Leave it up to chutney soca artiste and Karma front man Ravi B (Ravi Bissambhar) to usher in a new decade and Carnival season with hit songs and more collaborations.
And his fans are loving it. In just two weeks, his single people’s anthem of 2020 “Headshot” amassed one million views on YouTube. It’s just one more song to add to the string of hits which the entertainer has had since he arrived on the scene.
The artiste’s successes on and off the stage and the awards he has earned over the years are just some of the reasons Ravi B was recently named the “Chutney Soca Artiste of the Decade’” He’s deserving of the honour; after all, the success he has enjoyed didn’t come about overnight but only after the singer/songwriter and producer worked his way up in an entertainment industry that is not exactly known for laying out the welcome mat for newcomers. In the years since “Rum is Meh Lover” was released in 2006, Ravi B has established himself as a household name and took home accolades including the Chutney Soca Monarch and Traditional Chutney Soca Monarch titles.
In an interview with Kitcharee, Ravi B opens up about his music for 2020, his latest collaboration with SuperBlue, and why he believes more could be done to export our music and culture abroad. But first up for discussion is his runaway hit “Headshot”.
“When I was recording the song in the studio, my team said ‘Yo! This is the biggest track of them all’. Music is a gamble, some songs end up being flops and others turn out to be big hits. I have learned to never underestimate my songs and the effect it will have on audiences although I must admit I was a bit surprised by people’s reaction to ‘Headshot’. It’s doing pretty well,” he says.
The singer laughs when he is asked whether “Headshot” is based on his personal life. It’s the number one question his fans ask him, he tells Kitcharee.
“All the chutney soca tracks I’ve written is based on what I see in society. I realised that no one has done a track specifically for single people in a while. When I look around I see some people who don’t want to leave the relationship they’re in because they are embarrassed about what others will say or they’re afraid that family members will laugh at them,” he says. “The message I wanted to give in ‘Headshot’ is that being alone and having that freedom could be a good thing and that a single person could still be happy.”
Every chutney soca artiste wants to put out vibes that people could dance and fete to but one gets the impression that Ravi B’s approach to his music (from lyrics to collaborations) is very strategic and intentional. For instance his collaboration with Anthony Chow Lin On, SuperBlue (Austin Lyons) and Trinidad Killa (Kern Joseph) is his way of saying that music is universal and can unite people across genres. The entertainer is as down to earth as he is talented and doesn’t insulate himself from the opinions of others. Even before he steps foot in the studio Ravi gets feedback from his team on whether a song is a hit in the making or a flop. What he sees and hears on the ground also influences his writing; that would explain why there is no mention of rum in “Headshot”.
“Chutney soca music is often stereotyped as being only about ‘rum and horn’. This is where we as artistes need to be creative about the way we construct a song. It’s not about what you say but how you say it. I don’t sing about rum in ‘Headshot’, but I do use the word ‘Headshot’ to mean knocking back a drink,” he says.
Over the span of his career Ravi B has done more than 20 collaborations. His catchy track “Gunga Ghana” with Dubraj Persad is already on rotation on the airwaves in India and he recently collaborated with SuperBlue for their song “Omalay”. It’s the first unity song since Machel and Drupatee collaborated for “Real Unity”.
“I always wanted to work with SuperBlue, he’s a legend and this is also his first chutney soca track. ‘Omalay’ also gives fans a taste of a different side of chutney music,” says Ravi B.
He is best known for chutney soca but it might be easy to forget that Ravi B can perform various genres including classical Indian music, Bollywood covers and bhajans. From as early as he can remember, music has always been a part of his life.
“I was born into music so I guess you could say my music career started when I was a child. My dad and uncle had a band ‘D. Rampersad Indian Art Orchestra’ and their band room was next to my bedroom. I remember finishing up my homework so that I could go in the room to watch them practise,”he recalls. “For our family, music and culture are very important. I believe that our culture can’t be lost if we continue—through music—to inspire the younger generation.”
It has always been Ravi’s mission to take chutney soca music around the world and while he admits that his goal hasn’t yet been fully accomplished, his music has gone as far as North America, India, Dubai and Fiji. He’s calling on the Government to facilitate cultural and musical exchanges between T&T and other countries. He sees it as one way of exporting talent and music that is unique to our islands.
“I think our authorities could do so much more for our music and culture. I could say from personal experience that people in London, Berlin and Holland don’t associate T&T with oil and gas, but they know about soca, chutney and Brian Lara,” he says.
Ravi is also interested in having a platform where he and other artistes could teach their skills to the next generation of entertainers.
“Every year I collaborate with new artistes to give them the opportunity to be seen and heard because I remember when I first started no one wanted to hear me and I had to work my way up. So I think a school where experienced artistes and musicians can share their knowledge and skills could actually change the industry,” he says.
It’s only the beginning of the year, yet Ravi B and Karma have a packed itinerary this Carnival season. Aside from performing at fetes, they will be opening the Chutney Soca Monarch competition. After Carnival, Ravi will be releasing his first Spanish track “Fair Play” and a riddim with DJ Ana called “Upness”. Then he and the band will be performing in New York, Suriname and Miami.
“I’m looking forward to having a wonderful year,” says the entertainer.