Trini guitarist Cliff Manswell pulls strings for J’can talent
Last year, Cliff Manswell’s fingers were busy adding to the melodies of Jamaican roots-reggae trio the Mighty Diamonds with his bass guitar on their US West Coast tour. This year, the Trinidad-born guitarist’s is focused on reviving his label while lifting up new talent from Jamaica.
Manswell is a premier session bassist back home in the valley of Santa Cruz in the twin islands. The musician commanded the upbeat tempo and complex sounds of salsa as a novice and expanded his love of soca and reggae while playing alongside his uncle with the San Racas, a parang (Trinidad’s traditional folk music) band. But it was not until the bass guitarist relocated to California, one of the US’s epicentres for reggae, that his résumé broadened to include playing and travelling with notable artistes of the genres, including Gyptian, Luciano, Josey Wales, Marcia Griffiths, Warrior King, Glen Washington, Everton Blender, The Abyssinians, Junior Reid, Prezident Brown, Chaka Demus & Pliers, Tanya Stephens, and Black Uhuru. He was recognised for his participation on the Grammy-nominated album As the World Turns in 2018, which further ignited his passion to produce music from all genres.
Through his label CKM Infinity Studio, Manswell has produced for several established artistes in Jamaica, but his latest work involves singer-songwriter Trudii Harrison, who hails from St Ann, of whom he said, “After hearing her voice and seeing her level of professionalism, I had to sign this girl.”
“In a matter of two days after sending a rhythm to her, she penned the lyrics, did the studio time, and returned the recorded piece to me. All the songs she has recorded with me thus far make up a story; there are issues that are relevant. Looking at Trudii – not just her vocal talent, her attitude and the kind of energy you get from her – she is going to reach very far. All she needs is a breakthrough,” he said.
The singer-songwriter’s single Black Voice, which speaks to the Black Lives Matter movement and the murder of George Floyd, is the first single released from a ‘riddim’ EP titled The Message, produced by Manswell, and features sounds of him playing guitar, percussions, and keyboard. The seven-track musical project also features singles from Glen Washington, Anthony B, Lutan Fyah, Prezident Brown, and fellow Trinidadian Marlon Asher. The musician-turned-producer is currently compiling the tracks for Harrison’s debut EP, Tru Story.
Manswell said that so many talented female singers who can stand on their own two feet are serving in the role of backing vocalist.
“A lot of the talent is hiding, and some of them are not taking the time to invest in their brand, but to these singers, I have to say, come forward because any day, at any time, the main act can let them go. I am loving the emergence of females over the past couple of years, but some believe backing a star is the biggest thing,” he said.“The hardest thing nowadays may be to get the music on the radio, but Trudii’s song has received great support on reggae radio shows across the US. I am investing in her as her manager and producer. I would love to work with more Jamaicans, but the focus is not on where the talent comes from but a person’s ability. They actually have to want it, especially the females. I can’t wait for her music to get out in the world so more people can see the next generation of music that’s coming out of the Caribbean.”