Ozy Merrique: Rollin with Art

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Okay, question: Who among you could remember the days of the Kiskadee Karavan (circa 1995)? The days of Yard Fowl Crew, General Grant, Kindred, Edu Rankin, and Supa Chile, among other young, talented acts? Those were the days when everybody knew the lyrics to tunes such as “Dan It Up”, “Shot Call”, and “Dis Trini could Flow” and were mesmerised by the chants of General Grant.
And who could remember “Rollin’” by the equally legendary, Rapso group HomeFront? That was probably the hugest tune from the group. But, as with everything else time touches, the Karavan dissolved. We’d see a few of its original members pop up here and there, but still, the vast majority of them are only memories.
So I was pretty excited to have the chance to chat with Ozwald “Ozy” Merrique, out of the ranks of HomeFront, An artist, in my opinion, who sees himself as always capable of more, and refuses to accept the seasonality and genre restrictions of the local music industry.
Ozy has remained in the music biz over the years, working on a few post-Carnival projects and appearing in places such as Songshine. He’s also kept busy with writing and producing, as well as some DJ work. Last year, though, he announced this final stage performance via Facebook (of course), and has mostly returned to his first passion, art.
His reason for such a shift? The perennial confines of our local art forms to the Carnival season. He has spearheaded projects in which local art forms have had a stage outside of the period of Boxing Day to Ash Wednesday, but according to him, it has been an uphill battle he could no longer afford to fight, both financially and otherwise.
My catch-up session with him over a series of phone calls, e-mails, and Facebook messages was enlightening – learning about a man some would consider as one of the pioneers in the Rapso movement, who, while he may not be literally on a stage anymore, has resolved not to fade to black. Check out the mind of a man many of his friends simply call OzyMajiq.
Outlish: Tell me about Ozy Merrique – in a nutshell, who are you?
Ozy: I’m not sure if a nut can hold it nah. Maybe a coconut could? I’m about music, art, identity, freedom, love and expression of whatever gifts I’ve been granted, and sharing them with others while I am here on earth.
Outlish: Many Trinis may remember you from the days of HomeFront, and since then, you’ve essentially gone underground. What have you been up to?
Ozy: Trinidad and Tobago doesn’t have an underground because we don’t have an overground. Because of the seasonal nature of our music, people say anybody working outside of that framework is underground, not realising that what’s unusual is for a people’s music to be reserved for a single period in time.
My years after, and even during, HomeFront was me allowing my art and music to live and grow on its own terms and not by the dictates of “Ash Wednesday, throw away”. But hey, that’s where we train all our stagelights. So it’s probably just that some end up working in low lights. Not underground but under darkness.
But I’ve always tried to shed light on what I and others like me do.
I’ve organized mid-year music events since the late 90s with names like The Honey and Lime Tour, The Junction Series, The Revival Series, and Majiq Mondays. I’ve also made numerous appearances at events such as Songshine, and Isavibes and shows featuring me sharing my music live. These days I DJ, write and produce and now I’m getting back into painting. What really excites me now is filmmaking though. You should check out some of my stuff on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/dopstartv)
Outlish: You’ve made the jump from Rapso to art. Many may not see this as very profitable, since the art scene in Triniland is not really a cash cow, or something that is appreciated locally. Why make the transition?
Ozy: Well in fact I made the jump from art to Rapso as I was writing poetry and painting on anything like canvas, bags, shoes, and T-shirts long before I cut my first tune. In terms of the money, I guess it’s the same kinda cow as Kaiso/Soca/Rapso because some do well and some don’t in both fields. I mean if LeRoy Clarke is the Machel of local art world I guess I’m like the… well… me! But why I’m doing it is that it allows me to return to a certain kind of immediacy and honesty in the work and how it’s appreciated. If I do a painting, it’s either you feel it or you don’t. You might feel it enough to pay some money for it. With a painting I don’t have to pass it through a Radio DJ first before you could even get a chance to dislike it.
