Kes The Band revels in the ‘liki tiki’
Working on new album ‘Man with no Door’
The people of the Caribbean became creative in preserving African traditions over the years, fashioning new words, and recombining and recreating the sounds of the percussions, essentially defying colonial bans on the traditional cylindrical drums by making their own kinds of instruments. This contributed to the proliferation of the gumbé drums in Jamaica, meanwhile on the other end of the region, it catalysed the development of the steel pan in Trinidad and Tobago that have given both islands a distinct identity. It is this identity that Kes The Band frontman, Kees ‘Kes’ Dieffenthaller, is enthusiastic to speak and sing about.
“It is those percussions and the action of taking it to the streets, that gives power to the people to take over when we choose. The way the music come out of Emancipation when in the 1800s, happening over the 80 years to the end of it, and the way free black people celebrated the music evolved, was the news that was not on the news. It gives power to artistes like me. It’s more than the system, it’s a soundtrack that keeps revellers moving and keep them in a free state of mind,” Kes told The Sunday Gleaner.
“An’ we go jam like liki tiki, we have a style like liki tiki. De way she go like liki tiki, come lehwe jam like liki tiki…that’s the vibe.” – Liki Tiki (March 2022)
The lyrics to the collaboration, Liki Tiki, between Kes and J Perry, may invite persons to ask the artistes over and over, its meaning but Kes is ready to answer, no matter if the question gets repetitive.
The first time working with a Haitian producer opened the conversation about the similarities and differences between Trinidad and Haiti and the wider Caribbean and “the fact that the French and the English islands were somewhat separated, and of course the language barrier, but how we weren’t allowed to mingle”.
“Now there is cross-pollination of the music and we were talking about the way the sound of the song just needed a little ‘liki tiki’. It is a feeling or how the instruments play. When we were done we had a blend of calypso, reggae and even dancehall,” Kes explained.
The way he spoke of ‘liki tiki’ was almost moving and without the circumvolution of sentences, it was but a rhythm in the sound of his voice. It is the second single, following Jolene which was released in January, from his upcoming album. As one T&T’s most popular and celebrated musical acts, Kes has consistently blazed new trails for the music of his home, travelling across borders as if there were no doors.
And during his own adventures, Kes happened to have met Luke Constantine, a man residing in Paramin on the north coast of Trinidad, and who is widely known for living in a home without a physical door. This fathered a whole new concept for the soca artiste’s next album.
“The title I have decided on for the album is Man With No Door. That man with no door, was just a free spirit and felt the same way, how I appreciate music and how my travels to the different countries with all the influences have become part of me. I wanted to reflect this,” Kes shared.
He added, “If you hear the sounds we’re working with, it is really a combination of all our influences, calypso, reggae, reggaeton, dancehall, Afro, and pop. I feel now we can have that Trinbagonian feel, who we are as distinct but that I am not limited to how we express. It’s just gonna be music and I feel free and open - like a man with no door, breeze can pass through and it’s refreshing.”
No date has been confirmed for the album’s release but he says it could be ready for summer. Kes The Band started touring for 2022 already, and recently performed in their home capital of Port of Spain. One of the stops on the tour will be New Orleans for the ESSENCE Festival of Culture on July 1, a platform they had already made history on as the only Caribbean act selected to perform at its first virtual edition last year. Now, they have been asked to perform on the physical mainstage at the 74,000-capacity Caesars Superdome.
In his reflections, Kes said, “Part of the mission has always been to touch different stages. I’m happy to provide a tangible energy and not just something you hear or see on a screen but something you actually feel from a performance. There is something about the physical presence, being there in that sort of communion and I am looking forward to be there in person to teach people what is calypso and where we from. It’s an opportunity like any other to share the stage with some real legends.”
His Trinidadian sister, hip hop megastar Nicki Minaj will also be on the stage as well as Jamaica’s Beenie Man.
Since officially forming in 2006 as Kes The Band with his brothers Jon on guitar, and Hans Dieffenthaller on drums, and their lifelong friend, bassist Riad Boochoon, they have brought soca to stages around the world, collaborating with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Wizkid and Major Lazer, and giving the genre some of its most indelible hits including Hello and Savannah Grass.
“We’ll be headed to a few other places before New Orleans, and we have Guyana in another couple weeks, Portugal in June, and doing London, which we haven’t in about four years. I will be in Jamaica, though not sure for the July carnival period, I know I will be at some point. I miss Jamaica, and have enjoyed coming there since the past 20 years,” Kes said.
He said that the cross-pollination of music and cultures is motivation. “A big part of calypso is underrated, underutilised and while unknown to some, people have also forgotten the real history and what it represents. I want to represent that and when there is an opportunity to educate I would, but most of all I want people to have a good time touching from a deeper place,” he said.