Vintage Vibes from Vincy: Kubiyashi Pays Tribute to Harry Belafonte

May 26, 2015

Words by Sulani Roberts

Caught in the spirit of yet another Carnival, specifically St. Vincent’s impending Vincy Mas, producer Alex “Kubiyashi” Barnwell has released a special project he’s dubbed the Belafonte Riddim, inspired by a legend whose music has brought major attention to calypso and Caribbean culture over the years.

“The past is important when trying to gauge the outcome of the future—these things are always taken into consideration in the now when I build beats and do projects,” said Kubiyashi, producer of Machel Montano’s “H.M.A.,” Bunji Garlin’s “It’s a Carnival” and Skinny Fabulous’ “Behaving the Worst.” “I was in an energy, a classic energy that had me in zone.”

The instrumental draws in feelings of a time when soca music was only an egg in the ovaries of calypso, when people like Harry Belafonte and Nat King Cole were among music’s household names. Now we have new household names like Destra Garcia, who on this riddim slyly teases the likes of over-zealous men, encouraging her female counterparts to call them out, wit her song “Normal.” St. Vincent ragga soca queen Fya Empress, always on the frontline for female empowerment, urges women to “Wake Up” their “bam bam,” lacing her lyrics with implications of the power of femininity and womanliness. And The General, Skinny Fabulous, offers no apologies in “Argument Done,” simply because he is the baddest! Voice, of Full Blown Entertainment, a group of songwriters known for penning some of Machel Montano’s biggest hits (including “Mr. Fete,” “The Fog” and “Like Ah Boss”), makes his debut as an artist on the Belafonte riddim, contributing a groovy track called “Vision.” Coming up, Kubiyashi also plans to voice several other artists on the beat.

Taking one step back, we can’t overlook the contributions of the riddim’s namesake to Caribbean music. Belafonte took Caribbean music and shared it with the world, creating a path for many others to follow. He is more than a musical legend and actor—in fact, the magnitude of his legacy truly lies in his efforts as a humanitarian and social activist. “Harry Belafonte is and was the MAN,” says Kubiyashi. “I just feel like this project for me personally is a reflection of that sorta energy, a serious, but jovial ting—we are Caribbean people and our music is serious business, you know what I mean?”