“Follow me; your broken mind is hungry for asylum.” Freetown Collective, Normal (2017)
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A Team’s Mission: Music to feed the people
The A Team in Trinidad are not like the fabled mercenaries on television. Although they both have one thing in common, they are crack shots at what they do. This A-Team is a group of musicians who have played with some of the top bands in the country. As the A-Team, soca artistes know their skill.
“It has happened before, we turn up at an event and we have not done rehearsals with some of the artistes. I remember we were prepping for stage and Lyrikal was there and he was supposed to perform with tracks. Lyrikal turns around as says ‘Aye, the band here? Alyuh play for me. They (other singers) playing with tracks. Alyuh not doing that to me,’” said Brennon Virgil, the musical director for the band.
They are known as the band that can, under the most difficult circumstances, play music without dropping a note unrehearsed. Not that they are boasting, as seasoned musicians it keeps them on their toes and has given the reputation as one of the most capable bands around.
The band’s resume includes being the house band for the International Soca Monarch for the last three years. The band is often seen at some of the more popular all-inclusive parties, performing with acts such as Shal Marshall, Orlando Octave, Farmer Nappy. They were the house band at Ladies Night Out concert, at St Anthony’s Feting Tigers all-inclusive and they will hold a live performance at Central Bank’s Brass on the Plaza.
“The strength of the band is experience,” said Virgil. Some of the musicians play with Police and Fire Service bands that have reputations for deft musicianship and sharp sight reading. Add to that, are frontliners: Soca veteran Eddie Charles who has Home of Calypso and Anything Could Happen for 2017; Curlz, who has two hits Breaking Chains and Own Way (written by Nadia Batson); and new addition, Blair Thompson. Then, there’s Virgil, Keron “Trak” Robinson and Keron “Light” Harris who have known each other for “donkey years,” according to Harris. The three men have close to six decades of experience among them, each introduced to music at a very young age, starting with steelpan. Virgil and Robinson earned their certificate in musical arts from the University of the West Indies.
Considering that not many bands play with live horns, the band continues the tradition of a brass section. It is an element which Virgil claims the band to be “the last of the Mohicans.” In most live soca performances, horns are computer generated and included in the musical arrangement. The A Team insists on the “old school” flavour, using saxophone, trombone and trumpet in its ensemble.
Parallel to this, members of the band have created a production unit called LVT – named after the two Kerons (Light and Trak) and Virgil. The trio have worked with Blaxx and Ricardo Dru. Their Showcase Riddim features Lord Nelson (Soca Mammy), Marvin “Mr King” Lewis (Legacy Music) and Explainer (Soca Identity). “We produce live full music and lay it on the track,” said Virgil. On their riddim, the old meets the new in the context that they used styles and music that were trademarks of early soca to give the track its grooviness in an environment in which technology usually replaces organic music.
That is not to say they object to techno-generated music like EDM merging with the soca. “There is a balance, “said Robinson, who is the percussionist/programmer. “There are some bands who can’t do live percussion. We can do both.”
Although the riddim got radio play, that is one item off production teams to-do list. “we are not close to where LVT wants to go. We are on a mission which is not only for local music but for an international stage. We have to think big, reach big. We want to feed the world with our music,” Harris said.
For the band, the strategy is the similar. The A Team wants to feed people with music. If you are looking for them on the road for Carnival days, start with Chocolate City for J’ouvert.
The A Team comprises:
Keron Harris - Drums
Kareem Romain -Drums
Elon Ton John - Bass
Isaac John - Guitar
Kellon Douglas - Keyboard
Keyboard - Lloyd Jacott
Keron Robinson - percussion
Kerlene Joseph - vocals
Edwin Charles - vocals
Blair Thompson - vocals
Sound Engineers - Brennon Vergil, Kimani Kerr and Adrian Wilson