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Bunji's British campaign

Friday, May 17, 2013
Bunji Garlin, the self-proclaimed “Viking of Soca” in a scene from the Differentology video which will be premiered today. PHOTO COURTESY BUNJI GARLIN

The name Bunji Garlin is becoming synonymous with a “major forward” in the UK as his hit tunes Differentology (featuring Nigel Rojas) and Tun Up (recently remixed by producers Interface and Laza Beam of Jus Now) are growing in popularity among British DJs and partygoers. 


On May 2, Differentology was featured on a list of essential summer jams in the UK Guardian. List author Alex Macpherson described Differentology as “every one of your perfect summers distilled into four minutes and 20 seconds.” And according to Bunji, who’s been monitoring UK radio stations online, the song is now being requested on UK day time radio - and not just by Trinidadians abroad. 


Bunji’s next big break came from airplay for the Tun Up remix which noted DJ David Rodigan used to open his set on the BBC Radio 1 programme with DJ Zane Lowe on May 9. Rodigan gave the song a long introduction saying when he played it at parties the “deep forward (strength of the song)” could be felt. After the song was over, Lowe said it was one of his “all time favourite moments in radio.” 


BBC Radio 1 has one of the biggest audiences among the 15-29 age group in the UK, and getting regular airplay on the station usually leads to success for performers. Getting special mention by Rodigan, one of the world’s top reggae DJs and Lowe who hosts one of the station’s most popular programmes is certainly a coup for the soca star. 


To capitalise on these successes, Bunji is planning a UK campaign for which he’s getting help from UK-based DJ with Trini heritage, Martin Jay of Choice FM. The campaign remains unofficial, but the release of the Differentology music video today is a precursor of the work that will come. 


In a telephone interview Jay said he wants Differentology to be the UK’s official summer jam. “I think that Differentology tells a story; it paints a picture very few Carnival songs can. The music involved in it is enticing to market outside of our Caribbean market. It’s a crossover track without you having to add water to it—the ingredients in this song are just right,” he said. 


Bunji and Jay have been friends for years and are not ashamed to say they hope Jay’s over two decades of experience and contacts as a DJ in the UK will open some doors in the mainstream music industry.


“I would hope working with Martin gives me an advantage. Artistes shouldn’t second guess bringing people who have strengths to the table. That’s not something artists should feel bad about. It’s good for your name too, its a good look, any artists who have an opportunity like that should use and exploit it,” Bunji said in a telephone interview with the T&T Guardian. 


While Jay works on the “grassroots” approach of getting the song to DJs and radio stations, Bunji and his management team will follow up through social media and other avenues. 


For Jay, the campaign will be successful once the music is heard and appreciated outside of the Caribbean market. “I don’t think that creating a market for soca on mainstream radio is ever gonna work cause they won’t change their thinking. What would be a success is for Bunji to get recognised as the artiste that he is and for people outside of our walks of life to hear the song and like it.” 


Bunji said he has joyous feelings about the song’s promising success but didn’t make any pronouncements on the future so as “not to interfere with the possibilities.” He admitted, however, that getting mainstream attention for soca has been and will always be a challenge. 


“We’re going out there with music that is approached differently. In terms of sound quality, the songs playing abroad are mixed in HD and we still have many outdated formats. That’s the first challenge then of course these people are also accustomed to songs that have varying topics. And more and more in soca we’re bottlenecking into Carnival Monday and Tuesday. We have this thing about changing up the style but we might not have to do that. People might want us to just sing about what we know and how we know so they can learn,” he said. 


For many, Differentology and other new music from Bunji such as his collaboration with Collis Duranty and upcoming release with Freetown Collective are attempts to create a more international sound, but Bunji says this is not so. “The changes are not about being international. We’re doing what we’ve been doing since long time, but it’s just that Trinidad wasn’t as open to these (alternative) sounds then as it was now. Now, we’re able to go back to what we’ve been doing for a long time,” he said.


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