Samuel L Bridgeman II is no stranger to the Barbadian entertainment scene, though he has worked mostly behind the scenes.
The 27-year-old producer and musician has been around since the age of 19. However, it was only through the release of his 2017 Crop Over hit, Pop Down, that Barbadians were officially introduced to the musician, sound engineer and producer.
Commonly referred to as Hardware, his producing name, Bridgeman’s tunes have been on the airwaves since 2014 when his song My Rum, sung by Gorg, won the Party Monarch title.
He has also produced hits such as Bout Hey Heavy by Seth Xcel Bovell and Bounty Killa, Up It by Verseewild and Joe Cloudy and even Fluffy Gal Anthem by 2017 Bashment soca contender Lady Essence.
Having decided to move to the forefront from behind the scenes, Hardware will be gracing the stage for the first time this Friday night as a performer in this year’s Yello Bashment Soca Competition Finals.
Hardware has been surrounded by music for his entire life. At the age of two, his mother spotted his interest and decided to nurture his talent.
“I have always been in music. My mom bought me a toy piano from the time I was two and I started playing the National Anthem from a very early age. When she recognized that, she bought me a bigger piano that I could play on,” he told Bajan Vibes.
Since then, Hardware has been into the piano, keyboard, drums and has dabbled with, though not mastered, the playing of other musical instruments. From initially playing at church, he gained experience by playing keyboard and drums on the hotel circuit, before moving to play with the band Strategy for vocalist Kirk Brown.
It was in 2013 when he decided to try his hands at producing, then his life started to change. With the help of Marlon Fox from Fox Hole Productions, he produced Hardware Riddim, which featured Crimson, Pamputtae, Hard Mout Bling, Peter Ram, and Brutal, to name a few.
After hearing the rhythm, a German deejay reached out to the aspiring producer and told him that if he ever had a chance to come to Europe, he would book him. This life changing decision helped to form the Hardware that Barbadians are getting to know and love.
“In 2014, I went London, Switzerland, Germany. . . it was a great year. I came back to Barbados, worked on Me Rum with Gorg and that won Party Monarch,” he fondly recalled.
The Combermere School alumnus has done a fair share of globe trotting. He has worked in Abu Dhabi as a keyboardist and deejay and has done gigs in New York and Europe. On the local music scene, his name can be seen among the credits of numerous bashment soca songs. The fine print says “Produced by Hardware”.
It has been an interesting experience so far, especially with all the controversy labelling bashment soca songs as “crass”. By producing Pop Down, Hardware is hoping to change the image associated with the genre.
“For the Pop Down, I wanted to make something for all ages because you know that bashment videos . . . tend to be a lot of girls not wearing so much clothes,” he noted. “A parent might be like ‘No, you can’t watch this. This isn’t for you’. I wanted to make something for all ages so I put together some of the best comedians in Barbados and put them all in our video.”
He added: “I wanted to show a different side of bashment, the side that doesn’t have to be ‘juck down, juck down’. Those things have their place, I don’t diss them because I produce that as well but bashment doesn’t have to be the same thing. There can be bashment outside of the partying.”
From the melody to the lyrics to the videography, everything related to Pop Down was composed, constructed and edited by Hardware himself. It might surprise some to know that the music video was produced using a Samsung S6 Edge phone.
Pop Down is not the only song Hardware has produced for the 2017 Crop Over season but it has garnered a good response due to its early release in late February, promptly after Trinidad carnival. This strategic planning from Hardware and his team helped to fuel the good response it has been receiving on social media.
“Coming out early February and end of March as soon as Trini carnival is done, there is normally no new music until May, so the month gap gave deejays the chance to play new soca instead of running back to dancehall or playing the Trini music that was playing for the last five months, “ he pointed out.
Although he began his musical journey in the church, Hardware indicated that he was always associated with “being bashment”. Hence, the progression to producing bashment soca was no surprise but rather expected by his friends and colleagues.
“A lot of people say that bashment is just a little one cord but it is more than that; it is a vibe, it is a feeling, it is something we live. That is why everybody can’t just make bashment and it takes off. It is something you have to feel from inside . . . either you bashy or you ain’t bashy,” said Bridgeman.
Hardware is preparing for an exceptional performance on stage this coming Phenomenal Friday. However, his overriding focus is on the future development of Bashment soca.
“My vision for Bashment soca is that it takes over the globe. In the next three years, I want Bashment to be recognized internationally as a genre and that is what I am working towards right now,” he said.