I’ve been with Elimu since I was 14 (1985). I am a DJ and a dance choreographer, but when I first started I was young person playing mas with Elimu.
The DJs and the dance choreographers work very closely together. The DJs will mix the music for the dance choreographer, so every section will have its own track. A lot of the music will come from the Caribbean for that year, for example Marshall Montana ‘Happiest man Alive’. Classic tracks are soca tunes such as ‘Feeling Hot Hot Hot’, ‘I comin’ I comin’ I comin’, ‘Jump and Wave’ ‘Hol’ up your foot and jump’. These tracks you can play any year and any time and people will enjoy them.
Soca is uptempo music from the Caribbean. It developed from Calypso, and there are variations such as ‘trippin’ which is a slower tempo, and ‘zouk’ which is faster. So when we’re on the float maybe the king will come complaining ‘you’re playing too much soca I wanna trip’ which means he wants to move slower in his costume, but he still wants to be able to parade, we need to start playing trippin music which is kinda a slow beat.
At the top of Ladbroke Grove it’s the top of the hill and there are no barriers so we keep it calm by playing trippin or soca; past judging point there is a lot of space so we will play zouk and let the people go crazy. You have to gauge the situation, you may see the DJ looking over the float to see what’s ahead, if it’s clear we will go with the fast tempo if there is too many people ahead I will say to Nicky or Nicky will say to me we need to slow it down because it’s quite packed up there.
The DJ on the road has the impossible task of playing music that everybody enjoys. There’s always someone who says ‘I don’t like that, can you play this!’ . you’re never going to please everybody. I’m still old school, I have CDs and if I could I’d play vinyl. On the road I bring my collection of 515 CDs, each with a minimum of 16 tracks.
For me every year has a special memory, and the best thing is seeing everybody enjoying themselves as one, it doesn’t even matter if you’ve never seen these people before you end up talking to them like you’ve known them all you life, that’s the vibe of carnival.
The worst thing was when the generator broke down, because without the generator there is no music. Actually it didn’t break down, it run out of diesel. So me and four other members of the band had to go through the crowds to find a petrol station. When we got to the petrol station they didn’t have a petrol can, it was a nightmare, but we made it into a dance and a song, so it was all good in the end.
My role as a choreographer means I have to get a routine together for the road, sometimes two or three routines. I usually have four weeks, but sometimes I don’t get the music till a week before, so its pressure on me, but I know it has to be done and the young people rely on me to parade their costumes. It’s different from choreographing for stage because on stage the audience is usually in front of you, but when you’re going down the road the spectators are on both sides, so you need to parade your whole costume so there’s a lot more spinning involved, and taking five steps forward and three steps back.