Perfect Sound Forever

THE ANNUAL


Intro by Alfred Boland; article by Marthy Coumans


Korm Plastics is a Dutch publisher of books about music, including the first English book language on Dutch punk, the complete editions of Vital and Neumusik fanzines, a book with correspondence with John Balance's Coil and a book about The Legendary Pink Dots.

Korm Plastics founder Frans de Waard teamed up with designer Alfred Boland for a new publication, The Annual. For a long time, both had wanted to publish a magazine, which eventually became what they hope will be a regular yearbook with 'everything you never knew you were interested in.' They invited their authors (present and future) to contribute an article, which led to a wildly diverse selection. From the history of turntablism, a 1985 interview with Roger and Brian Eno, a report on the Groningen punk scene in the late 1970's and early 1980's, exotica musician Truus de Groot writing about her formative years, Kubus Kasssettes, the Perversita festival in 1989, concerts that ended in riots, Willem de Ridder's Radiola Improvisation Salon, Ultra in Eindhoven, Gary Scott meeting Florian Fricke, plus articles on Killing Joke/Joy Division, The Slits, contributions by GW Sok and Harold Schellinx and more and illustrations by Miss. There are also short interludes by Freek Kinkelaar and Frits Jonker, plus a comic strip by Bertin.

As a preview of The Annual, we present you Marthy Coumans' article on buying vinyl on the island of Trinidad.




Collage by MissPrinted

After an exhausting 14-hour flight via New York Newark Airport, I reached Port of Spain's Trinidad airport early in the evening. The Caribbean island is closest to the South American continent. Right across the Venezuelan Orinoco Delta! (Just 11 kilometres to the south.) A hell of a flight. All my muscles were totally stiffened, and one of my buttocks was numb--half a sleeping ass. But I made it. There were long queues of people in front of the customs counter. There was also a man with a ukulele playing Caribbean tunes, to which some people were unabashedly swinging and jumping. What a cool entrance. I was here on a mission. To find as many old Hindi-soca records as possible and whatever other exciting things came my way. Vinyl-hunt! Without any guide, proper preparation or anything else. The simple fact that I had come across many exciting records pressed in Trinidad over the past few years brought me here. And, of course, Sundar Popo.

When slavery was abolished in Trinidad by the English colonials in 1833, the ex-slaves moved into the interior to establish their own farms. They were replaced by cheap labour brought in from India. Almost half a million of their descendants live in Trinidad, especially in the island's south. Sundar Popo came from this population group. He was a true musical pioneer who mixed Hindi music with Caribbean soca music. He made his first record in 1971. About 50 would follow, including big Caribbean hits. His sense of melody and just that little 'touch of genius' were thumbs up. The 'Chutney' was born. That's what that strange mixture of different styles was called. Delighting and surprising music. And where there is one... there are more. At least, that's what I was hoping for.

By taxi, it was off to my guesthouse. In the dark evening, it didn't look very tropical. There was a lot of traffic. I saw palm trees. They stood out beautifully against the evening sky. It got dark remarkably fast. According to my schedule, my base of operations was right next to the centre of Port of Spain. Just not quite downtown and relatively safe, I hoped. I had heard it was wise not to walk outside alone too much in the evening. People from the guesthouse itself and the taxi driver also warned me. 'They'll kill you for nothing. Welcome to Trinidad'! On the first day, I wanted to get acquainted with the place. That was not easy. It was blazing hot, almost unbearable, that bad. Still, I was crazy enough to walk three kilometres to the city centre. I was stared at in amazement by the natives. 'There goes a suicidal madman'.

There were lots of cars in the streets. In fact, there were just cars. Only in the busy inner city did I meet (more) foot traffic. The centre of Port of Spain, the capital, was a merrily swirling, colourful swinging mess--lots of loud music and people dressed in exceptionally bright rainbow colours. Very cool at first glance, but soon, the dark side became more and more noticeable. Shrivelled-up, emaciated Rastafarians lay everywhere in cardboard boxes, and many people seemed to stare at me as if they saw a walking cash dispenser. At first, I thought I was imagining it. Paranoia.

During the following days, certainty set in. I was a walking cash dispenser to many people; I walked around all day, watching and enjoying all the activity. Surprisingly, an ice-cold soft drink (bottle) almost boiled within about 5 minutes. So drink up quickly. The next day I would look for (the) original music on vinyl. After running back and forth on the first day, it was already clear that this would not be an easy task. When people are busy surviving, they do not need old-fashioned unnecessary rubbish... Records, for example... I had to come up with something for all that running around. It just wasn't doable. The people I spoke to about this were friendly and helpful. There were taxis but on fixed routes only. You just had to know. They took you for a minimal amount/fee, all crammed in. Taxi number plates started with an 'h', and hand signals would indicate approximately how far you wanted to go. I didn't understand that signalling and did whatever with my hand, but I was always picked up. That problem was solved.

