Can you feel the love that’s in the air and on the airwaves?
Freetown Collective's hit Feel The Love is spreading good vibes. For that, you can thank not only the band but also producers Ryan “DJ Private Ryan” Alexander, Kevin Licorish, Keron “Sheriff” Thompson and Keshav Singh.
The track speaks of the love and joy people experience during Carnival celebrations. Its catchy hook, strong harmonies, along with the sounds of the pan and guitar helped this song move its way to the hearts of people in TT.
The band's lead singer, Muhammad Muwakil, said he feels the world is in need of healing, and that a lot of people depend on music to assist. That's why he wrote this song.
Muwakil and his friend and fellow spoken-word artist Lou Lyons (lead guitarist) formed the band in August 2010.
This is a bit different from their usual tracks. They often describe their sound as "new calypso," and Alexander said this song was the band's introduction to the world of soca.
The track is on YouTube and streaming platforms including iTunes, Tidal, Spotify and Deezer. It's also featured on their EP Yago, which was released on February 26.
The first step
The team began creating the track in 2018. Thompson told Newsday Alexander and Licorish created the “shell” of the beat, which then led to contributions and negotiations from the other members.
“Kevin added a couple more elements, and then, later on, they came to me and I did a little bit of drum programming, some percussion…The guitars were mainly me, but everyone added in elements at different points. We kinda real messed with the formula. But everyone had their hands in it.”
This “shell” he is referring to can also be heard on Kees Dieffenthaller’s Reason to Love (also produced by Alexander).
Alexander said the original concept came from Licorish and himself, leading up to his 2018 party Soca Brainwash: The Wonderland. He said it would have been the soundtrack for the event.
“I thought, ‘What is this euphoric feeling that we chase? What is it that makes us so in love with Carnival?’ So it was kinda like a festival soca song, which is why when you listen to the lyrics, you hear it has descriptions of what makes us so special in terms of Carnival.”
He said while he did not tell the songwriter – Muwakil – what to write, he explained the mood and vibe he wanted the track to create. Licorish co-produced the song with Alexander, and they agreed to send it to Muwakil to “see what he would come up with lyrically.”
Thompson said his approach to production is always “musical,” so that factor was inevitable.
“I think Ryan was going for something that has the weight of any regular Carnival song, that has a jam or drive, but he wanted it a bit more musical, and encompassing the love aspect, because most of the songs around Carnival is jam, wine, parties, girls…”
Although it was two years before it was released, Muwakil believes it happened at the perfect time. It was finished too late in the Carnival season to release it in 2018 and was eventually released on December 20, 2019.
Alexander agreed: “From the time I heard the demo Muhammad did, I knew the song was special.
“When I realised, I held it back. I didn’t wanna waste this as one of those rushed songs that come out and people overlook.”
Power in unity
Muwakil began the song with the melody of the chorus; the lyrics followed eventually.
“The power of Carnival really unites us. I was just hoping that people get that moment on the road to appreciate the grandness of what we have here.
“In the world, these types of gatherings only really occur for protests, war… Here we gather in love. The festivities are rarely marred by those kinds of things, and that’s a blessing. That’s a serious blessing”
Licorish said the song is a “significant testimony” to what soca can sound and feel like if more time is spent on projects.
“Feel the Love is a song that represents that happy medium between a song that works well in the season as well as one that can translate beyond it.”
The beat was sent to Singh to add percussion and to do additional production. He also
mixed and mastered the track. Mixing refers to getting the relative levels between instruments to the way you want, and mastering is adding the finishing touches and fine-tuning the track to prepare it for commercial use.
“It was a great chance for us all to work together and collectively bring out a song from the heart.”
He was very happy to be included in such a “beautiful and timely record.
“The fact that topically, it isn't contextually Carnival-specific, yet retains and celebrates the Carnival spirit in such a beautiful way makes this record one for the ages.”
There is also an alternative version of the song. It’s more relaxed, with more vocal runs from Muwakil. Alexander wanted a more emotional feel.
“I wanted to have a version which showcases or highlights his vocals in a more powerful way. And also, there were some vocal takes that he did that weren’t in the final version.”
Love and freedom
Muwakil has two favourite lines in the song.
The first is, “Feel my love unfolding like a laughing flame.”
“I love when I hear songs that have some level of poetry and you can feel something. It’s a real joy to be able to put out (a line) like that. And the image of a laughing flame always makes me laugh.”
His second favourite is, “People live 1,000 lives and never feel this free.”
He believes it resonated with most people.
“Our ancestors went through a lot of hardship for us to be where we are today. Thousands of lives were lived, people came and they died and never experienced the kind of freedom we experience now. To this day, nations on this planet have no idea about the freedom we experience here.”
Thompson said his favourite parts were more rooted in the production: the guitars and the pan at the end were both beautiful.
For Licorish, it was the breakdown at the end of the track.
“It gave us the ability to solo out and highlight some of the more subtle but important parts of the song
parts that contributed majorly to its magic.”
Alexander said the introduction and the outro are his favourite parts but feels the song has “many powerful parts” throughout.
The song was played at several events throughout the Carnival season, but listeners appeared to notice it more after Carnival.
Muwakil said, “I am just elated that people are latching on to it in that way because it means there is a space (for this type of music).
“Even hearing the song on the road, it was very stand-alone to me, because it didn’t sound like anything else, and it was very weird for me seeing people singing these lyrics.”
He said he may have underestimated how relatable other people would find it.
For Alexander, the feeling hasn’t really sunk in.
“I’m appreciative, but I think the song's journey that has now begun. It will resonate in other countries, and it has the potential to go international.”
He said it wasn’t created to win Road March or Soca Monarch. They just wanted to make “really good music.
“It spoke to the souls of the people. No bacchanal, no jump and wave. Just love.”
Licorish said conversations about how soca can be more globally accepted have been going on for years. Context is part of that challenge, as it could be “easily lost” if you are not part of Carnival, since most of the music is so connected to the festival.
Alexander said he is already working on new music with the band.