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11 years in the game and still the one to beat

BORN FOR THIS: Skinny Fabulous has been honing his craft since the 2000s

THERE ARE certain times as I do the various jobs that I do that I realise how magical getting all the elements of this music game right can be. That magical moment when a tune makes you stop, take stock, and you pull it up again, then again, then again!

Well I got that feeling from listening to the new single from Gamal ‘Skinny Fabulous’ Doyle, a five-time St Vincent soca monarch.

He was in the UK for an intimate show in north west London just as his track Famalay absolutely took over Caribbean airwaves. “Yeah, the tune is going on with things right now, but we decided to come over here and fulfill our commitments,” he told me as we linked up before he flew back to the sunshine.

“We came over for a young promoter because we like to work alongside new blood in the business and give the youngsters a chance to build their name up by working with us.”

The new track features two of Trinidad’s finest – Bunji Garlin and Machel Montano – as well as having a distinct eastern Caribbean Bouyon feel. The true essence of the melting point.

“I wanted to get the whole point of the title across – it isn’t just me rolling in here – it’s all of us, a true family. I thought one of the best ways of getting that message to the masses was alongside the two titans.”

He added: “Many people know the history of Bunji and Machel, and the fact that last year they came together – this is the next step, and shows what can happen when all Caribbean people come together.”

It’s hugely impressive. Don’t think for a second that this is just a ‘jump up at Carnival’ record – because it’s far from it. It’s infectious, drawing from a few lyrical styles of delivery from around the region, and I think it could be an absolute smash.

It’s already hit the number one spot on the iTunes reggae chart, which provoked a healthy discussion among the diaspora on whether a soca song should be afforded such a platform, or whether it is time for the genre to have its own outlet.

“It was a huge honour for me to top that chart, and also interesting to see the feedback from the community regarding it,” he tells me with a wry smile.

“I think we, as the soca community, are just now coming to the realisation of support for artists – previously support has been to come to shows or to buy a T-shirt from the artist – of course we are always appreciative of these things – but now it seems the movement towards legitimate, legal downloads, streams and such like is being taken on board.

“The free rip from YouTube seems to be a thing of the past, and people feel that they can be part of a movement that can change the way the world views the music from the region.”

And I couldn’t agree more. The man from Lodge Village on the Leeward coast of St Vincent had early ambitions to be a dance- hall artist. He studied media at The University of The West Indies and raised funds to take him to work in Jamaica.

“I pegged my dreams on that Jamaican trip, and it didn’t really work out – because you quickly get that slap of reality. If you are not a Jamaican it is extremely hard for you to get that dancehall respect.

“Everything happens for a reason, though – I redirected myself back home and decided to fuse some of the dancehall vibes I loved into music from my home.” St Vincent is very proud of him, and with 11 years under his belt as a bona de star, he feels he has now ‘smoothed out’ the rough edges of his initial forays as an artist. 2008 saw the Soca Monarch title come his way with Head Bad, and a mere five years later the recognition in Trinidad was certified.

COUNTDOWN

For the next few weeks Trinidad will be his home, as the Carnival countdown continues.
“We are planning to shoot a video for Famalay which will up the levels and show the potential in the genre, taking the track even further.”

Unfortunately, I can’t make it to Trinidad in March thanks to my hectic schedule, but if you are going down to the twin islands look out for Skinny and the crew – I’m sure you won’t be able to miss him or Famalay.

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