Give dem shell: Producer explains how Conch Shell was made

Dominican producer Krishna
Dominican producer Krishna "Dada" Lawrence, producer behind the Conch Shell music. -

Love it or hate it, Machel Montano, Gamal “Skinny Fabulous” Doyle and Neil “Iwer” George’s hit song Conch Shell was one of the songs that took over for the 2020 Carnival season.

Newsday chatted with the man behind the music, 32-year-old Dominican producer Krishna “Dada” Lawrence.

In the main genres of music played during Dominica’s Carnival celebrations – Chanté mas and Bouyon – the conch shell is a key instrument. Well... a wind instrument.

In addition, it’s common practice for fishermen to blow into conch shells when they return from sea with their daily catch and are driving through neighbourhoods to sell.

The sound of the shell in the hook was done by a veteran conch shell blower from Dominica – David Benjamin. He performed the song live with Montano, George and Doyle on several occasions throughout the season, with crowds going wild each time.

Machel Montano with David Benjamin, right, veteran conch shell blower from Dominica. PHOTO BY SUREASH CHOLAI

Lawrence said the track was officially completed around the second week in January and is a result of approximately seven months of work.

“We (Montano and Doyle) kinda always was in contact with each other, so it’s not a thing like I created it first and went to them.”

Lawrence has been a producer for about 18 years. He also produced the 2019 Road March-winning song Famalay by Montano, Doyle and Ian “Bunji Garlin” Alvarez.

He said the beat itself for Conch Shell did not take much time to create as he did it within one afternoon.

“Music is simple, that’s why. Once you catch the vibe, just do it one time and don’t waste no time. Don’t stick.”

Asked how George ended up on the track, he said, “Well, Iwer was like our surprise guest because we have been pushing the whole aspect of togetherness and thing ever since last year with Famalay.

David Benjamin of Dominica, second from right, blows a conch shell as Iwer George, Machel Montano and Skinny Fabulous perform their 2020 song Conch Shell. - AYANNA KINSALE

“We just wanted to continue down that line nah, so that’s how Iwer was the next family member to come into the team.”

He reminisced on the 2019 Carnival season, saying it was a unique year for soca music and he hoped Famalay could help “bring the Caribbean together.

“The success of it was one that was expected from me because we’ve never really had a song like that (in the Caribbean) before.”

In addition to Dominica, the conch shell is used during Carnival celebrations in other countries such as Grenada. For example, their version of the traditional Carnival character the jab jab usually blows into the shells when playing mas.

While this is not as common in TT, Lawrence and the artistes were still confident the concept would work.

But when the song was officially released on January 15, in addition to many being shocked George and Montano collaborated, the reactions on social media were of mixed views.

But Lawrence was not concerned and expected it to catch on eventually.

“With everything that is new, that is the reaction.

Neil “Iwer” George, left, David Benjamin, Machel Montano, Gamal “Skinny Fabulous” Doyle and Krishna “Dada” Lawrence. -

“So you have to just give people time to warm up to it because it’s actually something that is really good. So likewise, people ended up liking it more and as you see, it’s one of the biggest songs.”

Conch Shell and Stage Gone Bad by Kees Dieffenthaller and George were the two songs people believed were the strongest contenders for the 2020 Road March battle. In the end, Stage Gone Bad was victorious and Conch Shell placed second.

“Well I mean, with a team like Skinny, Machel Montano, Iwer George and myself...

“Seeing that the Conch Shell – which is something so unique – could be a contender, it just goes to show the power such a unique riddim has, and also the appreciation people from Trinidad have for our culture. It’s a good vibe.”

But, he said, he thinks Stage Gone Bad is a “cool track” and a “really nice song.”

He said Carnival in TT is a great experience when he participated last year, but this year...

“I attempted to play mas but I couldn’t keep up because I’ve been in TT for so long (three weeks) and was going everywhere. I was too tired.”

But he said being among party-goers and masqueraders and seeing people’s reactions to the music he created is a great feeling.

“It goes to show that the music is connecting well with the people and the audience, and that’s what the objective is when you’re a creator of music.”

Some of his 2020 soca favourites include Boss Lady (Sign me Up) by Kees, Captain by Hey Choppi, Play Harder and Loyalty by Montano.


"Give dem shell: Producer explains how Conch Shell was made"

More in this section