Hot on the heels of his previous mixtape Goldchain Hennessey, Toronto soul singer and rapper John Orpheus returns to his Trinidadian roots with BACCHANAL, a mixtape steeped in Caribbean slang and West African rhythms.
Before he collaborated and toured with JUNO-nominated artists Alysha Brilla and Danny Michel, as well as members of Oasis and the Happy Mondays, John Orpheus came to Canada from the southern Trinidad town of New Grant as a 13-year-old. While he soon became known for effortlessly moving between hip hop, rock and pop, reconnecting with his siblings recently prompted a re-discovery of his Caribbean roots, which Orpheus sees as the roots of all his music.
"Trini culture is made up of soca energy, carnival, partying, colourful pageants, accents and sexy people feting, which pretty much describes a lot of my style,” Orpheus says. “So making BACCHANAL feels natural. As a teenager I just wanted to fit in so I tried to hide my accent, not listen to reggae and soca or do anything people might find unusual. But the more comfortable I am in my skin the more comfortable I am expressing my heritage."
The heartbeat of BACCHANAL is supplied by Sarah Riegler, Orpheus's musical soul mate and drummer in his Molasses Soul Band. She studied West African drumming at the University of Ghana in Accra and is also a member of prominent Toronto drumming group Orkestra Gatigo. They began building pop songs off the traditional rhythms that are Sarah's specialty. The vibe was so evocative of his Caribbean roots that Orpheus instantly fell into Trini slang and so BACCHANAL was born.
The term Bacchanal itself means both a wild drunken party, or high drama. As Orpheus explains, “You scream it a lot when a fete or party is on the verge of madness. It is a reference to Bacchus the Greek God of wine and song, but to me it’s that feeling of being alive in a sea of chaos. That’s what being Trini is all about.”
The lead off single “JIGGY AF” goes deeper into Caribbean culture, employing the infamous “Bookshelf” Jamaican dancehall riddim and allowing Orpheus to move deftly between Caribbean and American slang in a way familiar to all diaspora kids. Its bridge sums up the attitude of an artist at the top of his game and comfortable in his skin: “We don't give a damn what de people say!”
Other key tracks include “JOUVERT MORNING,” inspired by the traditional Carnival all- night street party that leads to people are covered with mud and oil, and “SO WE SAY, SO WE DO,” illustrating a Caribbean troubadour’s quest for love that also pays tribute to Leonard Cohen's Death of a Ladies Man.
BACCHANAL continues his prolific run of activity over the past year that saw the debut live performances of his Molasses Soul Band, two stellar videos for the singles “Dennis Rodman” and “Buttahfly,” and Goldchain Hennessey mixtape.