca Monarch crown, SuperBlue said Rag Storm represents a slightly modified version of his signature persona.

“It is about atmosphere. It is a different time, attitude. So some things had to change. The breeze that once passed, it eh bound to pass this way again. It might be different, but is the same signature.

3canal's Stanton Kewley, Roger Roberts and Wendell Manwarren are the vocal anchors of SuperBlue's Rag Storm.

“The team feels very good about it so far and we feel it is going very good. Thank God for the angels in the midst.”

Chow Lin On, who expressed confidence in the song’s ability to compete with its rivals, said SuperBlue already had a “super itinerary from now until Ash Wednesday.”

He told Sunday Newsday: “I have been watching a lot of the videos on social media of how the song is performing, and the voice of the people is everything, because at the end of the day, the promoters probably feeding off of the feedback of the song and we are getting calls. We getting feedback.”

Chow Lin On said it was a credit to SuperBlue’s genius as an artiste that he can still make a valuable contribution to Carnival after decades in the cultural landscape.

“That is amazing. It is a privilege and an honour to be here.”

It was now left to the people to ensure the song is in the running for Road March, he said, “because we know in our hearts it has ingredients that could do the work.”

Chow Lin On, who worked alongside SuperBlue and Machel Montano on last year’s Road March winner, Soca Kingdom, said he was excited to again work with the a legend on Rag Storm.

While the track may appear to represent vintage SuperBlue, “If you listen carefully, it is a whole set of clothes, as it were.”

Chow Lin On, who said working with SuperBlue was one of his childhood dreams, said Stadic, Nique Pro and Maha Productions were also involved in the project.

“It is a collaborative effort that seeks to harness and bring value to the immense songwriting skill and technology of a SuperBlue composition. But it wouldn’t sound like Jab Jab (SuperBlue’s 1992 Road March song) because it is a different tone, a different level of programming, and what we have tried to do is to see what the value is and add value to it.”

3canal singer Wendell Manwarren said although it was early in the Carnival season, Rag Storm had the potential to go the distance.

“We don’t want to jump out of ourselves and get too excited. But when I listened to the song, I think it has all of the elements to cause the reaction that it is set out to cause in the right situation or context.”

Manwarren recalled SuperBlue “popped up” at his place about two months in a tizzy about the song, and 3canal, which had collaborated with SuperBlue on two previous occasions – Soca Matrix (2000) and Fantastic Friday (the 2013 Road March) – again welcomed the opportunity to work with the singer.

Manwarren said 3canal can be regarded as the “driver” of the song.

“When we collaborate with Super, he keeps saying we are not backup singers. When we work with him, it is because he needs a certain pulse in the vibes and we are there to provide that and just hold it down.

“Once Super calls, we answer. And once we agreed to do it, it was just a question of going down to the studio, hearing the vibes and making out a demo.”

At that point the song still needed refining.

“Everybody agreed the song had some vibes but needed some work, because it was very rough at the time, and a couple weeks later, we got a call saying they wanted to track vocals.

“We went down by Maha Productions in central (Trinidad) and realised that Static had done a lot more work on the track. It had evolved considerably, and we put down the vocals one night and at the end of the session, everybody was feeling very good.”

When he heard the final version, “It was like one of those feelings where I thought, 'This song is a monster.'

“The next time I heard it, Tony (Chow Lin On) passed and played a rough mix and they put in the intro. I was like, ‘This song just getting more and more powerful.' So I am not surprised that the song has gotten so far.”

SuperBlue, he said, "is one of the most gifted artistes we have. We’ve lost quite a few of the older guys. He is in that zone where he is still very potent, and I am very happy that we could be there to support him. I think the song has the potential to go the distance.”

As for SuperBlue, asked why he felt the need to be part of the soca fray again, he said philosophically: “Life is a school and the environment is your classroom. You can never done learn. I don’t have the lifespan to done learn music or nothing.”

He said the artform also had no pension, and one had to create one’s own wealth.

“Is something that once you getting the blessing of health and strength and life, you have to keep on going, because in this artform there is always something to see and write about. Once you have health and strength, you have to go with it.”

SuperBlue, who celebrates his 40th anniversary in the business next year, could not say how long he intends to continue.

“I am not Jesus. So yesterday was history and tomorrow is a mystery. Today is the gift which I want to use wisely. So I waiting out one day at a time.”

RAG STORM

PRODUCTION TEAM

WRITTEN: Austin “SuperBlue” Lyons.

PRODUCED: Stadic, Nique Pro and Chinese Laundry

MIXED: Stadic & Maha Productions

RECORDED AND MASTERED: Maha Productions

LIVE BRASS: All Stars Brass

EXECUTIVE PRODUCER: Chinese Laundry Music.

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