Bundles of Joy
Folks! It's samba-soca-calypso suffused with dub, rap, bossa, jazz and a hint of New World sound. In 1999 Mark Andre Augustus, aka Andre, came to the hilly outskirts of the capital, Port-of-Spain - to Laventille - an area reputed for rising murder rates. This clean-cut gentleman was an odd ball as the Laventille Youth Facility Manager yet well-adjusted while situated next to Trinidad and Tobago's premier steelband, the WITCO Desperadoes Steel Orchestra. Rawle 'Little Bit' Flemming is the steelband's drummer and Rikky Andre Robely, aka 'Psycho', it's former vice-president and pan virtuoso. Young recording artists flocking to the studio were unknowingly helping Augustus, Robely and Flemming fine-tune their arranging skills by offering free services to produce their songs for radio. BUNDLES OF JOY, used experimentally to pay young struggling artists from a depressed community for their contributions to this work, is an effort to serve the poor. As Andre would often ask: 'Where do you think God would hide a treasure - in the lap of luxury or a dump?' Andre's father, ne Earl Augustus, later Avelar de Tavernier, was another major influence: 'Marimba' and 'We Must Dance' go all the way back to 1975-78 when they began writing together. In 1989, he recorded a ballad version of 'Carmel' which his dad wrote in the mid-eighties after a visit to California. But Avelar passed on in 2001. Then, in 2006, while rummaging through some cassettes, he stumbled on an a capella recording: it was his father's voice with a full lyrical version - the perfect opportunity to reproduce it as a bossa nova. But 'We Must Dance' is his favourite father-son collaboration - some filler lines captured by David Bertrand's luscious multi-track flutes are supported by a catchy Lord Kitcheneresque 'Sugar Bum Bum' bass line and royally crowned with Robely's double-second pans. Throughout the album are some subtle Brazilian motifs and chants. Antonio Carlos Jobim is Andre's single-most admired composer. Everywhere the rastro - the track of beauty - can be sought and found, even amidst the vicissitudes of life. From Brazil to Laventille, from uptown to the ghetto, gentle and roughhewn worlds collide in the track 'House o' Jam.' About 'Horizons', the composer admits that he wrote it's basic form via the emotional release on leaving a cult at his father's intervention when he was just 16. Know too that 'Chillin'', like 'Mornin',' was a Music Production and Sound Engineering class project - Lawrence Taylor and Glen Patrick egging their teacher on. His friend Yann Mellet in Philly kept nudging him to quit his 'niceness' and acquire an edge, hence the subject matter in what was formerly an instrumental track. Mark Andre Augustus was born on February 24, 1959 and in 2006 turned 47 years: the total time on his CD reads 47:59 and like that happy coincidence, BUNDLES OF JOY also marks a real milestone in his development.