Outlish: Interesting. So how did you get into painting then?
Ozy: I really got into painting back in secondary school. I would make and paint necklaces for friends. And, as my mother was a designer and seamstress, her clients would hire me to paint things like bamboo and hummingbirds and whatnot on the clothing she made. I started doing T-shirts from about from four years old, then fell into screen printing soon after. And, the rest is history.
Outlish: The Facebook note announcing your last performance (http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=391794285559) and the one about the indigenous art forms being merely seasonal (http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=488849920559) really shed some light on the happenings on the local industry. Do you have any words of hope for those who want to enter the industry?
Ozy: Well everybody has their own path to walk. Carnival has its role and some of us have that work to do as artists, so I will never discourage anybody. You have as good a chance as any to “eat a food”, but you have to know yourself. If you’re doing gospel and that is your calling then it’s only to a limited extent your world and the secular world would intersect. And you can’t get more secular than the festival of the flesh! Do what moves you and stand on the corner and see who stops to listen. Also take their name and email and yeah… make sure you have something to sell them, even if is a five-dollar bandanna with your name on it.
Outlish: Tell me about your current venture, “ESTATES – The Collection” and “The Adventures of Shango Jack”. What’s the story behind it all, and what do you hope to achieve?
Ozy: A few months ago I wrote a note (http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=486721680559) on the many definitions of the word “estate” – an extensive property, your assets, and whatnot. I used to live on an estate myself – Coconut Estate in Mayaro. The real inspiration behind the note itself is that we live in a society made up of different diaspora, and most of us have no real connection to our origins. And the paintings are tied to these meanings; in a sense, I want to redefine the meaning of the word “estate”.
As for Shango Jack, I was fascinated by the phenomenon of Facebook as a tool in new media, and I got an idea to do a kind of serial instead of one-off notes. Shango Jack is a new kind of hero I want to introduce – you know we in the Western world have this philosophy about heroism and such, so I made Shango Jack as local and relatable to fit this model.
My projected achievements? Well with that I’m prepared for whatever comes. I’m just doing the work and seeing where it leads.
Outlish: Any plans to showcase your work so far?
Ozy: I had a mini-exhibition around Christmas time. It was really nice. This collection is supposed to be 40 pieces and I plan to show all at my birthday party on Thursday February 24 at Trevor’s Edge. After that I will try to organise a more formal showing. Or I might just do like I used to do with my T-shirts back in the day. Go on the corner of Frederick Street and Independence Square and put them out!
Outlish: Is your hiatus (for want of a better word) from the local music arena permanent, or is there any chance of you popping back on the scene?
Ozy: I still do music. Right now I’m working with some kids and it’s quite rewarding. It’s three of them who could really sing and one of them is competing in the Junior Calypso Monarch, and I’m producing the melody to go along with the lyrics.
Whether I will offer up myself as a live performer for hire and go back down that road? Anything’s possible with music. She doh like to be ignored for too long.
Outlish: And what else should we look forward to, with Ozy Merrique’s name on it?
Ozy: I’m kinda trying to centralise all the things I do under one banner. It’s called the DOPSPOT. It’s a primary Internet portal where you can see art, music, fashion and movies – all local, all talent. I plan to move it from the virtual to something tangible, and make it a real artistic brand with a physical location (or locations) in the future. I’m still putting it together, but it should be ready soon.
For more on Ozy and that he’s doing these days, check his Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/merriqestate) and his YouTube channel (http://www.youtube.com/dopstartv). Also check out the first installment of The Adventures of Shango Jack (http://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=500154865559) and the complete ESTATES – The Collection (http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=26658&id=164270996943921).

