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BARBADOS - music

Indra, Ringbang’s Lady of a Thousand Smiles Goes Solo - Ringbang 4 Kids

IndraIndra, the lady who has advanced to the vanguard of Ice Records Ltd.’s select cohort of ringbang soldiers within recent years, smilingly hands a glass of chilled spiced tea to her musical mentor Eddy Grant, President and CEO of Ice. He is appreciative and thankful, for the humidity in Barbados is extreme, and the climate within the Blue Wave Recording Studios on Bayley’s Plantation is merely an extension of this condition. Thunderstorms are on the Meteorological Office’s forecast for nightfall on this fourteenth day of August, 2002.

Indra then hands tea to her colleague and soulmate, Viking-Tundah, who was the original chart-topping “ringbang soldjah” at Ice on our seminal and definitive fire in de wave (941502) CD in 1994. He also accepts his glass graciously, but keeps his attention riveted on the camera with which he has been recording in-house interviews of himself, Indra, and Eddy Grant since 2:30 p.m. As interviewer, I decline tea, but welcome her ready, reassuring smile, as our President’s words envelop me.

In practicing what he preaches, Eddy Grant decides to ‘jump inna de ringbang train’ in joining our original three-way interview session, as dusk falls around 6:15 p.m. Well into the two-and-a-half hour interview, he begins to speak of parallels between Jimi Hendrix’s pyrotechnical guitar-playing style and his own. Consequently, he, in turn, offers me that pivotal point of poetic association with which to convey the essence of Indra’s spirit within this review; that spirit which permeates Ringbang 4 Kids, her first solo album for Ice, due for release within coming months.

The following Thursday morning, August 15, Jimi was testifying from my CD player: “Lord, ../when I’m sad she comes to me/ and a thousand smiles she gives to me free/ .…” His song was called “Little Ivey” on that specific CD’s title menu. Interestingly enough, at Blue Wave, the name by which Indra – our diminutive songstress with a heart and voice as pure and revivifying as tropical rainwater – may sometimes identify herself, is “Little Bird”. Moreover, on the Friday afternoon, Eddy Grant, as music historian, was pointing out to us that Hendrix’s song had more consistently been entitled “Little Wing”. Serendipity ultimately harmonized with my compositional intent as Indra listened to Hendrix’s song for the first time in the main recording studio on August 16. She smiled quietly, whilst nodding her head at intervals to confirm that Jimi had truly identified much that is at the core of her soul.

The greater part of what her spirit is about, in her own words, is love. Love seeks to liberate; to give unto those it targets; to empower those willing to receive it. So that beyond its refreshing qualities, Wednesday evening’s spiced tea was simply a vehicle for that type of love which cherishes and nurtures. In much the same way, Indra’s forthcoming CD enshrines her affirmation of her love for children.

“I see how, generally, childrens’ love is so pure they don’t see certain things,” she stated on the Wednesday evening whilst honing in on her commitment to both educate and positively influence them. “They don’t divide people [into categories] like adults do,” she continued, “before we kind of dump our toxins into them. So if we can ..healthily programme our children as children, then it is possible that they can evolve into more positive humans. So I’d like to play my part in trying.”

The Indra who evaluates the lyrical and instrumental content of the pieces on her first solo album, proffers a rare blend of innocence and wisdom to those young listeners who will ultimately find themselves enraptured by her voice. On this CD she is at once a child-woman at age 27 “who can identify with the different emotions in children”, and, at the same time, according to an old dub ‘version’, “..[we] ole time Granny, from down inna de country” – a strict but loving matriarch who fiercely guards her children’s future destiny.

Ringbang 4 Kids includes ten songs whose final sequence on the official,
market-ready CD has not been decided upon as yet, as of mid-August, 2002. The demo CD that Viking provided me with sets out the titles in this order:
[1] “Chickie-bye”, [2] “Chock-Chock”/(“Jump Inna De Ringbang Train”), [3] “Fiesta Caribe”, [4] “Here We Come Again”, [5] “Kids From Africa”,
[6] “Live The Ringbang Dream”, [7] “Rhyming Ringbang”, [8] “Take Time To Give Love”, [9] “Walking On Sunshine”, and [10] “We’re The Ringbang Kids”.

At various points within these songs, Indra’s voice is playful, exhortative, and even gently assertive, but nowhere else on this CD is it as ethereally haunting as it is on the lullaby-like “Ringbang Dream (4:45)”. This song is anthemic; it is a potential classic! Within Indra’s rendition of “Ringbang Dream” shades of some of the best faith-filled reggae ballads are to be found. Similarly, within her voice, a chorus of African mothers as diverse as Miriam Makeba, Rita Marley, and the late Minnie Ripperton, can be heard resonating within the tradewinds to aver: ‘Truly, Indra is one of our daughters!’

