10 Great Funk And Disco Tracks From Trinidad & Tobago

The islands might be best known for Soca, but there's a whole world of other gems gathering dust in vinyl boxes...
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Whilst your mamas and papas were letting loose in the ‘70’s to the Bee Gees, Van McCoy and Silver Convention, there was an unprecedented growth of 4-to-the-floor, booty shakin’ goodness burgeoning in and around the Caribbean islands of Trinidad & Tobago.

Back in May last year, crate digger, musical supremo and unsurpassed bad man Daniel Plessow a.k.a. Motor City Drum Ensemble unleashed a new wave of music that was previously alien to me. Opening his Boiler Room set, Mr Plessow played something that sounded like it was being played out of a concealed discotheque hidden inside the pyramids of ancient Egypt and so distinct, it resembled some sort of out-of-this-world species delivering this fresh joint of Disco goodness down to us here at planet earth for these Ancient Egyptian Pharaohs, Kings and Queens to funk along to.

This hypnotic form of Disco was in fact, borne out of Trinidad & Tobago, its brainchild being Stephen Encinas a one man writer, producer, singer and musician phenomenon.  The story goes that the track ‘Disco Illusion’ along with several other records were discovered in a storage unit where a bunch of old records from Trinidad & Tobago’s legendary (and now defunct) Rhyners Record Shop were stored when they decided to shut up shop. These records were re-discovered by Toronto’s ‘Invisible City Editions’, a label known for unearthing rare gems that never saw the light of day, eventually re-issuing and releasing them onto their own imprint. This label has devoted a great deal of coverage to the Funk and Disco sound that thrived and developed from the Island’s traditional Soca music of 1970s Trinidad & Tobago, distributing and releasing dozens of other records from T&T-based artists.

Through the label and my inner music-nerdiness, I have unshelled tonnes of essential diamond in the rough Disco and Funk cuts. This list will countdown 10 of the key records that will get any avid crate-digger, Funk fiend, or Disco aficionado draining their life savings quicker than you can spell Trinidadian discotheque.

 #10 – Kaylan – Disco Reggae

From their debut record released in 1977, this group fused a sun-kissed Reggae vibe that was pervasive around the Caribbean with the Disco sounds occupying New York clubs and loft spaces in the mid-to-late 70s.

 #9 – Hamilton Brothers – Let Me Be Your Lover

This track does an incredibly sleazy, and almost cringe-worthy intro, but that shouldn’t put you off. Once the Hamilton Bro’s start to flex their funk muscle, it really kicks. A strutting bassline, popping cowbells and rubbery synthesizers makes this a true Trini-funk gem.

 #8 – Nadie La Fond – Three Way Situation

Slithering synthesizers, beaming laser effects, shit loads of shrill sax and Nadie La Fond’s sultry vocals all add to this recipe of sexy, galactic disco.

 #7 – Patti Charles – Music Lady

A super rare slice of Funk from the Caribbean islands. The percussive breakdown from 1:10 that shoots back into the four-to-the-floor drums and synth/bass-line hook kills it.

 #6 – Oluko Imo – Praise Jah

Tropical Afro-Funk courtesy of Oluko Imo, getting the vibe right with the percussive rhythms, and cosmic textures. This was featured in the ‘Disco ‘O’ Lypso’ compilation, choc-a-block with golden tunes, by Disco obsessive Dimitri From Paris.

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#5 – Bobby Raven – Soca Fusion

With a thriving, in your face horn section, driving percussion, a trademark jittery clavinet, Bobby Raven’s ‘Soca Fusion does what it says on the tin, fusing the island’s musical heritage of Calypso and Soul otherwise known as Soca with a full on Funk freak-out.

 #4 – Embryo – Wajang Woman

Embryo’s ‘Wajang Woman’ starts with some dreamy key melody and an unmistakable bass/synth combo, setting it right, conjuring up a sun-kissed Caribbean vibe.

 #3 – Levi John – Let’s Make Music

Levi John’s vocals absolutely smash it along with the female backers, cutting drums, screaming keys, and the frenetic guitar. This is Funk music with gonads, raw as fuck.

 #2 – Stephen Encinas – Disco Illusion

The track that influenced this article in the first place, driving four-to-the-floor disco flipped upside down on its head with some middle-eastern spacey textures. This was re-issued by Toronto’s Invisible City Editions. It’s hard to believe this was made in 1979, the whole thing is way ahead of its time, a proto-house blueprint.

 #1 – Michael Boothman – What You Won’t Do For Love

This is Michael Boothman’s cover of Bobby Caldwell’s ‘What You Won’t Do For Love’, featuring the heart-melting vocals of Charmaine Forde. Also re-issued by Invisible City Editions, the record received a serious amount of new-found acclaim last year for its refreshing tropical take on a classic song.

A Youtube playlist of the tracks is here

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