Etienne Charles Traces music with friends
In front of a packed audience which included the Prime Minister, Etienne Charles and Friends dug into many forms of music to deliver a blazing show.
With a line-up which included Charmaine Forde, Clifford Charles, Dane Gulston and Johanna “D Piano Girl Johanna” Chuckaree, the audience was moved through musical genres like soca and R&B, all with jazz as their foundation.
On April 15, the quartet performed as Etienne Charles and Friends at Queen’s Hall, St Ann’s.
Spektakula Promotions announced the cancellation of the show at the Southern Academy for the Performing Arts (SAPA) on April 16.
The Queen's Hall show was so well subscribed that those attending caused a slight traffic build-up waiting to enter the venue. The parking spaces were quickly filled as a result.
The show began promptly at 7 pm, with D Piano Girl Johanna playing a version of Luis Fonsi’s 2017 Despacito.
She quickly moved into a Machel Montano soca medley which had the audience clapping. She then performed her famous version of Kes’ 2020 hit single Savannah Grass. Some of the audience could be heard softly singing along as she played. When she did an acoustic cover of Nailah Blackman and Skinny Fabulous’ 2023 hit Come Home, she got up from the piano and sang it as well.
The audience eagerly responded when she instructed them to “put their hand in the air” if they believe Trinidad and Tobago is home to amazing musicians. She followed with a mash-up of two of her favourite love songs, Ed Sheeran’s Thinking Out Loud and Militant’s Passion, showing how easily soca can fit into any space and role.
Other performers also did this throughout the evening and especially by Etienne Charles and Traces, his quartet, which was next on stage.
Charles began by telling the audience people were all connected by a groove, and the band began taking on that connected journey by playing a piece which focused on Peruvian music. Charles also used the Peruvian box-shaped percussion instrument, the cajón, during the performance.
He took his audience on a journey from Morocco to TT.
A musical spotlight was put on each player and their respective instrument.
Traces is composed of trumpeter Charles, French cellist and bassist Vincent Segal, Venezuelan cuatro player Jorge Glem and Israeli bassist Or Bareket.
The quartet received very loud applause after its first couple of songs.
Charles gave explanations as the band performed.
He said, explaining how the quartet was formed, “This band started out as a French American Jazz Exchange grant that I got to write music to feature a French artist…”
The band played Bily, a tribute to Glem’s father, who also performed at Queen’s Hall in 2015.
Traces also paid tribute to the late calypsonian Aldwyn “Kitchener” Roberts during its set.
Charles said a T-shirt in tribute to Kitchener, designed by him and artist and creative director of Backyard Design Nicholas Huggins, was on sale.
“On Wednesday, Lord Kitchener would have been 101,” he said. Kitchener’s birthday would have been on April 18.
Charles also celebrated his father turning 80 on April 17.
He then played Kitchener’s Love in the Cemetery
“What I love about this story is that it gives you an idea, culturally of what TT was like back then. That is what I love about calypso, it is our history in song and it is the people’s perspective of our history in song.
“In this one he masterfully tells the story of, probably, to me, how many young Trinidadians reacted to the fact that you could not really move out of your mother and father’s house until you got married, but you still might have a girlfriend or boyfriend and might still, as Kitchener says, make a romance – but you can’t do it in your mother or father’s house. You have to improvise.”
Charles began the song with a whistling introduction.
The band's album, Traces, was on sale at the show. Charles explained it would not be streamed anywhere and was only available by
buying the LP. An LP is an analog sound storage medium and stands for long play. It is commonly referred to as a record.
He said the band’s merchandise such as its T-shirts, socks and enamel cups were also on sale.
“If you don’t have a record player, I know you have breakfast, and you remember what these are,” he said holding up the cup. “If you don’t know what this is, this is an enamel cup,” he said, drawing laughter from the audience. He said in TT it could be used for anything from tea to babash.
After the quartet’s set there was a 20-minute intermission.
Guitarist Clifford Charles began the show’s second half and he strummed the returning audience through songs like Toto’s Georgy Porgy. Etienne joined Clifford and his band on stage as they played a jazz version of Kerwin Du Bois’ 2012 popular single, Bacchanalist.
Vocalist Charmaine Forde was the next of Charles’ friends on stage. She began her set by using Olatunji’s 2023 hit Engine Room as a musical motif as she ran through some of R&B and soul’s biggest hits while conversationally engaging the audience. She was accompanied by Clifford Charles and his band.
She masterfully sang some popular R&B/soul hits such as Bobby Caldwell’s What You Won’t Do For Love and Teddy Pendergrass’ When Somebody Loves you Back. Forde sang a slow, beautiful version of the Frankie Valli's 1967 hit, Can’t Take my Eyes Off of You.
She performed her 1980 single Waiting For Your Love, written by singer/songwriter Carl Jacobs and produced by musician/guitarist/composer Michael Boothman.
Pannist Dane Gulston closed the show with a spirited performance, accompanied by his band Sweetbread. The ace pannist demonstrated the national instrument's versatility and beauty, playing popular songs from varying genres like R&B, reggae and soca.
He played his own song, A Different Shade of Silver, and was joined on stage by vocalist Adrian Philbert for songs such as Neil Diamond’s I Am, I Said.
During his performance many in the audience shouted, “Yeah, Dane, yeah.”
He ended with soca, performing Olatunji’s Engine Room, and had audience members dancing out of the hall to Scrunter’s Woman on the Bass.
"Etienne Charles Traces music with friends"