Darryl Henry aka “Farmer Nappy” is on some bold missions in 2023. He is bent on bringing a new vibe to soca as the voice of the people, making up for the absence of the late soca bard Dexter “Blaxx” Stewart, and capturing a Grammy award.
Henry believes that his new formula–conscious groovy soca–will inject some purpose and show concern for society's needs in the music that drives the mecca of all festivals as well as parties at home and abroad year-round.
“I have a new type of music I want to introduce to Trinidad. I want to call it conscious groovy, sending the message, talking for the rural areas, the people. I want to work on that after Carnival,” Henry who has used his platform to take stances in the past said in an interview with Sunday Guardian last Tuesday.
The veteran entertainer, who is fondly called “Farmer”, said he wants to be the voice of the people, especially the poor; he wants to be the people's governor.
“I getting older now...let me be the vessel to talk for the poor people. Do you know how people used to sing calypso against the Government? I'm not singing against any government. I'm talking for the people, so I'm the people’s governor. We don't go into the rural areas and see what's happening; all the flooding that’s happening. Our house is high houses, we have no flood. But the people, nobody knows how they feel, so I'm going to talk for the poor people now,” he said.
At his performances, the soca artiste has increasingly sported a beret atop his Rastafarian dreads over the years. He said he calls it his Peter Tosh equal-rights-and-justice hat, adding that he grows his dreads long as his hair is his strength.
Although Farmer plans to retreat to the countryside and really get into composing about conscious matters after Carnival, he has started the season dismissing detractors with Ole Talk written by Mical Teja on the Hot Sun riddim and with the rhythmic groovy Want It Back by James Morgan aka Jamesy P and produced by De Red Boyz from Barbados.
“We tired of the push down fence and ra ra ra in the party. We saying we want back the nice, sexy and groovy songs so you could dance with your lady,” he said of Want It Back which samples the chorus from Jamaican reggae singer Anthony B's Waan Back.
Joining forces with St Lucian Teddyson John in one of his several collaborations this season, Farmer dedicates the feel-good number Everything Good to Blaxx. He said the single was written by Jevaughn “Vghn” John from Grenada who was mentored by Blaxx. So, when “Vghn” who sang alongside Blaxx as part of De All Starz Band, presented the song to Farmer, it was only fitting that he sang it as a collaboration with John–also a band member–and produced a video showcasing the band members in tribute to Blaxx reassuring everyone that everything is fine in the aftermath of his passing. The song's producer is also part of De All Starz Band so it was like family coming together to pay tribute to the fallen artiste, Farmer said.
He expects his Gyal Like Rain collab with Jamaican singer Christopher Martin penned by Shaft on the Port-of-Spain riddim to be the tune to take over all the fetes and represent for Blaxx who was the man in all the all-inclusive fetes, he said. Farmer felt that working with Martin whom he described as the next Beres after the golden-voiced reggae artiste will usher in his conscious groovy music. He hopes the song could also land him in the running for a Grammy nomination and possibly an award.
“You see, I'm chasing a Grammy award. I would love to win a Grammy Award, or at least contribute significantly to making soca recognised by the Grammys, so I feel like Gyal Like Rain could be the song to step me out there. It's calypso, reggae, dancehall and soca mixed in one.”
He also teamed up with Nadia Batson for “Enough” on the Ole Talk riddim and joined St Lucian singer, writer and producer Motto for another collab titled “U Get Through”.
In 2014, Farmer's classic hit Big People Party earned him “Calypso of the Year” from the National Action Cultural Committee (NACC), but one of the high points of his career, was winning the MTV Iggy's Artist of the Week in 2012 with Surrender from the album You Make Me…Surrender which marked his recognition on the international music scene.
Farmer also plans to do a completely live instrumental album by mid-year.
“Yes, I am a percussionist, so I will be part of it...just live music, no programme,” he said.
Farmer Nappy joins forces with Jamaican artiste Christopher Martin for a first-time collaboration Gyal Like Rain.
Navindra Harbukhan/NH Productions TT
The seasoned entertainer received his introduction to soca as a percussionist in Machel Montano's Pranasonic Express at age seven, later branching off into vocals alongside the dynamic teen who would become the King of Soca. A mainstay in the soca entertainment industry, Farmer draws on his 38 years of experience to bring consistent hits with a calypso-groovy soca feel that win audiences locally and internationally. He sings mainly for a mature audience, the Hooking Meh and Technically singer who has his own label Country Life Music was quick to remind.
