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September 28, 2014 www Sunday Guardian
A REVIEW OF CLIFFORD CHARLES'
NEW JAZZ ALBUM BY MARK LYNDERSAY
Let's acknowledge up front that Clifford
Charles is a skilled and inventive guitar player.
His approach to interpreting songs is nimble
and adventurous and his backing band on this
work is capable enough.
The thing that the guitarist is trying to do
with this album may simply not be possible,
Charles spends the first two-thirds of his
album trying to wring jazzy interpretations
out of popular recent soca songs.
His choices for this treatment are certainly
appealing songs on their own. Destra's It's
Carnival and Call my Name, Kerwyn Du Bois'
Bacchanalist, Bunji Garlin's Differentology and
David Rudder's Bacchanal Lady all come in
for musical review and reinterpretation.
There are usually three ways this gets done.
The rhythm is altered, either by dramatically
speeding it up or slowing it down, it gets
replaced entirely with another style, something
quite different like ska or bossa nova, that
changes the feel of the song, or riskiest of all,
the melody gets dramatically rearranged.
But soca is a very stripped down style of
music, which isn't surprising given the way
it quite specifically targets the dance floor---
or in our case, the road on Carnival Tuesday.
In that way, it tends to resemble electronic
dance music (EDM) most closely and there
hasn't been a big rush by modern jazz prac-
titioners keen to plumb the musical possibilities
of the catalogues of Crystal Method or Armin
Van Buren or to toy with the now alarmingly
It's no surprise then that the most successful
of these reworks is Bacchanal Lady, which
was created in an era in which more than one
person was responsible for all the music that
went into a song.
Which isn't to say that the other works are
insignificant. Charles' opening chords on Call
my Name have a bittersweet, yearning quality
that brings a new beauty to Destra's under-
appreciated song and his jaunty playing on
Bacchanalist perfectly fits the song's essential
Things begin to fall apart with his over-
thinking of Differentology, which comes over
as a brooding remorse at the whole idea of
Carnival and stumbles more than once trying
to add clever musical cues to an admirably
I didn't much care for the phased electronic
piano stylings of Kittitian keyboardist Ron
Clarke, which just felt dated on a modern album,
and the generally murky mix of the recording
didn't serve the guitarist's work well at all.
I expect to find most of the soca reinter-
pretations, particularly the Destra songs and
Bacchanalist, added to the playlists of DJs
working mellow MOR sets for appreciative
That's going to be a good thing for Clifford
Charles, because his work is going to be heard
and appreciated and, most importantly, paid
But the best works on the album are the
ones buried down at the end, Soca Theme,
Say Yes and Inna d Dance, three numbers that
speak to a very promising idea of how soca's
melody can influence and direct a very acces-
sible Caribbean jazz.
All three songs are written and performed
entirely by Charles, with urgent vocals by
Chara Hoseinee Friday on Soca Theme.
Soca Theme is a driving, funky song, the
beat freed of the need to appeal to a mas-
querader in costume, galloping along at a
madcap pace urged on by the peppery strum-
ming of the guitarist.
I'd really have liked to hear his work here
more clearly in the mix, but that's remedied
somewhat in Say Yes, a delicate blending of
lavway and love song that shows off Charles'
tasteful and measured playing.
Apart from some pleasant flourishes on Call
my Name and Bacchanalist, this is the best
showcase for his work on the album and it
rewards repeated listening.
Inna d Dance is very much an island vibe
number, bouncy and agreeable and the com-
position by Charles that's most likely to get
The guitarist carves clear, fluid lines against
the gently rocking beat that hearken back to
the type of precise, unequivocal playing that
Eric Gale was well-known for.
If anything, Homeward Bound suffers by
not having a clear enough market in mind.
Jazz buffs are likely to be infuriated with his
overly respectful handling of the soca pop
songs and irritated by the mix.
DJs and casual listeners will find rich and
very usable material in his soca reinterpreta-
tions but won't have much use for his original
But it's these compositions that hold the
most promise for his future musical adven-
With some more aggressive arrangements
and less laid-back playing, Clifford Charles
has the potential to carve out a very special
place in the local jazz landscape.
Malala says that she was reading the Twilight
books by Stephenie Meyer and longing to be
a vampire when the Taliban arrived in her vil-
With the pain and longing that nostalgia
brings, Malala, the teenage girl who wrote I
Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Edu-
cation and Was Shot by the Taliban, shows
Sunday Arts Section (SAS) Book Club readers
how the freedom she cherished vanished from
her life. As a carefree girl who had a father
who promised she would always be free as a
bird, Malala did not cover her head as tradi-
tional Pakistani women did. She relied on her
father to stand up to the ultra-conservative
mullahs who complained.
But everything changed, Malala tells readers,
after 9/11 when the World Trade Center towers
crumbled to the ground after terrorists flew
airplanes into those New York skyscrapers. It
wasn't a change that happened over
night. Some of those vast changes came unex-
A devastating 7.6 earthquake on October
8, 2005 helped to create more confusion in
the region and push innocent orphaned chil-
dren into the arms of terrorists. With whole
families wiped out, Malala tells us, the
madrasas (Islamic schools) took in these chil-
dren when the government failed to support
them. Eventually they were fed into the terrorist
system. The fragile peace of the region, which
came from little or no government interference
in an area where tribes ruled, became shattered
when government troops arrived as Americans
stepped up the war in Afghanistan. Pakistani
troops often refused to bear arms against their
Malala's ability to take a complicated piece
of history and show its affect on her life and
her country is a remarkable feat. Her auto-
biographical tale of first-hand political terror
is a riveting read for any book club and any
teenager who takes the simple freedoms in
life we take for granted: boys dating girls; boys
going to parties with girls; girls being educated
with boys in school---even girls being allowed
to receive an education.
With detailed description that vividly makes
her story come alive, Malala shows how the
Taliban taking over Afghanistan and her area
of Pakistan, which shares roots with
Afghanistan, eventually changed the world's
perception of Islam.
Malala's story is notably objective. She often
shows readers what her life is like and allows
readers to make their own judgments. She
presents her flaws as well as her strengths.
Di c ion Q e ion
1. Nostalgia is a feeling that comes later in
life when older people look back on the good
things in life that are gone. In her book, Malala
looks back on her early life in Pakistan with
nostalgia. Do you think teenagers are capable
2. Malala's story is about vanishing freedoms
such as the imposition of restrictions on the
way Pakistani women are allowed to dress or
interact with others. Do you think these con-
servative movements associated with the Mid-
dle East can spread to any country?
3. How would you feel if your daughter
could no longer attend school? Would you
take the chance to educate her secretly if it
was against the law?
A B C
A B C
Once a ca ef ee gi l
Gi l ed ca ion ac i i Malala Yo af ai
Homeward bound, but going where?
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