“This one just flowed,” Indra intoned, as she remembered the inspirational process that produced the work. “It came to me upon hearing a rhythm track that was laid down for Eddy,” she added. She also explained that “the rainbow [within the song] is supposed to lead you eventually to ringbang.”

“Rhyming Ringbang (2:40)” is based on the good-natured whimsy and proverbial reasoning encapsulated within many of the traditional ring games played by Caribbean children. The beat is relatively simple to encourage hand clapping as accompaniment, and it incorporates a ‘corny’ background synthesizer riff. The song seeks to build children’s confidence in playing with language – some of the lyrics are in standard English, and others are rendered in Caribbean dialect or nation language – whilst also instilling values such as respect for elders and a strong work ethic. This is exemplified in the following lines: “Grandpa say that every day/first is work and den is play.” So that here the child is also introduced to the fairly advanced concept of using internal rhyme in writing poetry and songs.

“Rhyming Ringbang” is unique amongst the ten tracks in featuring Indra’s niece and nephew, Danielle John and Zachary John, as actual children’s voices. Her recollection of having them work with her at Blue Wave was an exultant one, and she emphasised that “..they loved it; they had a ball!”

“Take Time To Give Love (3:40)” is another arresting ballad that Indra described as “an anthem to love; love as something that’s meant to be shared, demonstrated..”, and there was a pause as her smile intensified thoughtfully, “ good iced tea or spiced tea.”

The version of “Walking On Sunshine (3:42)” published on this CD represents Indra’s hyper-percussive, -millenium-style ‘cover’ of Eddy Grant’s funk-reggae classic that was initially recorded in 1977. This song became the title track of the Walking on Sunshine album released by Ice between 1977 and 1978.

“We’re The Ringbang Kids (3: 58)” is a song with a lightly syncopated, bright marching rhythm that certainly reinforces the concept of the correct use of the imperative in Standard English, if nothing else. Hence, “We’re the ringbang kids, ohh-weh-ohh/we’re the ringbang kids, we shall go.” The use of onomatopoeia in this song, in addition to a wacky, ‘fuzzily huggable’ synthesizer riff that punctuates the chorus gives it an infectious appeal. In Indra’s words, “This is children as!!” She also pointed out that with this song the lyrics and the instrumental track were “born at the same time.”

“Kids From Africa (3:45)” features Indra quoting the words of “Ring-bang Lingua” included within the liner notes of Ice’s fire in de wave (941502) CD, in a serious monotone, with a heavy, conga-infused rhythm ‘simmering’ vigorously behind her voice during the opening bars:

‘All things have a natural swing – don’t suppress it. At a certain point all rhythms meet – don’t deny it. No ringbang, no rhythm, no melody, no music,…’

Indra’s style of diction and pronunciation in delivering this song could possibly mark her as an English-speaking singer who, nevertheless, hails from Puerto Rico or Panama, whilst her ululations could introduce her as a Xhosa protégé of South African reggae giant Lucky Dube. The background vocals on “Kids …” feature a seemingly incantatory West-African-style chant (“ringbang – ye – biye –biye ..”) that is provided by Eddy Grant’s prominent tenor assisted by Dovi Ayivor and Indra who flesh out the full harmonic range. “Kids From Africa” is a very potent ringbang melange that also provides an entertaining geography and African heritage lesson for children interested in finding out more about the African diaspora. It is very similar in style to “Fiesta Caribe ( 3:58 )” which is more distinctively latinesque in rhythmic emphasis – a song where Indra renders the lyrics in both Spanish and French.

“Chickie-bye ( 3:30 )” is a song whose message concerning youthful romance is best appreciated by adolescents in their mid-teens. “It is told from the perspective of a woman who gives love fully,” Indra observed, “who is reticent about dashing headlong into a relationship for fear of being hurt by her lover.” She further explained that “Chickie-bye” is a ringbang lingua pet name that readily reflects the singer’s intent at this point in her love life. According to Indra, this song is really “a precursor to a [true] love song.”

You are now invited to spend the next few months perfecting your own recipe for spiced tea, so that when Ringbang 4 Kids will have ultimately been released on Ice, our entreaty to “Jump Inna De Ringbang Train (4:02 )” will come as no shock to your tastebuds. And a dance would also be a most palatable and welcome innovation. This is a partnership. All the work can’t be done at Blue Wave Recording Studios.

‘Whether yuh like it, de ringbang music a go play/we go rock it in de night, we a go jam it ev’ry day/…’

Compliments of Ice Records



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