JOHN ORPHEUS
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JOHN ORPHEUS

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | Established. Jan 01, 2015 | INDIE | AFM

Toronto, Ontario, Canada | INDIE | AFM
Established on Jan, 2015
Band Hip Hop Afropop

Calendar

This band hasn't logged any future gigs

Jun
24
JOHN ORPHEUS @ Kitchener Multi Cultural Festival

Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

Kitchener, Ontario, Canada

May
17
JOHN ORPHEUS @ The Painted Lady

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Apr
13
JOHN ORPHEUS @ Art Square Cafe and Creperie

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Music

Press


"John Orpheus takes us to play mas on Bacchanal"

REVIEW: JOHN ORPHEUS TAKES US TO PLAY MAS ON BACCHANAL

John Orpheus is a prime example of a "diaspora defender." He’s doing it in a contemporary way through his music, derived from his roots in New Grant, a small town in south central Trinidad, not too far off from San Fernando. His new BACCHANAL mixtape arrives just in time for Carnival, a season of feteing, wining, jukking and debauchery before Lent.

Bacchanal is a term derived from Bacchus, the Greek god of wine. It is often associated with lewd debauchery, and used in Carnival context to describe wild behaviour and hysteria surrounding the celebration. If you’re not familiar with the cultural traditions and importance of Carnival, check out Traditional Mas Archive (a super fantastic resource), so we can delve into Orpheus’ six-track release. Bang the drum, commands a robot-like voice at the intro of “Stay Woke,” as percussive rhythms set the pulse through strong verses of a raw, anthem of black history and identity. At two and a half minutes, it’s the perfect, brief statement to set the tone of the tape.

“So We Say,” is a gracious love song with beautiful lyrics that depict self-discovery, selflessness and affirmation. Driven by a steady beat and deep keys, before diving into an 808 break of dark electronics, before Orpheus closes where he started:

“this is more than love/ this is real / this is more than love, this nakedness you feel /
always wanted love to help me see/ what more can I be when I say /
I believe in something more than just me?”
Orpheus’ effortless blend of West African rhythms, traditional Dancehall and Soca elements, electronica, ambient vibes and a blend of vocal styles flows throughout BACCHANAL. A perfect example is “J’ouvert,” where Orpheus chronicles Carnival’s first party. J’ouvert, meaning daybreak or dawn, in French Creole, is celebrated throughout the Caribbean and marks the start of Carnival, on the Monday preceding Lent. People crowd the streets, playing mas and painting each other in neon bright hues, drinking until sunrise to Soca blasting from soundsystems stacked on transport trucks. But the track itself is unlike one you’d hear on J’ouvert. Commencing with Disclosure-esque synths, Orpheus employs native language, as voices whisper, “Jab jab” (Jab Molassie is one of several devil mas characters played in T&T Carnival, often smothered in tar, grease, lard or red/blue/green paint) singing,

“In the Caribbean it seems, they drinking up in the streets,
they partying to the beat, naked bodies grinding in heat,
and mud and oil on they face, the DJ pick up the pace.
Tell the big truck this ain’t no race, gyaldem drop in, take in di weight,
Yeah, been a long night drinking, this the wrong time for t’inking, eyes wide, she not blinking, catch a vibe, let it sink in, been a long night smoking, proper vibes we not joking,
Now the whole crew floating, let the music soak in.”
As subtle steel pan lead the song, Orpheus lists every wine, juk and chip along the way. It’s as if you were watching J’ouvert on Ariapita Avenue in slo-mo.

“Jiggy AF” throws you off in the best way. What starts off with a bashment riddim, Orpheus flows into classic Toronto hip-hop. With references to Mississauga, “cray-cray Alize,” and the homies, Orpheus moves between Caribbean slang (erry ting bless, wasteman) and North American language (erry ting fresh), getting on the level of every first-gen born diaspora kid. More importantly, it’s an example of how this language has evolved into everyday vocabulary within the diasporas. As Orpheus proclaims, “We don’t give a damn what de people say!” it’s a definite do-you chorale of being comfortable in your own skin.


But it’s not all about the party on BACCHANAL. Orpheus tenderly transitions to deep, introspective prose on “Fools In Love,” telling the story of love lost. Cinematic production make for a serious, somber tone on this one.

BACCHANAL closes with the epic “Black Girl Magic.” Praising the strength of black women, and their ancestors (“See the grace in the moves when she get down, she don’t gotta show and prove that she fresh now”), Orpheus pays homage to the women in his life with effortless flow to this trap-laden party track.

What culminates as a short, but sweet blend of emotions, sounds and sentiments is the at the core of BACCHANAL. The one thing that remains constant throughout Orpheus’ mixtape is the concept, which is, simply put, Bacchanal. It’s the recipe for celebration, with the pre, climax and post scenes in between. Orpheus exhibits diaspora dialogue in an accessible way, for those within or outside the Caribbean. With a contemporary approach that is fun, rather than intimidating, BACCHANAL is a sonic exploration of roots, culture and adaptation. - Bantor Radio


"World Video Premiere JIGGY AF by John Orpheus"

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.

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!”



“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.” -John Orpheus - Live in Limbo


"Five Questions With… John Orpheus"

Five Questions With… John Orpheus
Feb 09, 2017 by Jason Schneider 0
Hot on the heels of his 2016 mixtape Goldchain Hennessey, Toronto soul singer and rapper John Orpheus returns to his Trinidadian roots with BACCHANAL, a new mixtape steeped in Caribbean slang and West African rhythms.

Before he (in a previous guise) collaborated and toured with JUNO-nominated artists Alysha Brilla and Danny Michel, as well as members of Oasis and the Happy Mondays in the group The Hippy Mafia, 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.

