by Former Manager, Ian D. Sanchez
Yesterday, 24th October, ironically the same day that our Calypso Queen Jany died nineteen years ago, our Road march King Martin Pierre Regis, better known as “Jaunty” moved on from this life.
He has been described as one of Saint Lucia’s most prolific recording artistes, known primarily for his spicy Soca rhythms.
“Jaunty” hails from the community of La Clery, Castries in Saint Lucia.
From his early childhood days, Jaunty had a love for music, creating sounds with anything he could lay his hands on.
It was only natural for him that his early musical influence would be Calypso, being raised on an island that so widely appreciated the genre.
In 1978, Jaunty left Saint lucia for the Mecca of Calypso, Trinidad and Tobago, where he met with and was heavily influenced by Lord Shorty, now known as Ras Shorty I.
In Trinidad, Jaunty sang his composition ” Smiling Hypocrites” for Shorty, who encouraged him to take part in Calypso tents in Saint Lucia.
With this backing, the singer returned to Saint lucia. However, because he failed to have a second song, he was not able to compete in 1978.
In 1979, Jaunty was on the road again, this time to New York, his base for over a decade.
That year, he cut his first single, a melodious ditty called ” Irie Soca” which showcased the profound impact that Lord Shorty had on the singer.
The song was well received in New York as well as in homeland Saint Lucia.
The eighties were beginning to show a heightened increase in musical bands in Saint lucia. One such band was Sounds Together, which played extensively on the hotel circuit.
Jaunty returned to Saint Lucia in 1984 and was immediately chosen to sing lead with the band. That same year, he entered the National Calypso competition with the songs “Helen” and ” Sime-ing Gwen”. His selections were also included on Sounds Together’s first studio album.” Sime-ing Gwen ( loosely translated spreading seeds) would prove the basis for Jaunty’s play with words using his country’s second language, French Creole.
Frustrated with the local Calypso scene, he returned to New York.
The nineties would begin to bear fruit for the efforts of Jaunty. In 1993 he recorded his first album, “Homeless,” which included the social commentary “Mothers feel the pain”.
Maybe the honesty and creativity of this song connected Jaunty to a new fan base, which fell for his soca rhythms, ” Ou La Lay” which won him the 1993 Road March King title in Saint Lucia.
It was the first time that the island had a Road March song that was well documented on vinyl.
On stage, Jaunty revealed a renewed confidence. The following year, he recorded “Jump” which came close to winning the road March title but not quite.
But he would erase his disappointment the following year, 1995, with ” We Shall Hop,” which did the trick.
In 1996, it was Jaunty’s turn to feel the pain. The Saint Lucia Calypso Association decided to boycott Carnival due to differences in the change of date of Carnival between themselves and the Minister of Culture.
Jaunty, who was in New York at the time, accepted an invitation from the Carnival Committee to perform during Carnival and was subsequently banned by the association. Ironically this was his greatest year yet.
His song “Borbalist took the international Soca Market by storm. This song led him to get bookings in Canada, London, Suriname, Martinique and the USA, among others.
Need we say that this Borbalist song was the unofficial Road March of that year? The song has been since recorded in Papiamento, Spanish, and French by various artistes .
In 1996, Borbalist was voted the most popular humourous Calypso at the Sunshine Awards show out of New York.
Jaunty was now in heavy demand in the French islands. In 1997, he formed the group Soca Zouk Express along with an experienced team of French musicians.
With the group, Jaunty recorded a CD, “Wheelbarrow.” The title track, “Wheelbarrow,” was another hit, as well as the single “Go ah court.”
That year, Jaunty also released his own solo project, The Best of Jaunty, with two new tracks. One was “Military Jam.” Jaunty was able to capture the National Road March title once again in 1998 as revelers marched in contentment to his sweet brand of Soca.
Jaunty developed into a powerhouse performer despite his diminutive figure .
Finally, he has lived up to his name, which the dictionary defines as ” airily self-satisfied; sprightly”. He developed into a songwriter-producer and arranger who simply created his own style.
There is no one way to classify his music….Zouk, Soca, Ring bang, and Soukous… it’s all in there.
I pay tribute to this cultural ICON, Martin Pierre Regis.