Since only 1600 people in all of the internet have listened to Bunji Garlin’s “Brrrt” on MySpace, we are upping it here and putting up our Gen F on Bunji from the current issue after the jump. Bunji’s album Global is out on JA major VP Records on May 22nd, and he’s got tour dates listed through August, even though all but a few are TBA. It’s called INITIATIVE!
Bunji Garlin’s crossover soca spit
By Nick Barat
Sitting on an interview couch wearing an oversized Kangol and white t-shirt, Bunji Garlin performed an impromptu accapella rendition of his single “Brrrt” this past fall on Trinidad music network Synergy TV. The title of the song comes from onomatopoeic gun talk—Seh dem have di BRRRT, when dem bus di BRRRT, when dem pass di BRRRT, when dem rise up di BRRRT—but when Bunji deliberately slowed-down his delivery to point out specific lyrics, viewers realized the club tune isn’t a celebration of the gangster lifestyle, but an angry critique: Seh dat yuh a real bad man, every day yuh walk around di streets with a chrome nine, I dun know what’s yuh deal bad man….
“Brrrt” has been a success for Bunji on a number of levels. Recorded on Massive B’s March Out riddim, it is one of the rare tracks by a soca artist to recieve spins on dancehall mixshows from Hot 97 to the BBC, and was even included on the newest edition of Greensleeves’ definitive Biggest Ragga Dancehall Anthems compilation. More importantly, the hit bolstered Bunji’s position as a Caribbean chameleon, capable of switching between lyrical themes and sonic styles with ease. Musically, “Brrrt” is tailor made for artists like Mavado and Busy Signal, and Bunji brings the right swagger and delivery to match. But when he was crowned Trinidad’s International Soca Monarch in 2004, Bunji won the competition jumping around on stage to the hyperactive soca of “Warrior Cry,” with a live show highlighted by his floor length Japanese kimono and an oversized glove that shot fireworks out of each finger.
So far, the new year of carnival releases has already brought out Bunji’s dancehall-tempo, anti-prejudice anthem “Black” right alongside the march-ready “Fire,” where he declares himself not only soca’s warrior, but the “keeper of di flame.” Yet it wasn’t always so easy for Bunji to slip between worlds. When he first started making inroads in Trinidad in the late ’90s, fans didn’t know what to call his sound: was it soca? Dancehall soca? Ragga soca? Two summers ago, following comments by Jamaican one-drop artist I-Wayne that soca was “devil music,” Bunji pit island against island by responding with “Yu Mad or Wha”: Yu mad or wha, yu bad or wha? A yu alone wan dis Trinidad or wha? Oppose a whole nation like yu bad or wha?. Garlin may be a firestarter for debates among soca fans (and foes), but he has never lost respect for sticking to his guns.