The vinyl hunt technique is simple... persistence... from soft drink vendor to taxi driver to CD shop to whatever. All day, I got the run-around--nothing, nada, zilch. When at last I was convinced that this mission was doomed to failure, I wandered into a drugstore. I had forgotten to bring toothpaste. I talked to a girl who worked there and told her about my quest. She very sweetly called her father, who, according to her, had an extensive collection of records. From him, I got an address. Bingo! 'The address' was a CD shop on a side street off the main road... something like that. I had to come back at 9.30 the next day. I was (now) too late. It was going to be a restless, sweaty, sticky night. Like I was in a compression chamber. Furthermore, the ceiling fan kept me from falling asleep. It made an irritating, goofy sound. I tried to sleep without it but soon started sweating so much that I feared being mummified. So on then... The next day, I was in front of that door at exactly 9.30 am. They weren't even open yet. So much for appointments in the tropics!. Fifteen minutes later, a friendly young man took me through some dusty corridors at the back of the shop to a room of about seven by five metres filled with cabinets full of records.

(Incredibly.) 'We have more up here,' he said, walking up a creaky staircase. Above it was an even larger room with 7-high stacked boxes of 7-inch records. I was in 'heaven'. Then the searching began. The temperature was rising rapidly. The floor was littered with clutter, broken records, half-dropped doors, dust, and dirty little insects. Some covers fell apart when I touched them. Metres of them were stuck together. Very dirty, too. After a few hours, I had ripped out half a metre of albums. I sometimes spent more than fifteen minutes clearing the space to reach a rack of records. No Sundar Popo, but I did find a stack of records from 1972, titled Psychedelic Sounds by the Famous Casanovas. That turned out to be fantastic Hammond jazz with good danceable grooves. A pile of wacky reggae, some weird soca, Indian soundtracks and soca fusion LPs. Very interesting all around. Slowly the heat became too much for me. Taking a box off a shelf caused a 'mushroom cloud' of 'age-old' dust to explode all over me, I had had it and decided to go to the broader attic with singles. I drank litres of ice-cold water for the rest of the day, and the record(s) pile grew, now with lots of 'K.S.R-records' singles. The label on which much Chutney music was issued from 1973 to about 1983, The National Hindi Orchestra of Trinidad Tobago. Psychedelic reggae from Jamaica by Tomorrow's Children. Soca covers from Western hits in strange arrangements. Furthermore, a whole pile of Jamaican Abba pressings, very easy to sell. Even Arabian EPs probably end up there via the sizeable Lebanese population. Ultimately, I selected about 100 albums and about two hundred singles and was utterly exhausted. By now, it was half past four. The man to whom I had to pay counted the amount of vinyl and did not look for a second at what I wanted to buy. That never happens in Europe. Despite the low price, I still had to go to the ATM. In my five days in Trinidad, I saw only three or four other white people. So just one stood out quite a bit.

An exceptional experience, I thought. As I walked to the ATM, I felt increasingly uncomfortable. The 'Blue machine' was the name of such a thing. A group of youngsters, about 18 years old, stood next to that machine. I nearly crapped my trousers , but there was no turning back. Nothing happened... That evening, I returned to the guesthouse, satisfied with three full, extremely heavy bags of records. (Extremely heavy.) I knew that all of it was incredible music because I had already played everything on my small turntable. The next day, I wanted to go south to the Hindi part of the island.

First it is off to San Fernando and then to Chaguanas. That would prove to be an entirely different experience. Would this, too, succeed in satisfying my unending craving for new vinyl experiences????

After my successful vinyl adventure in the predominantly Creole north of Trinidad, I wanted to follow the same scenario for the mostly Hindi south. In other words, a day of searching and a day of scoring. Sounds laid back and easy... right? I found a list of music shops on the Internet and thought I would have the best chance in San Fernando and Chaguanas. After another restless, sweaty night, I was at the Port of Spain bus station around 10 am. I was amazed at the seemingly efficient bus network. You could get to everywhere by public transport. Fantastic. There was a bus under the sign 'San Fernando'. I had to get that one. The driver was already there, too, and a dozen passengers were nearly evaporating in the stinking heat. I sat down and waited for what was to come... and waited... and waited... Slowly some more people trickled into the bus, but about 40 minutes later, it had not yet left. I couldn't stand it any longer, so I asked the driver when he thought he would go. The answer was simple... "When the bus is full". Moments later, the bus drove off. I had, very European-like, paid for all unoccupied seats. An older man sat grinning at me. Trinidad is relatively mountainous in the north but flat in the south.

The palm trees kept the sight tropical, but otherwise, there was little in the way of beauty. Over a reasonable four-lane road, we were in San Fernando, 50 kilometres away, in just under an hour later. It was like stepping out in Calcutta. The shopping street was crowded with Indians, and there were madmen everywhere trying to lure people into their shops with megaphones. All the shops seemed to sell more or less the same thing. I had to go to the Variety Record Shop at 158 Carib Street. I lugged around aimlessly for an hour and a half, drank three litres of water, and fried my brain through the scorching sun. Despite friendly, helpful people, Carib Street remained untraceable. According to my info, most people here spoke English, but how odd it sounded. Verbs were not inflected. Only the infinitive was used. Sentences were unfinished and incomprehensible. Words were stuck together to create familiar combinations, but what they were saying... no idea. Damn... Eventually, I found the Carib Street sign. Another long time later - there was no logic in the numbering of the houses - I had finally found number 158, Variety Record Shop. Behind a counter with bars, which all shops that couldn't afford a flesh-and-blood security guard had, stood a tall Indian of about fifty who asked me, perturbed, what I wanted... After my story, he looked at me for a moment... Then he said, 'I only sell to the BBC'. He turned away from me, and I no longer seemed to exist. Too bad there was a grating. I went on...