OzyMerrique2Okay, question: Who among you could remember the days of the Kiskadee Karavan (circa 1995)? The days of Yard Fowl Crew, General Grant, Kindred, Edu Rankin, and Supa Chile, among other young, talented acts? Those were the days when everybody knew the lyrics to tunes such as “Dan It Up”, “Shot Call”, and “Dis Trini could Flow” and were mesmerised by the chants of General Grant.

And who could remember “Rollin’” by the equally legendary, Rapso group HomeFront? That was probably the hugest tune from the group. But, as with everything else time touches, the Karavan dissolved. We’d see a few of its original members pop up here and there, but still, the vast majority of them are only memories. 

So I was pretty excited to have the chance to chat with Ozwald “Ozy” Merrique, out of the ranks of HomeFront, An artist, in my opinion, who sees himself as always capable of more, and refuses to accept the seasonality and genre restrictions of the local music industry.  

Ozy has remained in the music biz over the years, working on a few post-Carnival projects and appearing in places such as Songshine. He’s also kept busy with writing and producing, as well as some DJ work. Last year, though, he announced this final stage performance via Facebook (of course), and has mostly returned to his first passion, art.

His reason for such a shift? The perennial confines of our local art forms to the Carnival season. He has spearheaded projects in which local art forms have had a stage outside of the period of Boxing Day to Ash Wednesday, but according to him, it has been an uphill battle he could no longer afford to fight, both financially and otherwise.

My catch-up session with him over a series of phone calls, e-mails, and Facebook messages was enlightening – learning about a man some would consider as one of the pioneers in the Rapso movement, who, while he may not be literally on a stage anymore, has resolved not to fade to black. Check out the mind of a man many of his friends simply call OzyMajiq.


Outlish: Tell me about Ozy Merrique – in a nutshell, who are you?

Ozy: I’m not sure if a nut can hold it nah. Maybe a coconut could? I’m about music, art, identity, freedom, love and expression of whatever gifts I’ve been granted, and sharing them with others while I am here on earth.

 

Outlish: Many Trinis may remember you from the days of HomeFront, and since then, you’ve essentially gone underground. What have you been up to?

Ozy: Trinidad and Tobago doesn’t have an underground because we don’t have an overground. Because of the seasonal nature of our music, people say anybody working outside of that framework is underground, not realising that what’s unusual is for a people’s music to be reserved for a single period in time.

merriqart2My years after, and even during, HomeFront was me allowing my art and music to live and grow on its own terms and not by the dictates of “Ash Wednesday, throw away”. But hey, that’s where we train all our stagelights. So it’s probably just that some end up working in low lights. Not underground but under darkness. 

But I’ve always tried to shed light on what I and others like me do. 

I’ve organized mid-year music events since the late 90s with names like The Honey and Lime Tour, The Junction Series, The Revival Series, and Majiq Mondays. I’ve also made numerous appearances at events such as Songshine, and Isavibes and shows featuring me sharing my music live. These days I DJ, write and produce and now I’m getting back into painting. What really excites me now is filmmaking though. You should check out some of my stuff on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/dopstartv)

 

Outlish: You’ve made the jump from Rapso to art. Many may not see this as very profitable, since the art scene in Triniland is not really a cash cow, or something that is appreciated locally. Why make the transition?

Ozy: Well in fact I made the jump from art to Rapso as I was writing poetry and painting on anything like canvas, bags, shoes, and T-shirts long before I cut my first tune. In terms of the money, I guess it’s the same kinda cow as Kaiso/Soca/Rapso because some do well and some don’t in both fields. I mean if LeRoy Clarke is the Machel of local art world I guess I’m like the… well… me! But why I’m doing it is that it allows me to return to a certain kind of immediacy and honesty in the work and how it’s appreciated. If I do a painting, it’s either you feel it or you don’t. You might feel it enough to pay some money for it. With a painting I don’t have to pass it through a Radio DJ first before you could even get a chance to dislike it.

 

Outlish: Interesting. So how did you get into painting then?

Ozy: I really got into painting back in secondary school. I would make and paint necklaces for friends. And, as my mother was a designer and seamstress, her clients would hire me to paint things like bamboo and hummingbirds and whatnot on the clothing she made. I started doing T-shirts from about from four years old, then fell into screen printing soon after. And, the rest is history.

 

merriqart6Outlish: The Facebook note announcing your last performance and the one about the indigenous art forms being merely seasonal really shed some light on the happenings on the local industry. Do you have any words of hope for those who want to enter the industry?

