Some thoughts on Diwali
The awesome thing about "Get Busy" (still single of the year) from the get-go - leaving aside Sean Paul's utterly fantastic staccato intro and descending melody choruses - is not in fact the Diwali riddim clapping underneath. It's everything else
- the miasmic, eastern-sounding synthesisers, the miniature rave riffs, the little shouts at the end of the bar, the way that all of these interact with the riddim to create a totally different fully-fleshed out groove. It's the most overwhelming groove I've heard this year. All these things crowded into my mind the first time I heard the track that only later did I realise it was based on Diwali, despite having been addicted to T.O.K's eastern-flavoured "Galang Gal" for quite a while prior. Indeed, it's astonishing to think that "Get Busy" is based on a riddim at all, let alone the most popular in recent memory. The finished product just sounds so amazingly, monolithically singular, a gift from the gods sent to make y'all wind ya waistline.
On Wayne Wonder's "No Letting Go" the infectious syncopated riddim is much more upfront, but ironically so. With its bittersweet chords and whining synthesisers, not to mention Wayne's yearning vocals, "No Letting Go" is the sappiest love song of the year; the riddim's purpose is to keep the story moving - don't stop Wayne, keep going, don't break down in front of ya gyal. It's real tears on the dancefloor stuff, end-of-the-night look at your friends and smile material on a par with, oh, The Space Cowboy or something (see also the less wistful, more winsome "Never Leave You" by Lumidee for even more perversely stripped-down-but-sweet action). This is Lenky's secret, I think: he's so thoroughly mastered the art of the changing same, both in terms of sonics and
song-context. First credit, of course, must go to the DJs for their endless (and endlessly imaginative) twists on the groove's formula, but it's Lenky who's deviating from the standard practice by meeting them halfway. His new riddim Masterpiece falls slightly short of this peak (though not too much), perhaps because the riddim section isn't quite ubiquitous enough to carry such a diversity of diverging sonic ideas. Still, there's a glorious variety of manifestations out there, from creepy synthesisers to Eastern spangle to (my favourite) surprisingly bluesy piano. Look out for it.