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Caribbean dance music’s new Vanguard

BLASÉ Vanguard’s Caribbean dance music song Mama has been included on a fund-raising music compilation released by the edgy UK-based record label and feminist creative collective Femme Culture for the UN Women HeForShe campaign. The collection includes work from musicians from around the work. It was released on March 7 for International Women’s Day 2018.

Meanwhile, the young producer’s song Dahlin’ is becoming a hit. Since its January 22 pre-release premiere as a selected new track on Dummy magazine, a UK music industry web publication, it’s been played over 121,000 times on the streaming service SoundCloud.

It’s a mellow, beat-driven thing, Dahlin’, a bit like the electronic interpretation of a laid-back rhythm section in a rumshop, somebody knocking bottle and spoon while the slow iron rings. After a while, Tyronn “Blasé Vanguard” Wilson’s admonition comes, the only words in the song: “Don’t play me, Dahlin’.”

Dahlin’ is one of two of Vanguard’s pieces released as an EP by the up-and-coming UK label More Time Records.

Calling it “a heady concoction of soca and UK funky but married with the heads-down, rain-stricken introspection of early dubstep,” the magazine in its feature on Vanguard said the song had “a strange hybrid sound which is low-key but undeniably effective.”

Caribbean dance music producer Tyronn 'Blasé Vanguard' Wilson. Photos courtesy More Time Records.

Vanguard, a 25-year-old UK native, has lived in Port of Spain since he was a child; he went to Queen’s Royal College for seven years. He recently completed his master’s in consumer behaviour at Goldsmiths in the UK, having first obtained a bachelor’s from the University of East London in music industry management and music technology. He has been a professional DJ and producer for about four years; the Stress/ Dahlin’ EP is his first solo release.

“I’ve been making music for quite a few years,” the sometime model said in an interview on March 4. “I went to school to get these tools to do it in the most effective way possible.

“I started making music when I was 16.” He has photos to prove it: him in the iconic blue and khaki uniform playing keyboard while another boy plays electric guitar. Vanguard—they nicknamed him “Keys-man”—arranged the accompaniment and played in the school’s Carnival band for every performer, he said.

Cover artwork for the Stress/ Dahlin’ EP by Caribbean dance music producer Tyronn 'Blasé Vanguard' Wilson. Image courtesy More Time Records.

He calls what he does now “Caribbean-influenced electronic music”, or Caribbean dance music.

“The first piece of music I put out that was like this was the [3canal song] Dutty Angels but that was more soca,” he said. Dutty Angels was a 2017 co-production with Keshav “LAZABeam” Chandradathsingh. Chandradathsingh performs as part of the duo Jus Now with Sam Interface. Interface runs More Time Records.

Being around 3canal and Jus Now, Vanguard said, made him conscious of all the different influences available to him as an artist. It also gave him a lot of experience and an idea of what he wants for his own career. “Our music should be able to push our culture globally,” he said.

Vanguard’s earlier music was hip hop-influenced. “It’s more dance music now; it’s different now stylistically.”

He records live acoustic instruments to use, sometimes altered, in his productions. “You can use real instruments, you can bend the sounds, sculpt them into what you want. I use a lot of ambient sounds.

Sometimes I really layer the production; sometimes I give it space. I keep it very dynamic as well.”

He said, “One of the main differences in my production style now is that I use my own voice.”

Vanguard isn’t a singer, he said. His mom made him join a church choir when he was little but he has no other singing experience.

He uses his voice in his music the way he’d use any other instrument, he said. On the two More Time releases his voice is a sweet, throaty chant harmonising with a pan in Stress. And he huskily sings that rueful one-line warning, “Don’t play me, Dahlin’.”

As a DJ, Vanguard has played many a gig both here and in the UK. He recently played at Jus Bass, a pre-Carnival show Jus Now did at 3canal’s Big Black Box theatre in Woodbrook. He played on March 2 at the latest edition of Bass Yard, a series of drum and bass and EDM shows, at M Bar in Woodbrook.

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