That was a disappointment then, but, of course, you shouldn't give up too soon. Even if you are completely dehydrated, third-degree burned on the outside, and life seems to have no meaning... Just keep going. An hour later, I was at the taxi stand for a cab to Chaguanas. That was about 30 kilometres back towards Port of Spain. I turned my back on San Fernando forever. By the way, they did have delicious pastries there. Hmmmm. I hired an entire taxi for $30 Trinidad and drove in relative comfort towards Chaguanas. There it was the same as in San Fernando. All the hustle and bustle and noise drove you mad. Praimsingh's Poojas Bhavan & Indian Music Shop was, fortunately, a bit off the hysterical main artery. I had very good vibes that I would succeed here. It was shops-in-a-shop. They sold Hindi statues, reading material, incense of all shapes, sizes and fragrances, clothes, snacks, videos and DVDs, CDs, yet no vinyl. They had to be fucking somewhere... A pretty, somewhat sturdily built Hindi girl smilingly heard my account and then called someone with whom she chatted unintelligibly. She looked at me inquisitively and told me to come back the next day around 10 o'clock. I would be there!!! My experiment with a few bottles of Venezuelan wine worked out splendidly that night. I slept like a baby (that night); a pity about the pounding headache the next day. Even more unfortunate was that I didn't wake up until around eleven o'clock. Like a hungover madman, I shot into my clothes and to the bus station. This time, the bus left immediately. There were only about five people in it. Yeah... Force majeure, people! In Chaguanas, I raced to Praimsings etc. shop, and the girl looked relieved when I dropped in. By now, it was about one o'clock in the afternoon. She pointed me to a boy about 13 years old, wearing only shorts and a somewhat pockmarked friendly face. He was going to help me. I had to sit at a small table in the back of the shop. The next few hours were filled with going through cardboard boxes. When I was done with one, the little guy would come in with a new box and return the old one. I looked at thousands of LPs. And finally, there was Sundar Popo and a whole pile of unique Bollywood LPs. Not the usual shit but real funky hits by Rahul Dev Burman and Laxmikant Pyareal and others.

The soundtrack Is Rocky is about a wild biker with fantastic sitar funk mixed with Jeff Wayne´s War of the Worlds. The Burning Train sounds like an unfamiliar Kraftwerk song; a whole stack of Boney M in Hindi LPs for all your weddings and parties, the insane soundtrack to the film ´Bacchanal Time´. Or A Trinidadian film soundtrack from 1978 featuring soca mixed with African voodoo percussion... this was getting very out of hand and promised to be an inhuman drag. As best I could, I tried to check the mountain of records that had gathered around me for quality. This was a good idea, as the quality was often poor. In the end, I had selected over a hundred LPs. I gave the boy a big fat tip and stumbled to the cash desk with the mountain of records in my arms. Many surprised faces, and the girl behind the counter had to laugh. She wasn't familiar with the pricing so she had to call. I tried to put on an as disinterested a poker face as possible while she rattled into the phone. The handset went on the hook, and she said the amount per record--just a quick conversion... 40 euro cents per LP.

Ah, life was beautiful. Back in my hotel room, I browsed through my mountain of purchases and a satisfied feeling spread through my body. I (had) scored excellently. I opened an ice-cold can of beer and fell back on the bed to take another good look at the ceiling propeller for the last time. My plane was scheduled to leave at 8:30 the following day. I wanted to be at the airport by around seven. Then, in my estimation, I would have enough time for a relaxed check-in. My bag was heavy... like I was trying to smuggle a tank off the island. Absurd. The taxi driver kindly wanted to grab my bag to put it in the boot. He almost broke his back. Then we just did it together.

The check-in counters at the airport were hidden behind vast queues of people. Exhausted from lugging, I latched on to an endless queue. An hour later, I had only advanced for about twenty metres, with another seventy or so to go. I tried not to stress about the extra weight I was lugging around. Twenty-one kilos was allowed; above that, it could become a costly affair. At 8.30 am, the queue was still about fifty metres before me. Suddenly, the queue started advancing at a tremendous speed. The US plane wanted to leave. All luggage was labelled and thrown onto the conveyor belt, including my bag, without weighing. That was a stroke of luck! Via Houston, after first having waited seven hours for a connection to Amsterdam, I arrived at Schiphol at around eleven the next day. I delivered an outstanding acting performance by pretending that the overflowing bag weighed next to nothing when passing the customs officers. I was home!!! Great! I put my bag on our scale at home. It weighed 83 kilograms. As much as a grown man. That's... uh... a lot of records!


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