Last week’s column focused on stagnation in the tourism sector and the weak marketing of T&T.
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Grooving to the soca
Not content to rest on his laurels, Kerwin Du Bois, one of the popular soca artistes for yet another year, plans to continue to perfect his craft and to take Caribbean music to international audiences. The Sunday Guardian caught up with the extremely busy, much-in-demand, though affable and calm soca star as he was heading off to yet another gig on the 2014 Carnival circuit. He was hailed as one for the future from his early schooldays (he captured the Junior Calypso monarch back in 1992), and his melodic voice and well-thought-out lyrics have taken him up the ranks to being today one of the most popular exponents of groovy soca. His skills at production (sound and audio editing and engineering) are well recognised and he is also an accomplished DJ, skill sets which he used effectively in England, where he earlier lived, to establish himself as a force to be reckoned with.
He has collaborated, written and/or produced for other stars in the soca arena such as Bunji, Machel, Denise Belfon, Farmer Nappy, Blaxx/composition of Breathless and Kees/composition of Wotless and enjoyed a fantastic 2008 with the hit single Gyal Farm, featuring Shal Marshall. He has been nominated for many awards and in 2008 was the International Soca Awards Soca Producer of the Year winner. In 2009 he brought together three of the biggest female soca artistes—Destra Garcia, Allison Hinds and Denise Belfon—by composing and producing the smash hit Obsessive Winers. In 2012 Du Bois enjoyed tremendous success with his hit single Bacchanalist, which secured him second place in the Groovy Soca Monarch category of the International Soca Monarch.
In 2013, he returned to Trinidad to participate in the Carnival festivities, as he usually does. A bout of pneumonia limited his involvement until the latter part of the season, but his contributions were well received and his fan base continued to grow, and for Crop Over and going into 2014 he released the hugely popular tracks of Monster Winer, Doh Beg, Fight D Feeling, Forget About It and Too Real. He aims to take the Groovy Soca Monarch Title in 2014 as this feature goes to print.
Where were you born, where did you grow up and where do you currently reside?
I was born in Pt Cumana, Carenage, which is also where I grew up, as well as in Maloney. I lived in England for a few years and presently reside in Toronto, Canada.
At what schools/institutions did you receive your education?
My pre-schooling was with Mrs Miles, which was a private school and I attended Tranquillity Primary and Secondary. Tell us about your inspiration to do the type of work you do. I am inspired by the people around me, my environment and current situations. I am moved by my genuine love for music and the creation of music which makes my job worthwhile.
What are your plans for post-Carnival 2014 in terms of shows/performances, etc?
I am already confirmed for a number of performances throughout the Caribbean, USA and Canada which will commence in less than a week after T&T’s Carnival.
What is your greatest accomplishment in the Carnival arena?
Gaining the love and support of the people who support me. I would not be in the situation that I am in today without that immense support.
What is your vision of a perfect Carnival Monday and Tuesday?
I enjoy every aspect of Carnival Monday and Tuesday, to be quite honest…the colours, the people, the vibe.
What is your favourite thing about Carnival?
The vibe and the energy of those people who engage in it. It is really an amazing feeling to see people enjoy themselves and let go of their worries and, yes, “forget about it,” even if it is for a moment! (laughs)
Who has been the biggest influence on your life? What lessons did that person teach you?
I am influenced by my children: They look up to me and I have to do good by them at all times. The simple “I love you” and “I missed you, Daddy” goes a long way in making sure that they benefit from the sacrifices I make at all times. Because of their support and unconditional love, I have been able to push more and to challenge myself more.
What are your favourite calypso/soca songs of all time, other than your own?
The first one is Watch Out My Children by the late Ras Shorty I and the other is The Hammer from David Rudder.
What advice would you give to the country's leaders to create a better society?
Understand the problems that the people are facing. The negative situations are based on the problems of the masses; do not ignore the cries of the people. The frustration is real and people will act out when they feel they are not being heard.
What goals and or ambitions do you still have?
To continue to perfect my craft and to take Caribbean music to international audiences. To create a musical movement that not only benefits me but the genre/s that I am involved in.
What advice would you give to the young people of T&T?
It is really important to believe in yourself as a lot of things will be difficult to acquire; but once you keep your eyes on the prize and remain positive, eventually you can achieve your goals and more. Hard work pays off.... and always be grateful and humble.
Calypso has taken you to many countries…which ones?
In my younger years when I was singing calypso, I was not afforded travelling opportunities. When I extended my talents to soca and began releasing/producing and writing, the opportunities came. I have been fortunate to visit almost all the islands in the Caribbean and have travelled throughout the USA as well as the UK.
Who was your hero, real or fictional, growing up?
My fictional hero was He-man.
Tell us about your early years in calypso…were you “discovered”?
When I began to show an interest in singing and calypso during primary schooldays, there were a number of people who saw my talents and assisted in moulding me and helping enhance my craft. One person is Larry Yearwood, who used to write my songs for me, and the other person was Mr Lance Heath, who mentored me.
Other than your singing career, what else have you been engaged in?
I am not only a singer but a producer and songwriter. Music is my life and it is all that I am involved in. However, if I had to do anything else, it would be in area of the culinary arts, because I love to cook and always wanted to become a chef.
If you had to choose a singer, any singer, to perform for you, who would it be?
There are a few, but off the top of my head I would say Anita Baker.
What daily motto/credo do you live by…your recipe for success?
One of them is from the great Nelson Mandela and it says: “A winner is a dreamer who never gave up.”
Describe yourself in three words, beginning with K, D and B—your initials.
Kind, Driven, Bold