Lou, from Freetown collective was kind enough to take the time to share with us and what follows is not only a cool read but more importantly, gives us a realistic glimpse into this incredibly genius group.
Describe Freetown Collective in one sentence? “Searching.” The quest of the artist is to reflect the environment and times within which they find themselves. Well, the times are always changing and so is our environment, consequently the dutiful artist is constantly in a state of searching. How did the group get this name? Muhammad Muwakil and Lou Lyons were first spoken word artists but after a debut overseas performance in London, the then trio (inclusive of Keegan Maharaj) decided to formally start a band.
Belmont, the hometown of Muhammad was once called Freetown. The history of Belmont states that it was once inhabited by Africans who were never enslaved but instead worked the lands for profit as free men. They named this city Freetown and it was known that if any enslaved person found their way to Freetown, their freedom would be bought for them and they would have the opportunity to work as repayment, as free persons. Muhammad saw a powerful metaphor in this piece of history - each person has a right to free themselves and those around them and in turn everyone becomes a “Freetown”, freeing whomever they meet, wherever they go - form and being a free collective.
Who are the members and what are the nationalities? Jayron Remy - Trinidad and Tobago Lou Lyons - Trinidad and Tobago Malene Joseph - Trinidad and Tobago Muhammad Muwakil - Trinidad and Tobago Shanna Joseph - Trinidad and Tobago Tishanna Williams - Trinidad and Tobago When was the group formed and why did you guys decide to start this journey together? The group (Lou Lyons and Muhammad Muwakil) founded the group in 2010 simply because there was need for Trinbagonian and Caribbean youth to see and hear themselves through different narratives and perspectives and not just through the “tropical third world tourist destination” construct. And what better way to get people to listen other than through music? Who is your biggest musical and non-musical inspiration? For me there are no biggest influences because music is never a static thing. It is vibrant, living and always flowing. There is no telling where one influence/inspiration ends and another begins. What is your most memorable performance or experience to date? Edinburgh Festival 2015 at The Grouse House. Soca music is still not recognized as a mainstream music genre. Why do you think this is and what do you think is the first step to bring about change? This is not a simple question and the answer isn’t simple either. Recognition refers to transnational and international music corporations and the systems they use to regulate the sale and consumption of music in different music markets.
It is a question of market size, data collection, representation, cataloging, archiving, and international commercial viability. The how, why and when these factors come together is also dependent on the infrastructure and capital to do so. For now I would say we can aim for excellence by telling ALL our stories (not just Carnival and party music) through Soca, the best way we can and make room for the form to evolve and expand to include new sounds and stories.
Where does the group see itself in 5 years from now? Doing exactly what we are doing now but on a level that is sustainable and in a way that can have lasting impacts on Caribbean music and culture. Who do you think is the most under-rated artiste or group in the Caribbean? Midnite and BuzzRock. When you're not rehearsing or performing together what do you guys do to kick back and blow off steam? We all have our individual ways of relaxing. Together we enjoy sharing a good meal with jokes. Personally I get lost for hours listening to old vinyl LP records. Dreams of working with anyone in particular, performing on any specific event or in a certain country? I dream of having sincere and genuine spirit connections with musicians the world over regardless of their popularity. However, Kojey Radical and Aidonia are two of many favorites. Will you be releasing new material even though no carnivals will probably take place this year? Our music is first and foremost for the healing and uplifting of our people. As the message comes we will deliver it - Translation: we are always working on music to give back to the people. Who is the 'glue' of the group? The person that holds it all together. In our group I believe our collective purpose is the glue. The overriding sense of duty to be our best is what brings us and keeps us together. Any other rising stars in the Caribbean we should keep an eye out for? Yes indeed. Coutain, Hey Choppi, Rae Russell, Rheon Elbourne, Nailah Blackman, Keron ‘Sheriff’ Thompson (producer and mix engineer). Name one achievement you guys are most proud of? Being able to contribute a great song and ‘New Calypso’ EP to our culture during Carnival, that represents a sentiment people feel all year round. “Feel The Love” is definitely an achievement to be proud. If you had the chance to make one wish a reality, what would you wish for? To own a state of the media facility (including the best recording facility money can buy) to be able to give original content that represents the Caribbean reality, a competitive edge. 'Feel The Love' is by far one of the most powerful songs of 2020 in any genre. Is this the best material you have created thus far or is this just a preview of the quality sitting in your un-released catalog? Every song comes from a very real place in our hearts when we create. How the people gravitate to it and how impactful it becomes in our space is a result of so many other factors - some of which are unknown to us.
Every song resonates with us and we hope it is the same for others when we share it.
What advice will you give to any young artiste(s), considering a career in the Soca/music industry? Write songs that speak to the human heart. Write songs with stories that have power to transcend cultures, nationalities, beliefs, ethnicities. Write songs that can be relatable to anyone who is alive! Any last words for the people of Europe? No matter who we are or what we’ve done, one thing is for certain - people are people! We love, cry, laugh and wish to be appreciated and cherished. We share more than what divides us.
Follow this wonderful, wonderful group on their amazing journey!