Leon Coldero, famous for his perennial Christmastime hits like Sokah Chutneey Parang and La Sapa, is back on the local music scene big time with two new songs, Scrap Iron and Dais Meh People.
The sprightly 57-year-old told Sunday Newsday he is back with passion and anticipating one of his best years in the soca business.
Coldero has been recording music for decades and although he stopped producing soca when he moved to the US 33 years ago, kept releasing soca parang. Three years ago, he decided to reconnect with his roots and spent his first Christmas in 30 years in TT. Since then, he has been splitting his time between TT and Orlando.
“One thing I’ve been struggling with over the years is that I haven’t been here so I became disconnected. Kids in school who are ten years old don’t know who Leon Coldero is. Twenty years old, in some instances as much as 30 years old, they don’t know me. So I needed a song that could be on everyone’s lips so that when they sing it the name would connect once more. That is what Scrap Iron did for me this year.”
The song, a soca parang tune, was written by Coldero, Edwin “Crazy” Ayoung, and Winsford Devines with guitar by Enrico Camejo. It was produced by Optimus Productions TT, and mixed and mastered by Crowntown records.
Explaining the idea behind the song he said he was at home in Santa Cruz when he heard the famous “buying scrap iron” announcement outside. “I didn’t understand what they were saying at first but when I figured it out I found it was a unique thing and I thought, ‘You know I could do a soca with this.’”
Around that time he was sent the parang riddim, Christmas Vibes Vol 5, from producer Jesse John. Coldero had the idea of putting the scrap iron song, which was still an idea, on the riddim.
Listening to Nadia Batson’s So Long and Farmer Nappy’s Hookin Meh made him realise that reality is important when it comes to writing – people were quicker to laugh at jokes they could relate to – and similarly with songwriting, it would be an easier sell.
“You have to be here, walk the streets, talk to the people, get that feel (for the people and music). If you’re not here you lose it. So, I called Crazy.”
Crazy, Coldero said, found the idea unique and started writing the song. They connected the Scrap Iron refrain to people cleaning out for Christmas.
Coldero said he has been leaning towards soca parang because times are changing and artistes have to change as well. “You have to change. The tastes of the younger generation are changing. If I were to sing about baking bread in a mud oven and boiling ham in a pitch oil tin, back-in-the-day people could relate to that. Today, they want to know what you talking about.”
That's why this year, he wanted to do something different. He found his songs were starting to sound the same so he decided to source other writers and he is very happy with the result.
Now, he said young people are sharing the song on social media and singing it, and he needed that to reconnect. Instead of complaining about airplay, he uses social media as a way to get traction. He did admit, though, that because he has done a lot of music over the years, he hears his music on the radio frequently, especially during the Christmas season.
Coldero started with parang but went into soca because parang was seasonal while he always wanted to be a professional entertainer. “I don’t want to be labelled as a soca parang artiste. I want to be known as an entertainer because I am blessed to be able to do both and do a pretty good job at both. So I wanted to focus more on soca this year.”
So, even though he stopped doing soca when he left TT decades ago, Coldero has returned this year with Dais Meh People, written by Emmanuel Rudder and produced by DJ Avalange from St Croix, with additional percussion by Black Carpet Movement. The song is on the Cane Juice Riddim.
“When I heard the riddim I thought it had a nice chip on the road kind of feel to it... It’s just a happy party song I can see being played on the road for Carnival, a cool vibe.”
He said he felt the song would connect to everyone, whatever their race, occupation, nationality, or community because everyone has “a people.” That was why in the video, which is still in the production stage, there were elements of tassa and steel pan, as well as clips of masqueraders, and even Cepep workers.
“I’m a people person and I’m stretching it even further, outside of Trinidad. Whether you’re from St Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, St Croix, Jamaica, wherever, that’s meh people, Caribbean people.”
If Dais Meh People gets the air play it deserves it would be a big hit, he said. He is also doing a J’Ouvert remix of Scrap Iron, which will be re-released on Boxing Day in time for Carnival 2020.
He's also not depending on the local scene and intends to focus on music markets up the islands as well.
Coldero said he was blessed to still be in the music business because he has a love and passion for it. But, he said, there was a tendency for soca artistes who are considered old to be pushed out of the industry – something he doesn't see happening with reggae, Latin music or on the American music market.
“It’s really funny to see how here in Trinidad they would consider you old, that you gone through. That’s crap because in everything you must have a foundation. Calypso is the root and if you kill the root, the tree will eventually fall.”
Older artistes, he insists, are the foundation of the music.
To prove his point, he pointed out how this year alone Swappi (Marvin Davis) re-recorded a Baron song (Timothy Watkins' Feelin It), Patrice Roberts featured Lord Nelson (Robert Nelson) on one of her recordings (Wha Ya Know), and Calypso Rose (McCartha Lewis) and Destra Garcia collaborated on Gimme D’ Road.
Shadow (the late Winston Bailey), he added, had one of his biggest hits, Stranger, when he was older; Calypso Rose is now known internationally, making history as the oldest act at Coachella this year; and Super Blue (Austin Lyons) is still performing, most recently winning the Road March with Machel Montano for Soca Kingdom.
“I don’t want to hear about age. It is music and to me, you could be 100 years old or 15 years old, if you have a good song, you have a good song.”