If you are old enough to remember the Kisskidee Karavan days, then the name Ozzy Merrique would ring a bell. He was one of the founders and lead vocalists for Homefront, a rapso group under the Kisskidee umbrella, which were known for their monster Carnival hit Roll It. The group broke up in the aftermath of Roll It and Merrique and the three other members: Mark Jimenez (Ataklan), Gillian Moor and Lisa Romany, went their own way. In the years that followed, Merrique has been contemplating a way to claim a musical space that wasn’t defined by our annual festival. He believes he has figured that out now and is launching a new entity this weekend called the Urban Estate. In the main, Urban Estate is a musical band with a new philosophy for approaching the music business, he says. The Urban Estate is also an umbrella, a vehicle under which he plans to push forward his creative work in art and, at some point, fashion as well.
“I always had a challenge with the seasonality of our music. If I wake up in the morning and feel inspired to write a song and I want to release a song, you telling me no, the bulk of the music has to come out at this particular time? That has occupied my mind for quite a number of years,” he says. “The folk music of Trinidad had two seasons of release: Christmas and Carnival. You see the nine months in between I will call it the Centre Season. The music I doing, I want to give it space to breathe,” he says, revealing that he also has a record company called Centre Season records under which he will produce his own music. He said before the State of Emergency last year, he wrote five or six songs and has since written five more. The songs are themed around the concept of A Beautiful Place and would be available in a Mixtape called Who Could Rapso? Touching on the state of rapso today, Merrique says the movement has taken a step back and today is centred around one act. He surmised that the image of rapso has turned away many because they felt they had to belong to a group with a leader and rules.
“What Centre Season tries to solve is one of the main reasons. No matter what the situation is right now with the lack of artists it wouldn’t be so if it’s not clearly defined. Rapso was really supposed to be the year round urban youth sound in Trinidad. That is what it was aiming toward when we invigorated it in the 90s.” Part of Merrique’s launch on Sunday is an exhibition of his paintings called Reliquary. “It’s a private space, like an altar space,” he says of the name.” A lot of these pieces represent some Orisha deities. I wanted to deal with it from my perspective, give it a modern twist.” “I can’t do without doing my art. The interaction with me and this and people is more immediate than with music and I plan to take it as far as possible.” The Urban Estate will be held at Martin’s on Sunday May 20th. Admission $100. Superblue and Black Dragons are scheduled to perform.