Boomkat Product Review:
Sterling, synth-heavy soca mutations from Trinidad & Tobago, 1984! A far ahead-of-its-time fusion of calypso/soca and disco rhythms with electronic instruments. Somewhere in orbit between Claude Rodap and Francis Bebey. Includes unmissable zingers in the irresistible bounce of Let’s Get Together and D’Hardest. Highly recommended!
“Shadow is a man of understated magnitude. A truly enigmatic artist, he first emerged in Trinidad and Tobago during the 1970s, becoming a part of the tapestry of Caribbean music and reinvigorating calypso at the time. Calypso, the indigenous folk music of Trinidad and Tobago, has roots in West African kaiso rhythms, French Creole influences, and the hardships endured by the African slaves brought to Trinbago, whose descendants still use it as a tool for satire, self-expression, and social commentary. Calypso has also given birth to several other music genres, including soca, with its uptempo beats and festival context. Shadow effortlessly moves between both.
Shadow came from a humble but musical family and started writing songs as a youth while tending cattle in the fields. To his family’s initial chagrin he chose calypso over church music but his talent and drive were undeniable. In the early days of his career Shadow’s style was cramped when working with some of the more conservative music arrangers who felt that calypso and soca should fit a mould. But after a while Shadow teamed up with more innovative arrangers, including Arthur “Art”de Coteau, who followed their and Shadow's intuitions resulting in a long line of hits.
Sweet Sweet Dreams was recorded at the legendary SHARC studios, located on a hill in Chaguaramas (near Port of Spain) and despite a fantastic sound and monster Soca-boogie tunes like “Lets get it together”, “Lets Make it Up” and “Way, Way Out” the album was a commercial flop, probably due to the fact that it didn’t sound like anything else coming out of Trinidad & Tobago at the time: It fused a range of different rhythms and new sounds, primarily heavy synth riffs.
Shadow took the album’s lack of success in his stride with usual aplomb:
“When I did Sweet Dreams I expect something could happen. But nothing big happen because I have no big market and no distribution and all this thing now. So I just cool myself and move on to another song. I wasn’t doing just one song. I used to always have plenty songs at the one time. And be writing music”.
What Shadow didn’t realise back then was that the proto-electronic cocktail he had mixed in 1984 would only find the recognition it deserved three decades later. Life has swung full circle: Sweet Sweet Dreams has come true and been elevated to holy grail status becoming one of the most sought-after Caribbean disco records in existence. Asked about this turn around Shadow mused “I’m trying to understand that part. A lot of people ask me for it over a few years now. But I never give anybody it. That music wasn’t for then. It’s for now”.”