Carnival is upon us, plenty rum, music and feteing! Unless you spend your days on Redonda hanging with the goats chances are you know what MnM Music is. If you don't, you're welcome in advance, now's your chance to get to know Menace, Melo and Boasta and find out what's behind the men and their music. Peep this interview that originally appears on Kulcha Matters a culture blog brought to you by the students of University of West Indies Western Jamaica Campus.
KM: When was the group formed?
Melo: We have been together ever since childhood, from preschool come up.We have grown together. We had a group called Southsidaz. At first we mainly sang dancehall, but we wanted to give back to our culture...so we just decided to…give back.
Menace: Soca is where you tend to get your voice heard (in Antigua and Barbuda).Additionally, when we first started MnM Music Boasta wasn't on island,so when he came back we just stuck to the name because we were already generating some traffic.
KM: What are your musical and cultural influences?
Boasta: I’m gonna say the Burning Flames along with Swallow. I love Swallow , wicked artist and elder in the business. Every time you hear a Swallow it make you want to move! All dem horn and all
the music. I grew up listening to Burning Flames so that’s my thing.
Melo: For me, I love the genre in general; calypso-soca so I'll take everybody from Burning Flames to Vision Band to Dread and the Baldhead, King Obstinate,Short Shirt...Young Destroyer was one of my favourite calypsonians growing up. My Father is a calypsonian, so that kind of pushed me down the line too. Claudette Peters too. She gave us the first step out with a live band.
Menace: We are very much influenced by some types of genres like hip hopand dancehall, definitely the reggae with artists like Chronixx.We are touched by Bunji Garlin, Fayann, Machel Montano, Kerwin Dubois, Kes the Band, Rick Ross. In this day and age, you cannot be in-fluenced by one style I get inspiration from all different types of music. Music has a way of breaking boundaries. It tends to reach you, you may not understand the language but you feel the beat and the melody
KM:It is a popular argument that the ‘Antiguan’ sound is being lost as Antiguan artists bid for relevancy and to be competitive on the regional scene. What are your thoughts on the issue?
Melo: The answer to that question is in our music. Boasta has that song Old Time Something that has a whole Antiguan feel to it. We just trying to stay true to the art. A lot of artists may run from it, maybe, but wejust trying to stay true to it while still adding an international feel.
Menace: Music is a thing that always evolves, and always tends to twist and turn to adapt to the situation so I wouldn't say that the Antiguan sound is being lost, it is just being remixed. You have to adapt. If youlook at songs like Bunji’s (singing) “Big truck on the road” that got a lot of exposure in terms of the EDM feel. So you notice other artists jump on the band wagon because it’s working.
Melo: If you check that song for Menace Unruly, it has that pop feel,but at the end of the day the lyrics and the content that he’s pushing out are 100% Antiguan, but the beat is a different beat. We just trying to revolutionise the music but at the same time give it that Antiguan spice.
KM: Have we lost our musical identity?
Menace: The unique Antiguan sound is benna.
Melo: I would say Burning Flames (type of sound) with live iron. What we think we need to do with the music…it's kind of losing its way because everybody wants to go international. So the music is evolving. What we would try to do is to get that live iron and see how we can evolve it and rebrand it and bring it back as benna music.
Boasta: I think we need to come up with a new one, to get a new genre.The live iron for Burning Flames was a good one, but I think we watered it down to the ground. It will come naturally I believe.
KM:Are you prepared for this challenge of championing the cause of reviving an Antiguan sound and keeping it alive?
Menance: We have fought all the necessary challenges that we could have fought in terms of not being a one hit wonder; we have fought a lot of negatives so definitely we are blessed individuals. So bring it on!
KM: What do you associate with the Trinidadian sound?
Menace: Trini production is tight, they have a market so even though a song is not 100% they def. know how to market.
Melo: They do what we are trying to do in Antigua, yes we have the music,but there are a lot of things that surround the music, and in Trinidad they do that very well in terms of marketing and branding.So that’s what we are trying to do as well. Normally in Antigua we put out the music and let the music talk for itself, we are trying to bring out the music bring out shirts, bring out our blog behind the music, be on the radio, talk to people, get ideas, so we are always trying.Everything we do is about the music, in terms of helping the music get to the point where we need it to be.
KM: Is there anything wrong with non-Trinidadians sounding this way?
Menace: I have no problem with that. To each his own. If it works for you then stick with it.
Melo: Us personally, we just do us. If someone wants to do that then it’s up to them, as long as it’s good music I am down. Straight, whetheryou come from Antigua, Trinidad or Barbados once is good music I will listen.
KM: What were some of the challenges you faced in getting started?
Melo: You know how hard it is to take as a young individual, making minimum or below minimum wage and have to invest that in music? A beat costs thousands of dollars. Let’s put it this way. When Menace got to the stage last year by the time we collected the winnings and took out everything, blessed be to God that we got so far, by the time we took out everything me nuh think ahwe have one soda money, and that was four songs. This year we have four and we wanted to bring out eight. We couldn't afford to do that. The biggest challenge is finance.
KM:What was the transition like from ‘regular joe’ to artist?
Boasta: We are individuals who are down to earth, we deal with people. Anybody can see me in the street and be like Boasta whats up. It’s like nothing is different. It’s all the same. To me no matter how far I get I am going to be the same Boasta. I’m gonna be that same person. I’m not gonna change.
Menace: The work has gotten more intense. We have to deal with our presentation more, pressure to be better in terms of our performance. Personally, I haven't gotten to just do myself in a long while, in terms of playing basketball or just walking and chilling down the road because there are objectives that I have to fulfill. Other than that, same Menace,Melo and Boasta.
It kills relationships nuh. You are focused on getting somewhere and then you tend to ease of doing things with your girlfriend. You plan to go somewhere with them and it clashes, and then work takes