Sunday, June 17, 2012

Swankie Music Sampler

Read the Swankie Music album's reviews by reviewers Matthew Forss and Alex Henderson then listen to the sampler here for yourself.  Double click on any of the songs to hear.

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Matthew Forss Review

Artist: King Danskie
Album: Swankie Music
Review by Matthew Forss

Born on the island of Antigua in the Caribbean, King Danskie (aka Shawn Ryan) is an innovative musician with writhing rhythms and electronic additions that are matched with equally-inventive vocals stemming from calypso, zouk, and soca musical traditions.  Swankie Music celebrates a combination of musical styles steeped with island fervor and vibrant lyrics throughout the nineteen hits contained on the new album.

“Gimme Lickle” opens with a few guttural vocals and a steady, up-tempo beat with punchy percussion and electronic accompaniment and horns.  The party-like song is rich with keyboards, horns, and drums that follow a soca vein and other similarly-structured musical traditions from the Caribbean.  The relatively unchanged vocal melodies create a soca frenzy unlike anything heard before.  The backup vocals match King Danskie’s throaty vocals, but the keyboard percussion, horns, and drums make the song stand out as a party favorite.

Swankie Music CD (Listen on Jango)
“I Want To Know” starts out with laser-like embellishments and a piano melody.  The rickety percussion and throaty vocals resemble a type of hip hop instrumental song.  Though, the vocals reflect a type of alternative pop with urban riffs and miscellaneous vocal embellishments and sounds.  The slightly laid-back approach still reflects a sense of island flavor, but it is much more reduced.

“Zouk” opens with a steel-pan intro with punchy percussion and symphonic keyboard washes. King Danskie’s fun vocals accent the fine percussion, while a few female vocals fill in the vocal range with a higher scale than King Danskie’s.  The symphonic keyboards provide a cinematic feel without losing Caribbean charm.  However, the vocals are weaker on this song, but the zouk musical style is highlighted from a mostly instrumental approach.

“Dadli Posse” begins with a few electronic vocal shouts and keyboard percussion sounds that are led by King Danskie and Fojo.  The keyboard washes and smooth vocals are accomplished by electronic manipulations of the vocals, which provide a danceable, rhythmic, and enjoyable sound overall.  The lyrical repetition and rhythmic similarities throughout make the song stand out as a stellar example of musicianship.

“On My Mind” opens with a bit of solo acoustic guitar that melds into King Danskie’s characteristic vocals with fine back-up accompaniment from female singers.  The percussion is tinny, swishy, and swanky.  Keyboard accompaniment with strings adds a cinematic presence that is also reflected on previous songs.  The island percussion and classy vocals reflects a maturity usually reserved for ballads.  King Danskie brings it all together with fine instrumentation and a cascade of vocals that come together to produce one of the best songs on the album.

“More Money” opens with a skittish keyboard beat and fast vocals with little in the way of other musical accompaniment.  The breakneck rhythms are punctuated by string-like or flute-like sounds characteristic of South Asia, but the song is uniquely Antiguan.  The urban, rap-like vocal displays are relatively fluid and unchanging throughout.  The highlight is the flute or string-like noises that reflect a slight Indo-Caribbean origin, while the lyrical-heavy wordplay is indicative of a type of rockso, which is a modern and urban form of calypso.

At any rate, King Danskie presents nineteen different hits from a calypso, zouk, and soca origin. The music reflects a good deal of instrumental variability and vocal changes that provide a party-like atmosphere without sacrificing musicianship or sound quality.  However, some of the songs are more instrumentally-favored, which deplete the vocal soundings a bit.  Still, Swankie Music sets the stage for posh calypso and soca music for a modern generation seeking something a little different. Fans of calypso, rockso, soca, zouk, and Caribbean urban music should listen to the honorable King Danskie.    

Review by Matthew Forss
Rating: 4 Stars (out of 5)

Alex Henderson Review

Artist:  King Danskie
Title:  Swankie Music
Review by Alex Henderson

All too often, artists will invent a term to describe their music in the hope that people will think their music is more interesting or adventurous than it actually is.  Sometimes, that trick works; other times, it doesn’t.  King Danskie, however, is an example of an artist who invented a term to describe his music and really does take some chances.  The term that the Antigua-born Danskie came up with is “swankie music,” which is also the name of this album.  So what is swankie?  Essentially, it is soca, an outgrowth of calypso that originated in Trinidad and is also quite popular in other English-speaking parts of the Caribbean.  Danskie, when you get down to it, is a soca-oriented artist, but his approach to soca is not generic or cookie-cutter.  And Danskie’s exuberant, energetic work incorporates elements of everything from African pop to Jamaican reggae (including dancehall) to American R&B. 

Danskie, who is now 42, favors a gruff vocal style that hints at the gruffness of dancehall reggae; Danskie is primarily a singer rather than a toaster (toasting is the style of chanting one hears in dancehall and its predecessor dubwise) or a rapper, but he injects some dancehall-ish toasting on “Carnival Time,” “More Money,” “Iwer Hand,” “We All Is One” and “Addicted.”  The dancehall influence is also quite strong on “Nah fe Bruk,” a duet with toaster Fucha Kid.  Like Danskie, Fucha Kid is from Antigua.  But while the dominant ingredient in Danskie’s swankie music is soca, Fucha Kid is primarily a dancehall artist.  And “Nah fe Bruk” demonstrates that someone from the soca world and someone from the dancehall world can have fun collaborating musically. 

Swankie Music CD Song List (Listen on Jango)
Meanwhile, a heavy R&B influence finds it way to “On My Way,” “Zouk,” “Sugar Cane” and “I Want to Know”; those tunes are still very Caribbean-sounding, but they are Caribbean-sounding in an R&B-influenced way.  And that R&B element makes perfect sense in light of the fact that American soul has influenced everything from reggae and ska in Jamaica to compas in Haiti to soca in Trinidad and Tobago.   Singer Militant is the dominant vocalist on “Sugar Cane,” but it is evident that King Danskie is the one in the driver’s seat and that everything on this 19-song album reflects his creative vision regardless of who he might feature as a guest on a particular track.

This September 2011 release has plenty of straight-up party music; “Carnival Time,” “Danskie,” “50 Years,” “Iwer Hand” and “Don’t Stop the Jammin’” all have a “let’s party” vibe.   This is not an album to listen to if one is in the mood for easy listening or wants to chill out.  Danskie can be relentlessly exuberant much of the time, and even when he calms down a bit, he still has plenty of energy and passion.  No one will mistake Swankie Music for a new age album or an album of adult contemporary ballads.

Danskie performs a duet with Guyana vocalist Fojo on “Dadli Posse,” demonstrating that a vocalist from Antigua and a vocalist from Guyana can find common ground musically.  Guyana, the only South American country where English is the dominant language, has a strongly Caribbean-influenced culture.  And when Danskie and Fojo team up on “Dadli Posse,” one can hear the cultural connection between Guyana and a Caribbean island like Antigua.

The infectious “We All Is One” is largely a shout out to the musicians of Antigua, but it doesn’t acknowledge Antigua exclusively; Danskie’s lyrics also references Barbuda, and by doing so, Danskie tells us a lot about his musical outlook.  Danskie is reminding us that he has a very pan-Caribbean perspective.

King Danskie is soca-oriented, but he isn’t a soca purist.  And his willingness to take chances yields enjoyable results on Swankie Music.

Review by Alex Henderson
Rating:  3.5 Stars (Out of 5)