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To The Island
Jay S. Jacobs
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this. You live in one of the greatest tourist destinations in the world. The
sun shines all year round, the tropical breezes blow across the clear blue
sea and men on the beach are always there with an exotic rum drink. Not only
are you a native, you are a hero on your island. You cant walk down the
street without the people coming up to you. Women want to know you. There is
a reason that a section of your home is called Paradise Island.
Now, tell the truth, what could really make
you want to leave?
Not a thing
except maybe to be
worldwide superstars. The Baha Men have been huge in the Bahamas for over a decade. Their
albums, going back to Junkanoo in 1992, have sold incredibly well at home. The band
has seen several lineup changes through the years
finally settling on the current
lineup that includes: vocalists Rick Carey, Omerit Hield and Marvin Prosper; guitarists
Herschel Small (who is also the bands musical director) and Patrick Carey;
percussionists Anthony "Monks" Flowers and Colyn "Mo" Grant;
keyboardist Jeffrey Chea; and bassist and group leader Isaiah Taylor. But until 2000, when
they had a smash worldwide hit with the infectious hip-hop ditty "Who Let the Dogs
Out," very few people knew who they were... at least away from, as they referred to
it in an early ballad, "the land of the sea and the sun."
This celebrity on the island is very
gratifying, says Omerit Hield, one of three new vocalists brought into the group to soup
up the bands sound for the 2000 album Who Let the Dogs Out. "It's great.
Everywhere you go people always recognize you. The guys were already a big group before
myself and Rick and Marvin. We knew them before we even got in the band, because they've
always been popular. I don't think they could walk the street without signing autographs
or something. People always want to meet you. People always want to talk to you. See what
your life is like. It's just fun that there are people that interested in what we
The Baha Men have always wanted to spread
their native music beyond the Bahamian shores though. They specialize in a local
traditional style of junkanoo music. "Junkanoo is the music of a festival we have in
the Bahamas," explains guitarist Pat Carey. "Music that entails the use of
goatskin drums and cowbells, whistles and horns. When you combine all that together the
rhythm is very infectious and rhythmic and pulsating. It's a beat that's insistent. You
just can't sit still when it's created near you."
This musical celebration has made inroads
internationally even before the bands breakout smash. The band had released six
previous albums, Junkanoo (1992), Kalik (1994), Here We Go Again (1995-Japanese
release), I Like What I Like (1997), Doong Spank (1998) and Two Zero 0-0
The band also played themselves in the 1994
romantic comedy My Father the Hero starring Gerard Depardieu and Katherine Heigl
which was filmed at the Ocean Club, one of the most exclusive resorts on the island.
"Someone from the board of tourism
she came to me one day
and said there was a movie coming and I want y'all to be a part of it," recalls group
leader Isaiah Taylor. "She says to me, one of you guys have to play a role in the
movie. And I'm like, 'I'm out!'" Eventually the band performed several songs in the
film and keyboardist Jeffrey Chea also played a small part in the movie.
One of the songs from the movie was a track
from the Junkanoo album; a driving tropical beat called "Back To the
Island." Soon the song was getting even more international exposure when it was used
in a widespread TV ad campaign for tourism. That exposure was helpful for the band,
"but we also had a pretty big following when that happened," says Pat Carey. The
band had picked up a real audience in another land. "Our biggest break was in Japan.
We were big in Japan the last couple of years."
"We just really broke in the US last
year," agrees Taylor.
But when they did break, they broke huge.
After unproductive tours of duty on Big Beat/Atlantic and Mercury Records, the band was
signed up to a new label called S-Curve which was started by an executive who had been
championing the group for years.
"At the time, the record company that
we were with never gave the first nor second album the time and opportunity that it
deserved," Taylor says. "Once Steve Greenberg made his own label last year, he
knew exactly what he had
who exactly we were. We just did what we had to do. And it
showed, not just the public, but it showed the record companies they were totally off
course. They were totally out of whack. They didn't believe in us the way he did. They
thought he was crazy. At the end of the day, he embarrassed them."
The Who Let the Dogs Out? album had
barely hit the shelves when the title track took the world by storm. The distinctive
"Who Who Who Who" chorus became a catch phrase. Radio stations played it
constantly, and it also got airplay at such disparate venues as sporting events, fashion
events and childrens shows.
"It kind of proved that the potential
was always there," says Hield. "All it meant was... it just needed a little more
push behind it, from a lot of different aspects and perspectives. Because you always need
that push from the record company. If they're not going to put the record out there and
put some promotion behind it, all that stuff, it's just not going to work, you know? With
that, I think it opened the eyes of like... MTV, and Disney and Nickelodeon and got all
the kids interested. And then the song itself took on a life of its own."
The band hasnt looked back since. The
follow-up single "You All Dat," which featured a sample of the traditional tune
"Wimoweh" which also formed the basis of the sixties classic "The Lion
Sleeps Tonight." The bands music has been used in several films, including Rugrats
In Paris, Miss Congeniality, Rat Race and Shrek.
The band is also finished their next album,
Move It Like This, which is due to be released in March 2002. "It's a lot more
diverse," says Hield. "Its a little different from Who Let the Dogs
Out? in the aspect of myself, Rick and Marvin. Marvin did some writing on the last
album. And we got a chance to put ourselves somewhat into it. (On the new album, we)
work along with the band and the producers even more. When we came in last year, we really
didnt get a chance to do that. We just, like, recorded everything. So this one is
its like the next one after the big one, so theres a lot
riding on it. We think its better than the last album. Definitely a lot of fun
songs. A lot more fun sounds. We just cant wait to see what happens with it. We hope
people like it."
So it looks like the sun and the sand and
the ocean breezes and the rum drinks will have to wait. The Baha Men still have more they
want to prove to the rest of the world.
Let us know what you think.
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