Freetown Collective to throw hat in Soca Monarch ring
FOR the first time since its inception in 2010, Freetown Collective has a keen interest in competing in this year’s International Soca Monarch competition.
In an interview with Sunday Newsday to promote their upcoming show Welcome to Freetown, on February 12, lead vocalist Muhammad Muwakil and lead guitarist and musical director Lou Lyons said competing in the competition this year is a move they are strongly considering.
Muwakil said, “I think it would be interesting, honestly. I mean, these things cost some money. So it might be an investment. But, beyond anything else, beyond the idea of winning it would be an interesting experiment.
“Not many people get the opportunity to be a part of those things. I think it'd be interesting to see what is it about, what it is really.
“We already relinquished the idea of winning it or not winning it. If we win it's great, if we don’t it’s okay. But there's something about these types of experiences; just to be there, to be in the midst of that...”
But for now, Mohammed said the focus is using the upcoming festival to create a space within the carnival to experience a particular depth of emotion.
Welcome to Freetown will be hosted at The Sound Forge, Christopher Samuel Drive, Port of Spain, from 5.30 to 8.30 pm. It's intended to be an immersive musical, family-friendly experience packed with local performances. There will be an interactive village, merchandise and food on sale along with games for children and other forms of entertainment.
Muwakil said, “We believe that there's so much room within the carnival for things other than just straight fete – come in, stand up, look at artists, buy some food, buy some drinks, have a good time. So we want to create a family-friendly environment, and the environment where we can come and do many different things and not just a fete.”
Tickets are available on islandetickets.com and We are Freetown on Instagram.
Lyons added the show will cater “to people's full range of emotions. So, you can come to an event and feel the intimacy of acoustics, feel contemplative, the meditative field to reflect” and release trauma caused by the covid19 pandemic.
The pandemic was a time of reflection and refocus for Freetown Collective. Lyons described it as a time the team pivoted.
“It also showed us what some of our advantages are,” he said adding, “We don't want to compete with the bacchanal, we want to complement it. So you could leave our show and still, you know climb up on the fence and through some waist.”
For this Carnival season Freetown Collective released Mas and Mighty People which has been getting positive public reviews.
The song, Mas, embodies the emotional attachment and connections of Carnival. According to Muwakil the fusion of the African drums and brass in the rhythm compliments the story of the power of Trinidad and Tobago’s Carnival.
“It represents the healing Carnival brings,” Lyons added.
Mas, a collaboration with producer and songwriter Mical Teja, was released a little over a month ago and since then it has generated 30,000 views on YouTube. One commenter under the thread described it as “the best overall product for Carnival 2023 this far.”
Muwakil said, “This song is dedicated to the essence of the spirit that brings that energy for us every year and that spirit has been holding on for us for the last 100 plus years. And I would say even more than that –centuries.”
The title of their most recent single, Might People is an inspirational upbeat soca song. It was written for “the soul’ with a renewed appreciation “for the service that Carnival provides for the spirit,” Lyons noted.
Asked for his thought on public criticism and in some cases disappointment with the quality of 2023 soca, in defence of his colleagues Muwakil said, “We just went through one of the most traumatic experiences in recent human history. And we as a generation of escapists are doing exactly what we know to do, which is pretending and pretending it didn't happen.
“The spirit of Carnival, however, was watching and recording and that collective spirit is us. And so we cannot really, on a spirit level, pretend that we didn't just have spiritual trauma. So while the bodies, the effect, the stages, the lights, everything else could set up and pretend, the trauma is there.
“Artistes (are) not immune to trauma. People are coming out of a time when they had no money, and no space to perform. They're glad to be back in the space but also saying, ‘I need my song to hit. I need to perform in these fetes because I haven't performed for two years. I need to be out in space. What people feel, I wonder what they're feeling, they must be feeling like they want to get back to the fact so I will sing about getting back to the fete.’ It’s a formula that typically works. But we (Freetown Collective) break away from that."
Lyons said he noticed one of the effects of covid19 is that it reset how people connect to music.
“Things that worked before are no longer guaranteed to work...People are a bit more decisive, and they are a bit more critical. And if the music isn't really meeting them where they are at, now post-covid19, I can see why people can feel disappointed.”
"Freetown Collective to throw hat in Soca Monarch ring"