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 OrkestraGatigo. They began building pop songs off the traditional rhythms that are Sarah's specialty. Orpheus instantly started singing Trini slang and the songs on BACCHANAL quickly took shape.

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. BACCHANAL is available now as a free download from johnorpheus.com, and he will officially celebrate its release with a show at Toronto club The Painted Lady on Feb. 23.


What makes Bacchanal stand apart from your previous work?

It’s Caribbean music rooted in West African rhythms played by my drummer and musical partner-in-crime Sarah Riegler. It's still pop and hip-hop but it's dripping in Trinidadian slang and dancehall energy. It's the best music I've ever made. I've spent my whole life making music but never made music this rooted in where I'm from. So it's very different but very natural to me. My earliest musical memories are my grandmother sitting on the veranda singing as I came home from school. She had songs for when she was happy, sad, waking, going to bed, frustrated, dancing, she had a song for every experience.



What track do you feel best captures the overall vision you had for this mixtape, and is there a story behind it?

The word “bacchanal” in Trini has two meanings: one is a wild drunken fete, and the other is drama. So there are two songs, each capturing one of these vibes: “JIGGY AF” is the turn-up wild dance party vibe and “SO WE SAY” is a Caribbean troubadour reflecting on his life—like a curry goat Leonard Cohen! The track “FOOLS IN LOVE” also means a lot to me right now. It's the most honest I've ever sounded on a song. You never know how songs affect people but this one really gets me every time I sing or play it.



You're a filmmaker as well. How do your videos tie in with your overall artistic vision?

Making striking visual art is part of our mission statement. With the video for “JIGGY AF” it was all about colour scheme and movement. We wanted to build the narrative around bright, vibrant colours and sunshine so it would feel like the Port of Spain or Kingston.

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What’s your favourite and least favourite thing about Toronto?

I love all the cultures mingling. I love that you can get authentic food from anywhere in the world whenever you want and hear languages from all over as well. I don't like the lack of mountains and trees and billy goats. Gotta have billy goats in your life man!



What's been the biggest change in your life over the past year, and what are your major goals for 2017?

The biggest change has been a freedom—a sense that there is nothing I need to hold on to. Nothing I need to prove to anyone. It's freed me to be myself, dream bigger and really commit to my path. This year we have two more mixtapes before the summer. Outdoing ourselves is the goal on each of those. Each must be a quantum leap better than the last. Playing Pop Montreal and at least three U.S. festival dates are goals for 2017. We are also working on a shows in Africa, which is a major life goal for me and—fingers crossed—will be happening later this year. - FYI Music News


"New video release LEANIN by John Orpheus"

Toronto R&B/Hip-Hop artist, filmmaker and author John Orpheus has released a new clip for “LEANIN”, the focus track from his mixtape Goldchain Hennessey, now available through Little Noise Records or at www.johnorpheus.com.

“LEANIN” is directed by Dylan Mitro, whose credits also include The Zolas’ “Swooner” video. The dreamy, slo-mo “LEANIN” perfectly reflects the song’s intoxicating vibe of luxury mixed with longing.

Goldchain Hennessey is an expression of life, love, and music in the wake of a house fire that claimed most of John Orpheus’s personal belongings. Over its nine tracks, his Trinidadian heritage seamlessly emerges through stories of his summer “free of stuff” and hanging with his #GCH (aka Goldchain Henny) crew of budding young Hip-Hop and R&B stars, including Aron the Alien, Jane Doe Smith, and Kendal Thompson.

Woven together by a series of voicemails left for producer Mike Schlosser, the mixtape is an eclectic journey through hiphop, soul, and yes, Hennessy. From the searing “GULSHAN” to the crew-anthem “LEANIN,” Orpheus fashions an intricate lyrical web supported by just enough friends to make it feel like a party. So grab a few gold chains and a strong cognac and drop the needle on a soon-to-be-classic. - Canadian Beats


"New Video release BUTTAHFLY by John Orpheus"

Toronto’s John Orpheus has recently dropped the video for his r&b, hip-hop, and rock blended track “Buttahfly” via Youtube. The track is from his upcoming album that is currently being worked on. Featuring vocals by Kendal Thompson, the video is about cross-cultural love. Be sure to check out the single below and connect with the artist on his social media platforms. - Canadian Beats


Discography

2015 - JOHN ORPHEUS IS DEAD - Album
2016 - Dennis Rodman                  - Single
2016 - Buttahfly                             - Single
2016 - GOLDCHAIN HENNESSEY - Mixtape 
2016 - Leanin                                  - Single 
2017 - BACHANNAL                       - Mixtape

2017 - Jiggy AF                               - Single

Photos

Bio

John Orpheus is a Trini Troubadour and Pan-African poet whose musical journey has taken him from the Trinidad bush, to blues and folk festivals across Canada, to some of the biggest rock and roll stages in the world. Born and raised in the town of New Grant, South-Central Trinidad, J.O. grew up singing in Pentecostal and Shango Baptist churches. After attending the famed Presentation College in the same year as legendary soca singer Machel Montano, he immigrated to Canada where he soon became fully immersed in the music life.

John Orpheus with his musical soulmate, DJ/drummer Sarah Jane Riegler, combines hip-hop swagger, afrobeats energy and dancehall charisma to create a sound built on big catchy hooks, African rhythms and Caribbean twang. The duo are known for rabble-rousing live showsfilled with audience participation, chanting and impromptu dance offs that feel more like Caribana road parties than concerts. As J.O. likes to declare: “AH SO WE DO IT!” 

Band Members