Lavaman believes in himself

by Lincoln Depradine

Soca Artiste Lavaman entertaining the children

Soca star, Lavaman, has several memorable renditions that easily roll off the tongues of Grenadians of all ages, including kindergarten tots.

This was clearly demonstrated on Saturday when he was mobbed by hundreds of fans – parents and children – who knew the words to every song delivered at an event at the Tanteen Playing Field in St. George’s.

It was the first-ever “Uncle Lava Daycare Fun Day.’’ The event – backed by businesses such as LIME and George F. Huggins and Company Limited – offered free entry to children who were given complimentary drinks of Ribena and lined up to have their faces painted.

They also enjoyed cavorting in a bouncing castle and jostled to have their photos taken with a number of popular cartoon characters.

The excitement of the afternoon intensified when Lavaman appeared on stage and the gleeful crowd ably assisted him with all his songs, including “Psycho.’’

It’s the rendition that earned him top spot at the 2012 Soca Monarch semifinal in St. Andrew on July 27. He heads into the final on August 10 at the National Stadium as the odds-on favourite.

Lavaman is hoping that “Psycho,’’ or maybe “Gyal Alone’’ or “Ah Wukking,’’ also would enable him to successfully defend the Lucozade Road March crown he won in 2011.
Together with Wayne Green and Roots Rhythm, he was able to snatch the Road March title with “So We Dey’’.

The excitement of Saturday reached a frenzy when Lavaman’s close friend, Tallpree, showed up at Tanteen. There was a roar when Tallpree passed the microphone to his young son, who chanted lines from some of his father’s “Jab Jab’’ songs.

The two soca artistes, who have performed together for eight years, spent more than an hour taking pictures with fans and signing autographs.

Afterwards, Lavaman expressed appreciation to his corporate sponsors, his team of volunteers and assistants, and for the backing received from private individuals.

“It was a fabulous children’s event. I’m happy because the children are the future,’’ Lavaman said.

Discussions will be held on making “Uncle Lava Daycare Fun Day’’ an annual event.
Lavaman was born Marcus James to Lennox and the late Monica James. His father was an ardent cricketer and footballer, and his mother displayed her sporting skills as a netballer.

However, Marcus chose the route of music. He migrated to Toronto, Canada, where he developed a following as a disc jockey.

“My best talent is deejaying,’’ he told broadcaster, Ray Roberts, in an interview. “I used to deejay in Toronto and they used to call me ‘Cutchie, the Volcano’’’.

He returned to Grenada in 2001 and a shortened version of his Toronto nickname was adopted. Marcus James became Lavaman.

“I’m good with it,’’ he says in reference to the name, Lavaman. “Once the fans good with it, I’m good with it.’’

Lavaman has a passion for soca music. Soca, he says, “has that vibes, that tempo, that makes me get up.’’

In addition, “I feel the only way you can get a break in Grenada is through soca,’’ he argues.
However, his entry into soca performing was rather tentative. In 2003, Junior Duncan produced a song titled, “No Girls, No Carnival,’’ for the then shy Marcus James, who did not even identify himself as the artiste.

But 2004 was a breakout year. Lavaman released the Kevon Charles-produced “Man to a Woman’’ on the Mad Indian Rhythm. The beginning of the strong bond between Lavaman and Tallpree had its genesis in that song and in a performance in Vendomme in 2004. Tallpree was a major driving force in the organising of the Vendomme show.

“The song tear up Vendomme,’’ Lavaman recalls.

Another of Lavaman’s hits of 2004 was “Not in a Good Condition.’’ This was followed by “Position’’ in 2005 and “Behave Yourself’’ in 2006.

Asked to describe his musical style, Lavaman calls it “unorthodox’’. He also refers to himself as “down to earth’’ and someone who tries to keep himself “on a level.’’ He spends a substantial amount of time at home working at his small music studio, and in devoting time to prayers.

What is “unorthodox’’ is how words and music come together for Lavaman.
He discloses that he doesn’t script his songs; nothing is put to paper. The last song he scripted was “Position’’ in 2005.

It was in the studio that he came up with the lyrics to his Road March winner, “So We Dey.’’ In his words, he just “free-styled.’’

“The only thing I could remember coming to my mind was, ‘tell them is so we dey.’  I normally hear the beat and vibe it one time,’’ Lavaman says.

When Lavaman won the Road March in 2011, it was the first major song contest won in more than four decades at Grenada’s carnival by a performer from the Carenage community.

Walter “Dictator’’ Thomas, a calypsonian and pannist, won the Calypso Monarch title in the late 1960s with, “Brighter Out of Darkness.’’

Lavaman takes his music seriously and works at it year-round. “As soon as the carnival finishes, I start preparation for the next season,’’ he reveals.

“This is your work; this is serious business. I’m not in it for fame, girls and all that. It’s country, myself and my community.’’

It’s in keeping with his commitment to community that Lavaman spearheaded a post-carnival event in 2011. It was a celebration of his Road March title, the victories of Republic Bank Angel Harps Steel Orchestra in senior and junior panorama championships, and the runners-up places in the Band of Year fancy mas’ competition by Andre Garvey and Associates and RKD and Associates.

Lavaman also gives deep thought to his approach to each carnival, including adopting multi-dyed hairstyles. He has been doing that since 2007.

“My hairstyle alone is supposed to move the place before I start to sing,’’ he says.
For each carnival season, there is also a theatrical theme. “When carnival arrives, welcome to the movies; it’s like a movie with me,’’ says Lavaman, who has performed in various cities in the Caribbean and North America.

His themes have included “Grenada to the World’’ and “Starring Krook.’’

Lavaman has more than a dozen compositions for 2012, and was the first to release music for this year’s carnival season. Among the songs are “Mad Man Doh Dance’’ and “Drunk by the Case’’.

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