‘Caribbean Roots’ represents an uncompromising return to his roots for Joseph, who has always remained true to a powerful, deep-seated sense of his own Caribbean identity. Starting out as a joint project with the outstanding percussionist Roger Raspail (Cesaria Evora, Papa Wemba), the album swiftly grew into a major work incorporating the rhythms, sounds and vibes that rock the Caribbean from San Fernando, Kingston and Les Abymes to Port-au-Prince and Havana. Backed by a band made up of a blend of musicians with Caribbean origins or connections, the album attempts to unite the different islands into a single entity without diluting any individual strand. “The idea, heard so often,” says Joseph, “is that the Caribbean is a fragmented region, socially, politically, historically. In my view, it’s a unified space, with more relations than disparities. The album is asking Caribbean people to consider that their roots are in the Caribbean, that their generations run deep and that now, we can claim it as ancestral space.”
Joseph weaves an uncompromising direction through the album tracks, spinning his unique lyrical blend of afro-futurism and surrealism. He explores his native Trinidad and takes, in his own words, “a journey into the dark heart of the island”. He chronicles tales and parables: “songs tell of runaway slaves; badjohns or rude boys that we find much in black culture – our heroes, our soldiers”. There’s a muscular tribute to calypso great Mighty Sparrow and incisive reflections on colonialism: “As a Caribbean ex-pat living in Europe, I break out of the quotidian to realize that these grand architectures around me were built by those who colonized and enslaved me. I guess the album is about celebrating roots, but roots that lie within us.”
Heavyweight guests on the album include saxophonists Shabaka Hutchings (The Comet Is Coming) and Jason Yarde (Jazz Jamaica All Stars), trumpeter Yvon Guillard (Magma), bassist Mike Clinton (Salif Keita), trombonist Pierre Chabrèle (Creole Jazz Orchestra), Patrick Marie-Magdelene (Manu Dibango), celebrated Trinidad calypso icon David Rudder and Andy Narrell, master of the steel pans.
‘Caribbean Roots’ is released on Heavenly Sweetness / Strut on CD, LP and digital on June 24th. Pre-orders are available now. Album track “Mano A Mano” is streaming below.