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Artist Ozy Merrique gives up Cipriani Blvd
Last Friday was Ozy Merrique’s final day at the spot he has kept at Cipriani Boulevard for the past year and half. The spot was his creative space to paint and make music. Now he has decided to move on because he has a bigger project in mind.
Ozy Merrique was known in earlier days as leader of the rapso group HomeFront which was popular in the 90s when Kiskadee Karavan presented and produced the next generation of T&T creatives.
After a successful run, Merrique continued working on music—he has four albums since then. He was also producing art, starting off with t-shirts.
While some used the power of commercial enterprise, Merrique preferred the idea of artistic uniqueness, creating one-of-a-kind pieces that reflected his trademark style.
“But by the third week, I had to insert some degree of hustle in selling the t-shirts,” he said, laughing.
“I so believe in the art and music, to hard-sell it would mean to diminish it.” He has always been a one-man crew, he said. The space at Cipriani was meant to be activated for live performances—which he often announced via social media.
Facebook became a virtual exhibition of his art on canvas. Before, he worked from home and now he returns home to continue his art.
But this time, he has online outreach as well as some well-positioned pieces at a few popular spots in Woodbrook as his call-card should anyone want to reach him directly.
His next major task is the launch of his new collection of music titled BWA which Merrique said is drawn from two main sources—Bois Caiman, a voodoo ceremony in Haiti and Bois, as in the tradition of the gayelle which Trinidadians know as the holding place for stickfighting.
According to The Louverture Project online, Bois Caiman, or its kreyolised name Bwa Kayiman, is the site of the vodou ceremony presided over by Boukman Dutty and Cecile Fatiman on August 14, 1791.
It is widely accepted as the starting point for the Haitian Revolution. August 14 is also the date of Merrique’s EP launch. As for the gayelle, Merrique saw the fighting ring as the “cauldron” of many ideas—manhood, lyrical face offs, the early beginnings of calypso.
The mixture of the two concepts, he said, was about expression of individuality and independence—something which he has done for most of his artistic life.
“I have been recording all the time. I had an album out almost two years ago—a Part I called Dog Eye Yampee and Part II called Twice Bitten.
“Then there was the Electric Mongrel and I did eight new songs. This time, I am combining with some older music as a collector’s item.
“The challenge is not doing the work so it wouldn’t be broadcast. My work is experimental in approach to song production.
“There is no reference point in the media unless you are listening to me at Trevor’s (Tavern located in St Augustine) where I often perform,” Merrique said.
His music does not revolve around doing music by or before Carnival season, he added. He will keep his indigenous, T&T style.
“For the past ten to 15 years, I have done mid-year shows, had open mic, different concepts to activate artistes not inside the Carnival. I can’t say I have figured it out, but I have a long list of what not to do,” he said.
In addition to his music, he wants to put on film, A Beautiful Place—a screenplay which he wrote in the time of the Merikins’ arrival to Trinidad in 1812. The mystical love story follows a young slave girl, Sola on a plantation who fell in love with a soldier.
She also grew up with a boy on the plantation whom she met in the forest. Young lovers are always chosen by the village and once approved, the couple are allowed to eat a special fruit in order to find the Beautiful Place.
Since the village chose the solider for Sola, the young slave got jealous, killed him and chopped the tree.
“I want to put that on plate number one of priority,” Merrique said.
“Hopefully, next year for the TTFF (Trinidad and Tobago Film Festival).”
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