LargeUp Mix Series: Lion Twin’s “Trinidad Roots” Mixtape

Cover Photo by Raya Charles/Raya Media

For this month’s installment of the LargeUp Mix Series, we return to Trinidad & Tobago for what is, to our knowledge, the first mix to focus exclusively on the twin-island republic’s roots reggae scene. You know about T&T soca, calypso and pan, but what about T&T reggae? Selectors Asfa and Yakub Charles out of Lion Twin, Trinidad’s most active reggae sound system, bring us this survey of local reggae featuring 100% exclusive dubplates and specials from Marlon Asher, Buzzrock, Isasha, Izac King, Kushite, Jah Defender and Black Loyalty, to name a few, recorded expressly for the Trinidad Roots mixtape at Lion Twin’s studio. Asfa and Yakub were literally born into Trinidad reggae: Their father is Kenneth “Lion King”  Charles of original Trinidad sound system Lion King Sound, and they’ve been playing sound since they were each 12 years old — strictly roots reggae, and nothing but. Now recognized as T&T’s most active reggae selectors, the twins can be heard daily on their online station, Dread Radio, as well as at local events like Dubwise Trinidad. Trinidad Roots, for real.

Listen/download here, check out the tracklist below, and read on for an interview about the project with Lion Twin’s Asfa Charles.

Tell us a little about Lion Twin, and your own roots as a sound system…

We are born members of the Twelve Tribes of Israel organization here in Trinidad. I’m Rasta from birth. We started playing in 2003, on our father’s sound system Lion King, which we still do, so big up daddy all the time. Lion King Sound is one of the roots, foundation sound systems in Trinidad. He’s responsible for playing reggae in Trinidad for the masses. Since 2003, we were the youngest selectors in the Caribbean for some years. We were playing alongside artists like Bunny Wailer, Gregory Isaacs, Beres Hammond, Jr. Gong, just to name a few. We continue to play roots reggae strictly across Trinidad & Tobago, and soon we are looking to head out and touch the U.S., Canada and Europe, Africa, everywhere. We produce music, we did some tracks before with Jamelody and some of the young artists right now like Black Loyalty, so there’s a lot of works right now.

Trinidad & Tobago is of course known for soca, calypso and steelpan, but reggae is big in the culture, too. Fill us in on a little history of reggae in T&T.

The roots of reggae in Trinidad has been around for long time. I guess it has to do with the foundation of Rastafari in Trinidad, with the orders, 12 Tribes of Israel, Bobos, the Binghis.  I guess people were always listening to reggae from Bob Marley time til now. Reggae in Trinidad right now, it’s more underground vibes when it comes to the roots artists but there is a following. There are always reggae events, artists are coming in and out all the time. These artists we are talking about don’t play on radio except for the radio station that we started a year ago, it’s called Dread Radio, at DreadMovement.com or the TuneIn radio app. Roots reggae is doing well in Trinidad. Buzzrock just dropped his album, which is called Nobody’s Fool, which we worked on. We did some mixing work and the dub versions on the album. So big up Buzzrock, it’s doing well. The usual suspects are still doing their stuff. Queen Omega, she’s touring, she’s still doing her thing, and you have young artists like Black Loyalty, Jah-Z Blaze, Jahliano.

What do you want to get across with this mix? Tell us a little bit about the process.

What we intend is for the people to get an idea that do not know about the roots reggae here. I think Trinidad has its own style of production and singing, the way the artists are over reggae. It’ a different vibe, and we just try to put it over with a sound system style. We want people to be aware of some of the artists. A lot of artists are not on the mix that we wanted to have, so we want to continue this.

The process was to contact the artists, who are all bredrins, and let them know we want some specials to feature on a mix for Trinidad. We contacted them and they did some dub specials and we tried to feature more new music, music recently produced in Trinidad by Trinidad & Tobago producers, but not all. We want to do another volume or more. There are a lot of artists in Trinidad, and we don’t want anybody to feel left out. We are working with everyone, and hope everyone can work with us. Right now that is what we need for the reggae artists to get out there, and blaze the fire. The process is simple… sound system style is what we grew up on, we touch the mic and it’s like we in a dance. People can listen and feel the vibe and feel the energy that we bring across with the specials that the artists voice for us.