Raising Hell is Sharlan Bailey’s contribution to Carnival 2019 and a tribute to the legacy left by his father, the late Winston "Shadow" Bailey.
He said the song is not about trying to be like Shadow, but about accepting, protecting and honouring the legacy built by his father, of which he is a product.
Bailey told Sunday Newsday he is constantly compared to his father, so when he started performing about 18 years ago, he tried very hard not to sound like him. However, he said his father was one of his influences. “I don’t go for it, I don’t strive for it but influence is what it is and, I mean, that’s my father. He must be present.”
He said Raising Hell came about during the time of Shadow’s death and funeral in October last year. He said he had writer’s block but, the weekend after the funeral, he had to perform at a show in Tobago.
“At that time I wasn’t even thinking about the Carnival because of everything that was going on. It so happened that just before his death we had an agreement about re-stringing our guitars. I told him I had mine to deal with and he had his. We would do all one time and I honoured that by carrying some strings across (to Tobago) and string up his guitar, the one he always used to compose his songs, and the song just came with no thought. When I write, I am just a vessel. The songs write themselves.”
Bailey admitted many people said Raising Hell sounded similar to something Shadow would sing, but he said it was nothing different from the songs he wrote and performed previously. He believes it's just that people do not know his other songs, and he has no control over what people hear. Whatever the case, he said his father always admired his work and encouraged him to do his thing.
“A good friend of mine, Mistah Shak recently told me that Junior Gong, Bob Marley’s son, when you see him you see Bob but he is still himself. He said I have that energy, that I could carry what my father was doing before, but I am me.”
Surprisingly, it was not Shadow who fanned Bailey’s earliest musical spark.
He said his mother, Pamela Dyer, always kept musical instruments and encouraged music around the house. But it was his late, older half-brother, Rudolph Dyer, who started him on his path. Bailey said Rudolph was a great pannist who would stop him from watching TV and tell him to "come do something constructive."
“I realise, in hindsight, he just wanted a partner to jam with. So I started with pan then switched to keyboard, guitar and so forth. But I’m not no master of any instrument. I know how to play them to get what I want done. I will figure it out.”
He said even at the age of 11 he would “sing chorus” and write verses for his other older brother, Shawn Bailey.
However, his professional career began in the 1990s after he was rejected by the Coast Guard. “Because I set my whole mind on that, music was a thing I ended up falling back on to cushion the blow. After that experience the stage started to call. I did more writing for local and regional artistes and I got more serious. And then, out of the blue Titus (Lewis) came to me and said, ‘I ‘fraid stage and you ‘fraid stage. Leh we do a group together nah and we go back each other.’ That was the start there. He was the man to push me forward.”
He and Lewis, son of the late calypsonian Mystic Prowler, formed a rapso group called Platoon, but he eventually wanted more. He said when he decided to go solo, he discovered a lot about his musical tastes and influences and there was “a little transformation” in his music.
“When I decided to be that kind of artiste I wanted to be original. I wanted to have control of my creativity so I wouldn’t have to play certain things. Due to the blessings of Omari Ashby, who exposed me to the studio, I learned how to record these ideas. In all these things, what I didn’t realise at the time is that’s my father – original, in charge of his creativity – and I think because of those factors, the attitudes are so similar, is the reason people see plenty Shadow in me.”
This Carnival, Bailey will once again be performing at Kaiso House.
He said before Shadow quit the tent, they often worked on music together and limed together at the tent. He said when Shadow left it was an adjustment but he would always call his son on opening night to ask about his and SpiceY’s (his wife Tammico Moore) performance.
“That’s a call I looked forward to, that and the call before Skinner Park results even though that’s the uncomfortable call because I never made it to the semi-finals.”
He said although he never made it to the Calypso Monarch semi-finals, many of his arrangements and compositions got into the semis and the finals. He added that originally he had no intention to register for the 2019 competition but many people are encouraging him, so he intends to do so.
However, this year there will be no calls and Bailey said he will be dreading those nights a bit. But he intends to forge on with his music career because his father advised him to never give up. Bailey plans to complete and release his first album, Planet Dread, after Carnival.