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Jus Now signs with Warner

Trini producer Keshav Singh’s partnership with British DJ pays dividends
Published: 
Thursday, November 16, 2017

Keshav Singh has ten songs to finish in two weeks. Carnival is coming.

“It’s the usual suspects as well as some young and coming artists,” he said, as he attempts some revision on a 3Canal piece at the Big Black Box on Murray Street.

Under the production team Jus Now, Keshav (formerly LAZABeam) and partner Sam Interface, have produced soca music with EDM influence for Bunji Garlin, Machel Montano, 3Canal. While the 2018 is still young, Singh prefers to keep his productions under wraps. Among Jus Now’s well-known pieces are Bunji’s 2013 hit Savage, a layering of Bunji’s lyrics about social behaviour atop the classic calypso by Maestro; in 2014, it was the megahit Truck on D Road. “My ethos has always been to maintain but upgrade tradition. It’s about paying respect, musically,” Singh said. In 2015, they released a successful collaboration with him and Stylo G, Tun Up.

It is the latter that got the attention of music producers, through a former producer at 3Beat took a sample of Tun Up to Warner Bros, where he now works. Through 2 Tone Entertainment, Jus Now has signed with Warner Bros. The US record label has had music legends Cher, Eric Clapton, Nile Rodgers and Prince in its stable. Jason Derulo and Adam Lambert are also there.

On the heels of this signing is the big reveal on November 17 when a new international single will be released. The song will have the vocals of a top dancehall artiste layered on dance music which premiered earlier this year at the Glastonbury festival.

The signing to an international label is of national importance. For one thing, Singh believes this is the launch pad to present soca music to the world. Although this has been a goal of many Trinidad performers and has been repeated to the point of mantra, Singh says now the time is right. “Carnival music is an attitude and a way of life rather than something based on a particular date or time of year,” he said. Orlando Octave’s Single and Voice’s Far from Finished are examples of the adaptable themes. Regardless of substantial or playful writing, what will take the soca closer is the universality of topic and high production value.

“Trinidad (in the days of early calypso just before the Andrew Sisters sang Lord Invader’s Rum and Coca Cola) had an early recording history. We lost it and we are finding our feet again,” Singh said.

The signing, he said, marks the fact that Warner has a keen ear focused on Caribbean music which will open doors to more adventurous Caribbean artists.

He also believes the popularity of Carnival has helped now the elements of the festival, such as the music can be exported as a commodity. The one vantage point, Singh said, is industry professionals are buying into it. It’s a case of supply and demand. The question of identity was also raised with the export of soca music. To which he replied: “There is ample opportunity to articulate or establish our position as a creator of the artform…The onus is on us to represent what we do best. We have a model that is enviable. We have to get our home in order before the international digestion of our culture.”

Keshav Singh is the son of retired diplomat Chandradath Singh. Although he grew up outside of Trinidad, with a mixed accent of Canadian and British as proof, Keshav’s heart always belonged here. He started producing music at 15. 3Canal confirmed his path in 1997, when his dad hosted the rapso group, Ataklan and Machel Montano at the T&T consulate following their performance at Midem Music Festival, France.

A percussionist in his own right, Singh’s rhythms are inherent. His production savvy was enhanced by his holiday internships at Caribbean Sound Basin even as he came to Trinidad every year to train with the Under-17 and Under-23 national football teams. During that time, he would take cassettes to then producer in demand $hel $hok (the late Sheldon Benjamin) and 3Canal.

Football and music continued to consume his attention. In 2005, he returned to Trinidad to pursue a career in football but a dislocation injury did not carry it further. His union with music partner Sam Interface was a chance meeting during a visit to Bristol. The combination has created international music for Beenie Man, DJ Fresh, Afro Beat pioneer Fuse ODG and a few pop singers in the UK. The soca was never forgotten and like Jillionaire - Trinidadian Christopher Leacock, the duo continues to support the local product. Last year, he and his brother opened a recording studio in St Ann’s.

“We are contributing to the world—the first time in this generation to have a strong international presence,” Singh said.

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