Words by Greg Scruggs
While many in the US would peg the end of the disco era at 1977’s Saturday Night Fever or the infamous Disco Demolition Night in Chicago in 1979, the ’70s-era dance music had more staying power in the Caribbean. Disco fever hit hard in the islands—especially in Trinidad—even as reggae consumed the region, resulting in a slew of recordings that connected Philadelphia International brass and disco drumming with soca horns, and calypso percussion. Kalyan’s 1977 “Disco Reggae” was just the beginning of a trend that would see luminaries like Mighty Sparrow dabbling in the genre.
This past June, Boston-based record label Cultures of Soul released Tropical Disco Hustle to recover this lost era in Caribbean music. The tunes on the compilation (which consists of 11 original tracks and two remixes) are largely by Trinidadian acts, with a token Bahamian contribution from Ronnie Butler and The Ramblers, and a yardie answer to “Rapper’s Delight” from Prince Blackman, an alias of legendary Jamaican singer and bassman Leroy Sibbles. Also featured is Joanne Wilson, daughter of Tony Wilson, the Trinidadian-born bassist and songwriter for Hot Chocolate, the U.K. band behind disco classic “You Sexy Thing.”
Levi John’s “Feel Like Dancing” captures the spirit of the era with elaborate saxophone, piano solos, a soulman’s bellow, and sultry backup female vocals.