Sunday, June 17, 2012

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)

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