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PopEntertainment.com > Feature Stories - Music > Feature Interviews A to E > Baha Men

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Baha Men

Back to the Island

by Jay S. Jacobs

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Copyright 2001   PopEntertainment.com.  All rights reserved. 

Just imagine 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 can’t 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 band’s 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 band’s 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 do."

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 band’s 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 (1999-Japanese release).

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… Darlene Davis… 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.

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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 children’s 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 hasn’t 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 band’s 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. "It’s 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 didn’t get a chance to do that. We just, like, recorded everything. So this one is definitely… it’s like the next one after the big one, so there’s a lot riding on it. We think it’s better than the last album. Definitely a lot of fun songs. A lot more fun sounds. We just can’t 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.

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