Soca from one of the world's smallest countries - but is it up to scratch?
Going into this project, while I liked calypso music, I was not a huge fan of soca music. Over a year later, and though I would not say it’s my favourite genre, I have grown to appreciate it through the musicians who are masters of that craft. While I still don’t respond to it in the way its most ardent admirers do, I do enjoy certain songs and albums that have been recommended to me. Odisi Band, hailing from the smallest sovereign state in the Western hemisphere, Saint Kitts and Nevis, certainly do not have the profile of other soca artists we have reviewed (and will review), and it is also true that they don’t have the same level of musical skill that someone like Machel Montano has. The album varies in quality from the pretty good to the, well, not so good. Nonetheless, their debut album from 2018, I Can Assure You, has a certain amount of charm to it. It does often have a generic feel to it, with many of the songs sounding similar (indeed, Feeling Lucky and Breakaway start in exactly the same way), but there is also a homemade feel to the album. There is little to no information about Odisi Band online, but it definitely feels like an album made by amateurs, recorded for the love of making music, which the band went and did without any backing, and one assumes little experience in a recording studio. One thing that does come across in addition to that enthusiasm is the energy of the band. Most evident in a song like the title track, which may well be the best song on this very short album, the party vibes and energetic vigour of the beat make me think they would probably best be experienced in a live setting. If I’m ever wandering around the streets of Basseterre, I’ll try and find out. Ultimately, if soca is your thing, then this will probably entertain and pass the time. If it isn’t, or like me, you’re ambivalent, then I doubt it will win you over. But you never know.
“... the title-track and best song on the album I Can Assure You whose frenetic tune still has enough rhythm that one could imagine dancing and whining to it.”
On this site, we always endeavour to remain as positive as possible when writing about an album. For the most part we do not publish reviews of albums that we do not like as we see our role as one that is there to celebrate culture not disparage it. That said, finding an album that we liked from the smallest country in both the Americas and the Western Hemisphere as whole proved somewhat of a challenge. Known for their carnival culture, with their main carnival rather unusually taking place during Christmas rather than over Lent, we felt that a soca album might be the best representation of Kittitian and Nevisian culture. Rather unfortunately however, I must admit that I failed to really click with the record by the Nevisians who hail from Brick Kiln, on the smaller of the two islands. Though I am sure that festivals like Culturama on Nevis would be so much fun to visit and perhaps Odisi Band might themselves put on a fantastic live show, in terms of their studio album I Can Assure You it just really wasn’t to my taste.
The opening three tracks, however, are the most inherently listenable. Feeling Lucky and Breakaway have a decent dance beat, and though I don’t like the autotuned vocals, the melody is decent enough. I find it rather interesting that both songs share the same introduction and yet still somehow feel like they are part of the same track. Followed by the title-track and best song on the album I Can Assure You, whose frenetic tune still has enough rhythm that one could imagine dancing to it. It is at this point where the album completely loses steam for me. The fast paced and cacophonous Pushin back is just the introduction to a set of songs like Whining Fever and Wuk Center that make me feel like I have been locked into a terrible Zumba class that I can’t escape. Though I don’t mind the acoustic percussive extension of the intro to I Can Assure You that follows on Pim Pim Pim when the group are joined by the Bucket Boyz I can’t help but feel that I had already given up on the album by this point. That said, I am open to hear any counter arguments to my criticism of Odisi Band and if anyone has any albums from the land where there are more simians than people, then please get in touch.