Ozy: Well everybody has their own path to walk. Carnival has its role and some of us have that work to do as artists, so I will never discourage anybody. You have as good a chance as any to “eat a food”, but you have to know yourself. If you’re doing gospel and that is your calling then it’s only to a limited extent your world and the secular world would intersect. And you can’t get more secular than the festival of the flesh! Do what moves you and stand on the corner and see who stops to listen. Also take their name and email and yeah… make sure you have something to sell them, even if is a five-dollar bandanna with your name on it.

Outlish: Tell me about your current venture, “ESTATES – The Collection” and “The Adventures of Shango Jack”. What’s the story behind it all, and what do you hope to achieve?

Ozy: A few months ago I wrote a note on the many definitions of the word “estate” – an extensive property, your assets, and whatnot. I used to live on an estate myself – Coconut Estate in Mayaro. The real inspiration behind the note itself is that we live in a society made up of different diaspora, and most of us have no real connection to our origins. And the paintings are tied to these meanings; in a sense, I want to redefine the meaning of the word “estate”.

As for Shango Jack, I was fascinated by the phenomenon of Facebook as a tool in new media, and I got an idea to do a kind of serial instead of one-off notes. Shango Jack is a new kind of hero I want to introduce – you know we in the Western world have this philosophy about heroism and such, so I made Shango Jack as local and relatable to fit this model.

My projected achievements? Well with that I’m prepared for whatever comes. I’m just doing the work and seeing where it leads.

 

merriqart5

Outlish: Any plans to showcase your work so far?

Ozy: I had a mini-exhibition around Christmas time. It was really nice. This collection is supposed to be 40 pieces and I plan to show all at my birthday party on Thursday February 24 at Trevor’s Edge. After that I will try to organise a more formal showing. Or I might just do like I used to do with my T-shirts back in the day. Go on the corner of Frederick Street and Independence Square and put them out!

Outlish: Is your hiatus (for want of a better word) from the local music arena permanent, or is there any chance of you popping back on the scene?

Ozy: I still do music. Right now I’m working with some kids and it’s quite rewarding. It’s three of them who could really sing and one of them is competing in the Junior Calypso Monarch, and I’m producing the melody to go along with the lyrics.
Whether I will offer up myself as a live performer for hire and go back down that road? Anything’s possible with music. She doh like to be ignored for too long.

 

Outlish: And what else should we look forward to, with Ozy Merrique’s name on it?

Ozy: I’m kinda trying to centralise all the things I do under one banner. It’s called the DOPSPOT. It’s a primary Internet portal where you can see art, music, fashion and movies – all local, all talent. I plan to move it from the virtual to something tangible, and make it a real artistic brand with a physical location (or locations) in the future. I’m still putting it together, but it should be ready soon.

For more on Ozy and what he’s doing these days, check his Facebook page – facebook.com/merriqestate, and his YouTube channel – youtube.com/dopstartv. You can also check out the first installment of “The Adventures of Shango Jack”, and the complete “ESTATES – The Collection”.

 

MarkLyndersayPhotography of Ozy Merrique by Mark Lyndersay of http://lyndersaydigital.com. Mark is a professional photographer and writer working in Trinidad and Tobago since 1976. His column on personal technology, BitDepth, has been continuously published since 1995. He is currently pursuing a photo essay series about how Trinidad and Tobago pursues its culture and festivals called Local Lives. Both series are archived on his website at http://lyndersaydigital.com.

Images of “ESTATES – The Collection” courtesy Ozy.

 

 

Check out the rest of this week’s issue (7/02/11; Issue 44):

 

Look out for a new issue of Outlish.com every Monday.

Joshua Ramirez Wharwood

Joshua Ramirez Wharwood is a Communications major at the University of the West Indies. Whenever he's not feeding his addiction to Skittles and Coca Cola, he immerses himself in all things digital. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/joachim365.

4 Comments

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    we were all placed on this earth for one prsopue to be here for one another. That makes your comment about talking ring so true, especially to those of us who suffer from emotional trauma. Reaching out, especially when the walls close in, makes things much easier, and when someone reaches out to me, it makes it easier for me to do the same thing. A great Christmas gift!

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