You’d be forgiven for assuming that with an iconic father like the late Ras Shorty I, Sheldon Blackman would think he had something to prove. After all, Lord Shorty, as he was known before his transformation in the 1980s, is credited with the creation of soca. His experimentation, blending calypso with local indo-Trinidadian rhythms, and cadence, a Latin flavoured Dominican genre, gave birth to the art form. As for Blackman, yes, his father was a great artist, and the time and energy Ras Shorty invested in developing him and his siblings as fellow artists has indeed contributed to his own musical style. However, it was his father who encouraged him to find his own voice: “People will compare you to your father but I does just do my own thing you know? I’m a rebel!”
Blackman’s band, Soul Rebels, made up predominantly of Norwegians (he now lives in Oslo) brought something fresh, yet earthy and real to the Cultural Village in London to celebrate TnT’s Jubilee anniversary of independence. “I develop my music on three levels,” Blackman asserts. “My roots are in Trinidad, in the Caribbean, and as a citizen of the world, so all different genres influence my music.” No arguments here. On his new album, Hope, the songs Live Life and Steel Band Oi offer up calypso in its classic form, with the latter clearly arranged for the pan orchestra. Love is the Only Thing we Need, is a laid back blend of jazz-pop, tipped as a favourite at the village. On Overflow, his last album, you get the rugged aggression of a tight reggae baseline in From the Book of Life, and Revolution. Yet Lonely and People of the Islands transcend culture, immersing the hearer in the originality and authenticity that accounts for Blackman’s style overall. The diversity speaks of an artist who is comfortable in his own skin, who loves the music and the listener too.
Blackman is looking to connect with audiences along the lines of love. “My mission is to come to that human understanding of love and share that in the music; without love it’s all a waste of time and profits nothing.”