Yes, Virginia, there is an alternative Trinidadian music scene. Over the last few weeks it’s been my hope to bring to light the reality that when it comes to musicians in Trinidad one size doesn’t fit all. Although homogeny may be the name of the game on the airwaves (especially at this time of the year), on the ground, the young and not-so-young, continue to give expression to their soul’s yearnings using a myriad genres and fusions that suit them best. With little budget and even less institutional support they write, collaborate and on occasion even find avenues for live performance.
One such artist is Ravi Maharaj a.k.a a_phake. A local fixture on the electronic dance music scene, he is also a singer/songwriter whose style draws as much from alternative rock as it does DJ culture. I was excited to get to know him, and his collaborator producer Baidawi Assing of Detnator.com over the course of preparation for tonight’s episode, and I hope you will be as excited by their work as I am!
TG: Do you have any particularly prized CDs in your collection? If so, what are they and why do they hold special value to you?
a_phake: Funny you asked that question, as over the holidays I threw away most of my CDs! It was like looking back at your relationships, old girlfriends etc. and realizing that some couldn’t help but be transient whereas others were just meant to stay on; to grow with you.
Richard Ashcroft’s Alone With Everybody & the Doors Live at the Hollywood Bowl; a double album, have both stuck it out with me- they’re like the wife material of music!
But why? I really dunno nah! Maybe it’s like food. Some burn quickly like sugars & carbohydrates. Whereas others, like proteins, become part of your structure & help you to grow. That’s why when you hit the play button, a prized album will play from inside you, rather than in front of you.
Great records, like The Book of Secrets by LoreenaMcKennitt or Homogenic by Bjork, also exhibit very sublime artistic values. They can reach beyond the technicalities of music into more abstract and unconscious realms. Think about a pot of soup. When you want all the hidden goodies that are lurking in that pot, you serve from deep inside. You lunge the spoon in, turn it up a bit and then serve. You don’t just skim the surface. Good records aren’t just gravy.
TG: Who are some of your other favourite musical acts?
a_phake: Right now Man Without Country, Detnator, Kattronique, Munkiwi & Nathan Marcelin are very exciting emerging artists. Foster the People made a great impression with Torches & I would love to hear what they come up with next. These guys and gals will, if they continue to persist & grow, redefine music for the new generation.
TG: What 3 things do you value most in life right now?
a_phake:1. My health & all it entails
2. Being able to maintain a creative space for myself amid various responsibilities; to not let my dreams drift but to stay focused.
3. The relationship I have with my girlfriend
TG: What do you prefer to cook and eat at home?
a_phake: Home made Pizza is a fav. Pasta a close second. I’m also a sucker for soup. Mmmmmmmm!
TG: What is your funniest kitchen incident?
a_phake: When I was a teen, I decided to make some coffee to help me pull an all- nighter. I ended up making coffee syrup because I left the pot on the stove for like two hours!
Listen to a_phake (and collaborator detnator) on the 5th episode of “Sweet Han’: Caribbean Cooking with Sarina”.