As to whether he will be pulling off another Backyard Jam which won him both the Online Soca Monarch and Road March titles in 2021, the talented artiste said despite having songs he could use to defend his title, he has no intentions of returning to the International Soca Monarch as his was a “unique win” in 2021. It came at a time when the competition was held at the NAPA before a small live audience and broadcast virtually to the rest of the world due to the pandemic. The 2021 Road March was also held online that year and neither competition came off in 2022.
Farmer said he was grateful to all the calypsonians who paved the way for artistes to be able to earn a livelihood from soca and take care of their families. He lives for his children Aisha, Kaidyn Jesus, Jadon Daryl and Jowah Daryl who range in age from 31 to seven as he never had a father to spoil him, he said. His mother wore “the pants and skirt” in their household, he added. It was his mother who asked Liz Montano to take care of him before she passed when he was 26 years old, the same year double M and Xtatik did Music Farm.
“That's why Liz Montano is my mother, the only woman I listen to,” he said.
This fan got real up close and personal with soca star Farmer Nappy at Kairi People's Different in 2016. PHOTO: DAVID WEARS
Q&A with Daryl “Farmer Nappy” Henry
Putting you on the spot here...what has been your best collab?
Christopher is the best. No disrespect to other artistes, but this project means a lot to me. This is like my baby...long time I've been looking for Chris. After Chris, I going and find Janet Jackson. I am a determined person and whatever I want I go after it, so I will find her.
You grew up with Monk Monte as part of Pranasonic Express and then Xtatik, take me back a little to the early days and what being an instrumentalist, a writer and an artiste meant for you then.
I was a percussionist. I learnt when Machel dad send us to learn music so I went and started playing percussion. After percussion, I started singing in the band. I left the band in 1991 because of the birth of my daughter. She was born one pound, ten ounces. I had to make a decision between my band and my family and I stayed out for five years. It was very, very hard to give up because it was my career and I did give up and go to America to do odd jobs...Yes, I'm a real grassroots, team player.
After five years, Machel came and say I come back for you, you have to come back in the band. I came back with songs like Music Farm (1997) and Footsteps (1998).
I was a writer, Oungku [from Burning Flames of Antigua] said I was an idea fanatic so I used to have the ideas and I used to take them to Machel and he used to finish them with me.
What do you think is responsible for your popularity and longevity in the business?
Machel is the one responsible for telling me: you write songs already and it was big songs, hall of fame songs, but now you singing, go and buy from others because the writing changed. So Machel is a big influence in my career, and Liz Montano, very, very big. Another person I want to put inside is Katrina Chandler that is my son's mother in Barbados. She's the one that took me to Red Boyz [Production] and for the past 16 years, my music has been produced in Barbados. So thanks to Katrina for being the vessel carrying me along there, she is very important in my career and my life and she is still my manager along with Navindra Harbukhan of NH Productions TT who is my road manager.
What type of music did you listen to while growing up?
My mother used to play plenty of Gregory Isaac, plenty Jacob Miller, plenty Bob Marley and Swallow, Arrow and Scrunter.
If not soca and entertainment, who would Farmer be?
A mechanic...I love cars. My favourite is my Subaru...because it's a four-wheel drive and it's a rally car so it drives through the road really nice. I know I would have been something special in life; a mechanic or I would have bought a car and run a taxi and buy more cars and have people working for me. I never wanted to work for people. My hobby is saving. I'm into real estate because this business has no pension. I want to let artistes know that because some entertainers have a champagne taste and mauby budget.
Who mentored you?
My mentor is Chris “Tambu” Herbert and Oungku Edwards from Burning Flames. Oungku showed me the business part and Chris “Tambu” Herbert is my first mentor who gave me my first shoes–red shining tip shoes–to perform with Charlie's Roots.
You paid tribute to Dr Leroy Calliste the Black Stalin when he passed last week. Did you have a relationship with him?
Not only Black Stalin, but we lost Singing Francine too. Black Stalin was a person that I learnt from. Machel, all of us, from the calypso tent when Machel was singing Too Young to Soca, we learnt from him. I met him on many occasions because he was from the South and I'm from the South too.
And he was also the poor people's governor. May he rest in peace, it's a big icon we lose. When they go it's only then we want to celebrate them. Celebrate them before they die. Songs like Hookin Meh and Backyard Jam, he used to call and say: Farmer that is a bad one. He said he loved my music. His son is part of a pan side called Pan Elders Youth Steel Band and in 2019, I went to his house to do a music video recording with the panside and we hold a vibes. He loved me and I loved him, he will be missed.