Etienne Charles

Carnival: The Sound Of A People, Vol. 1
(Culture Shock Inc.)

Identity is a complicated thing. Shaped by our cultures, heritage and those around us, it seeps into everything we do—it is the foundation of our creativity and our urge to keep creating. And the most powerful of these creations are the ones that combine the unknowing journey of discovery with the importance of knowing where we come from. Such is the case with trumpeter Etienne Charles’ Carnival: The Sound Of A People, Vol. 1.

Born in Trinidad, Charles’ work is informed by the rich musical heritage of his upbringing. But rather than taking an anthropological view, he traveled through the country and immersed himself in his childhood traditions. The record’s centerpiece comes on the Black Echo suite, where Charles documents the British colonial repression of the Trinidadian skin drum on five tracks that move through subdued intimacy, choral polyphony and joyous defiance. Such rich history can be difficult to grasp on a first listen, but here Charles cements his status as a deeply expressive voice, one worth hearing not only for his story, but for his forebears who helped form it.