Carnival is bacchanal, it is often said.
But sometimes the bacchanal can linger long afterward.
Several months after Carnival 2023 ended, an advertisement made for the season by Angostura has landed the company in hot water after a New York-based record executive claimed the rum and bitters manufacturer used a sample without seeking permission from his company Charlie’s Records.
The sample comes from the late Winston “Explainer” Henry’s massive 1982 hit Lorraine.
Angostura, the producer of the world-famous, eponymous bitters, as well as rum and other beverages, is now facing the threat of legal action as a result of its usage of the jingle.
In its 2022 annual report, chairman of Angostura, Terrence Bharath, boasted that “the group recorded a historic achievement as we crossed the $1 billion revenue mark, which represents the highest recorded sales in the history of the company.” The company’s after-tax profit declined by 8.2 per cent to $145.23 million last year.
Explainer passed away in October 2022, just a few months before the release of the advertisement and its accompanying jingle called “Reign Again”.
Angostura said the jingle paid homage to Explainer and to the return of Carnival and is an adaptation of the legendary song Lorraine.
The jingle was performed by Angostura brand ambassadors, Nailah Blackman and Voice, and according to the company the jingle and video “capture the nostalgia and excitement many experience for Carnival and its festivities.”
The issue raised by Rawlston Charles of Charlie’s Records is not that the song was reimagined by the young artistes. Indeed it is not even the first time the song was redone as Explainer himself joined Bunji Garlin for a remix of the song in 2005. He sad the issue is the use of the first four words uttered in the original song, “Taxi, Taxi. Airport Kennedy.”
These words served as prelude to Explainer’s description of his dire need to leave New York City and return to Trinidad and Tobago to take part in Carnival festivities.
In a news release, Charles said that he owns the synchronisation rights for that simple sample and was not approached by Angostura or anyone acting on the company’s behalf, for permission to use it in their advertisement. Synchronisation rights are an agreement between a music user and the owner of a copyrighted composition (song) that grants permission to release the song in a video format.
Charles is a music producer who has been responsible for several calypso hits produced as far back as the 1960s.
Charles said that his contribution to Caribbean music, through his work and the work of his imprint, Charlie’s Records, is deserving of the respect of even major companies like Angostura Trinidad Ltd.
He noted that several major calypsonians including the Mighty Sparrow, the late Black Stalin, Christopher ‘Tambu’ Herbert, Calypso Rose, Lord Kitchener, Maestro, Ras Shorty I, Explainer, Super Blue, David Rudder and Charlie’s Roots, which was formed by Charles, have all been produced under the Charlie’s Records Label.
“The soca genre started under my umbrella with Ras Shorty I, and Machel Montano still records at my studio. He recorded last year and the year before that,” said Charles in the report.
Charles has claimed that he attempted to seek redress privately but was unsuccessful.
He said that he made several attempts to speak with the Copyright Organisation of T&T and after several calls, he was eventually met with a less than favourable response bordering on a dismissal of his concern by an employee there.
The Business Guardian reached out to COTT president Curtis Jordan for a response to the matter.
However, Jordan said it was the first time he had heard of the complaint and requested a copy of the report of Charles’ claims so that he could personally investigate the matter.
Apart from attempting to contact COTT, the news release stated that Charles and his team in T&T have submitted a letter to the advertising agency tasked with creating the advertisement.
Charles, in that letter, informed the agency of his terms which included his right to compensation.
He claimed that the advertisement and the jingle in question had been used primarily as a Carnival 2023 product campaign.
He said the advertisement was aired on radio, television, and multiple digital platforms. As a result, it had a global reach estimated to be in the millions.
“Many times, what we put into the song, as music creators, is done to attract people so that when they hear the beginning of certain songs, they then drop what they’re doing and react,” said Charles.
He argued that the use of the opening words from the song Lorraine was meant to have the same effect for the Angostura White Oak commercial.
Charles, who still owns and operates Charlie’s Records and its New York recording studio, stated he was willing to fight down to the end for what he is entitled to in relation to the song.
“They never sought the rights, never cared to do it, never did their research. In the US, if something like that happened, those who committed the illegal act would try to iron out the situation out of court, before it had to reach the court.”
He stressed that even after making the matter public, he had not been contacted by Angostura.
The Business Guardian reached out to Angostura who acknowledged the complaint made by Charles.
In a statement, Angostura said, “We are aware of an issue being raised in respect of a jingle. We have contacted our advertising agency and at present have begun inquiries into the issue raised. You will appreciate that matters like this require careful consideration before Angostura adopts a position.”
Charles stated in the release that those responsible for the use of the sample without his consent should attempt to contact him to avoid litigation proceedings.
“Many times these issues must have attorneys involved and I am cognisant of that. I am seeking redress via compensation because Angostura used my sample to sell their product. I will not stop until the matter is fairly addressed and compensation is received,” said Charles.
The Business Guardian attempted to contact Charles for an interview on the matter via WhatsApp, but up to the time of this article’s submission, he had not responded to our request.