William R. Cayetano
This is a beautiful peace of work
William R. Cayetano
It isn't often I get fired up about a new CD, Lord knows we've all had to endure a bunch o' duds lately. But this effort from Rhodee entitled "IN EXILE' is the real deal! Oh yeah, grab your hats and lunch bucket folks, we are going on a musical journey. You've got a ticket to ride, so what are you waiting for, get on board and strap in.
I've known Rhodel 'Rhodee' Castillo for a number of years now and I can attest to his no nonsense posture and uncompromising seriousness about his culture and music. He is the consummate musiculturalist. So its no surprise his first full length CD project begins with the tribal call: Sarawama - get up, wake up, move it, get on with it - to the unrelenting beat of the omnipresent primero. If I still have to explain what a primero is, shame on you! If Sarawama serves as a tune-up, Rhodee steps firmly on the gas pedal to bring us Aburugadua, a waist-moving, body-thumping, punta-rocking, butt-kicking jam that would just about cement this CD's rise to the top of any chart. But wait, this exquisite vehicle has barely left the driveway, when Rhodee eases into the on-ramp with Rubei Nun - liri Garifuna. This song is strategically placed to remind us he has that range of flexibility to cross over into reggae as effortlessly as he does punta. Rubei Nun, though a very danceable tune is the first of his songs taking on very serious cultural concerns. He wants to know the origin of his name - why are we who we are. Why were the British so intent on conquering and subsequently banishing a group of people who wanted only to farm their land and fish the sea? Why did names like Chatoyer and Duvalier (French names to be sure) suddenly become Castillo and Martinez among others? He begs and pleads, somebody, anybody, please tell me. His people having been displaced from their homeland, Rhodee bangs hard for repatriation or at least reparation.
If you've stuck with the program this far and paid the toll, Rhodee accelerates deftly into the left lane, shifting to overdrive with the hard hitting Mabuiduti. On a scale of 1 to 10 this song is flat out a 12. He showcases the drummer and displays his own vocal versatility while keeping the beat at a high level engaging in a playful give and take with his backing vocalists. This song is sure to get lots of air time in the future and I'm guessing will become a mainstay at ensuing cultural events around the world. Then virtually without warning he slams on the brakes as we're steered headlong into a religious ceremony. Warueite - a typical call and response art form that has survived across at least two or three centuries of the Garifuna experience dating back to West Africa. Fact is, the art form is still in practice even today. It just seemed logical to include Ida Liasan, virtually the National Anthem of the Garifuna nation, sung at weddings, funerals, wake , mass or just about any gathering for any purpose. Here's Rhodee 's own take on the title track: 'In Exile' is a painful reminder of what has become of us in foreign lands. A journey filled with exploitation, attempted enslavement, and racism.
By now his Reggae roots have firmly taken hold and the Marley influence is all too apparent. The marleyesque reggae riffs complementing the in-your-face backing vocals are quite reminiscent of the Wailers climb to prominence. That said, Bob himself would have been proud of this effort. Peace Treaty starts out with so much musical promise but a full minute was all we'd get. My disappointment at this abbreviated cut quickly deteriorated into pure anguish listening to the painful reality painted by Genocide. The name needs no further explanation! Thankfully Rhodee kept that topic to a minimum as well. Although Uganu is a lighthearted beat, its subject matter is no less troubling. Uganu means news, in this case bad news, as the lyrics talks to our young people getting caught up in the weed/crack trap and the inevitable results. Somewhere down the line we'd have to climb back out of this depression and Rhodee wouldn't just leave us diehards in the mind-numbing, gut-wrenching, emotion-draining experience of Genocide would he? Course not. Back on the street in cruise control, he made a plea to return to Yurumein, not necessarily in a physical sense of course. I'm gonna step out on a limb and assert this return is meant to be a more spiritual, mental revisit, if you will. Perhaps, for no other reason, than to remind ourselves how great and proud the culture used to be back in the day. Just like that, the session ends, and quite appropriately so, with a song titled Garifuna Au, an unquestionable affirmation of his Garifunaness. Pure yet elegantly said. That is as powerful a statement as any Garifuna can make!
As a musician/sound engineer, I enjoyed this piece of work on several levels. From the moment Rhodee cranked the ignition switch, it was obvious a great deal of careful preparation went into making this CD. The lyrics are thoughtfully crafted to make a point and sung with conviction. Listen to the way he pays respect in Labiruni Nura. Who else can phrase a song with such delicate balance and deliberate timing? I was more than mildly impressed with the song selection layout and the fabric he's able to weave with his story telling. I haven't even given enough credit to his backing vocalists, shame on me since they sound truly wonderful. I've gotta give some props though to the sound engineer(s). They, as many of you know by now, can make or break a recording. Without delving into the technical aspects, I will say, they earned their money with this project. The careful sprinkling of sound effects (did you miss the early morning rooster crowing in Sarawama, the sound of waves in In Exile), liberal use of synthesizers, dynamics processing and what seems like a big time job of mastering all combine to make this a must have for your collection. If this is the trend we're likely to see and experience in the future, I'm personally pumped. Mohobub and Andy P set the bar within the last decade or so and I dare say Rhodee has moved that bar up a notch or two. You know, maybe, just maybe, more of us need to be "IN EXILE."
The CD can be found in the usual places you buy your favorite music, but if you've been surfing the web and feel comfortable with the whole web buying experience, for a measly $13, you too can own this masterpiece-in-waiting from the following website: www.vgrooveproductions.com. Do let Rhodee know how you feel about his work too. That makes it all worthwhile. In the meantime, keep it on the down low. Mabuiga!..................