COME Tuesday, dancehall quartet T.O.K performs at the weekly live series Behind the Screens at Usain Bolt Tracks and Records in St Andrew.
Having been away for some time, the group — Flex, Craig, Bay-C and Alistaire — will use the event to reconnect with the local market and reinject their brand of “crazy, party energy” into the music scene.
The group is currently on a drive to rebuild their Jamaican base, having just been released from what they described as a “long and binding contract” with reggae music powerhouse VP Records.
As group member Flex explains, 2013 will see renewed energy from T.O.K.“Having come out of the restraints of that contract with VP, we are now ready to release all that energy. There’s nothing stopping us now. We are ready to give the people all that they have come to expect from T.O.K,” he says.
The group now records under their own label, XCAR Records, an acronym based on the initials of their first names, and have recorded an album for the Japanese market which will distributed by JVC, a Japanese label.
That project is expected to be released at the end of April.
“Japan has always been our strongest market. Even before some of our songs become street hits here at home and in other markets, the Japanese have always embraced us. In 2008, Guardian Angel was the number one ringtone in Japan, not just as it relates to reggae, but overall. We repeated with Now That You Are, later that year,” Flex continues.
T.O.K is also on the compilation album Set Up Shop released by the Marley-owned Ghetto Youths International label. Flex states that this is one example of the collaborations with Damian ‘Junior Gong’ Marley, who is also included on singles to be released by the quartet.
Despite an extended absence, T.O.K are confident they have lost no love with their core market at home. “We have always prided ourselves with putting out great music. We still feel the love in the streets. So that makes it easy to come back,” Flex says.
For Alistaire, “Our performance on Tuesday will see a return to the high energy featuring a mix of the classics plus newer stuff. Under our previous contract we had limited artistic expression, so now that we have been released, we are going back to what made us popular.”
Craig was somewhat reflective, noting that the new energy is a translation of what they have experienced touring the world as well as mending the “disconnect with the Jamaican audience”.
“I am not sure what caused this disconnect, but we will have to fix that. Over the years with all the travelling, we sometimes found the need to rest once we got home. But we now realise that home time is not necessarily rest time,” Craig notes.