by Darin Gibson
A healing. An energy that can pervade the listener’s understanding of self, uplifting that self and, in turn, the listener’s surroundings. According to Muhammad Muwakil, this is the breath behind the music of Freetown. The name Freetown was drawn from this very concept. Belmont, where Muwakil resides, was at one time called Freetown, the location of a settlement of freed slaves at the foothills of Gonzales. For Muwakil, Belmont and, in fact, Trinidad and Tobago at large could no longer be called a free town and he decided that he needed to recreate this free town within himself, within his home and his immediate community. With Lou Lyons who shared this ideology, the group Freetown was given life as an active pursuit of this inward and outward liberation. Both Lyons and Muwakil are both established spoken word artists in Trinidad and Tobago. Their sound now still draws from this rich lyricism but also infuses melodies produced with the guitar, saxophone, harmonica and clarinet, instrumentation shared between the two poets. There is a rawness to their sound that conveys an honesty, passion and intensity of meaning that appears to touch a chord in their audiences, a power evidenced in the numerous invitations that Freetown has received over the past two years to concerts, festivals and conferences across the Caribbean and as far as London. Yet they have no official manager. The transition into music was an organic movement, the natural evolution of poetry and the desire to make their work more accessible. When asked to describe their sound, Muwakil quotes Lyons who considers it Caribbean blues. Although blues might be more conventionally thought of as a North American genre, Muwakil asserts that, in the wider context of the meaning and purpose of blues, it has been an organic growth in all cultures. ‘Calypso is blues,’ he says. ‘And every culture has their blues music, which is their story music, especially oppressed cultures. Marley sung the blues.’ Freetown is a channel to tell the stories of their native land with an understanding so intrinsic to the human condition that they can be grasped by listeners across the world. From this internal beginning, Freetown hopes to effect a global change, make the world a free town.