From MusicTT Spotlight Alumni to the Regional Spotlight at Riches Karayib – It all started when I received a message from Melissa of MusicTT on Instagram. It was a post about this singer/songwriter competition. I decided to check it out because 2023 was a year of taking risks. I felt like there was much more to gain than to lose, so I said, “Why not?”. Admittedly, there was some procrastination on my end due to the nerves I felt, knowing how much amazing talent there is in Trinidad and Tobago that also deserved this opportunity. There was a huge element of self-doubt until a friend of mine resent the flyer and told me to do it, so in between school assignments, I made my audition video. I sang an already-released song of mine “Brown Skin”. A couple of days passed and then I saw the email saying I was selected to be in the finals and that’s where it set in that I have the chance to leave Trinidad to represent the country in Martinique.
Leading up to the day of the competition, we attended a beautiful workshop with the amazing Vaughnette Bigford, who helped us tap into our skills on how to embody our song and how to tell our story through music. We also got a tour of MITTCO with the Director, Akua Leith who showed us the entire factory and met with the woman behind Riches Karayib, Sabrina Ajax.
The big day came and I felt so honoured to perform alongside such amazing talent, Xaviella, Kenya Benya, Adesoga, Shanika, Luna, Sabella & Kenda Tempo. Everyone came out and gave their best! I performed Brown Skin and was over the moon to know that I won! From MusicTT Spotlight Alumni to Representing the Country? I was overjoyed!
From there I was put in a group chat with all of the other winners from around the Caribbean. Barbados, St Lucia, Anguilla Dominica Guadeloupe, Martinique. Then, the day came for me to leave Trinidad to head to Martinique and, when I tell you, that day was LONG but very much worth it. Reached Martinique and got comfortable in Hotel Simon which is situated in the town so I was very close to where the cruise ships would dock. Firstly, I have to say that Martinique is BEAUTIFUL. The streets? Clean! The people? Lovely! The entire vibe? Amazing!
Walking in on the first day I had no way of knowing what to expect. All I knew was this was for artist development and I was here for it for the next 5 days.
Day 1-5 went as follows: met the coaches:
- From Jamaica, Vivian Barclay Managing Director at Warner Chappel Music in Canada
- From St Kitts/Canada, Ivan Berry a music Business Executive, worked for Sony and so much other huge companies
- From Barbados, Dereck Wilkie, Music Publishing and performing rights executive
- From Anguilla, Davon Carty, Live Performance and Touring Executive
- From Canada, Jonathan Ramos, Global Tour producer of AEG,
- From the US, Spencer Musellam, Global Digital Distribution Executive of Believe
- From Martinique, Fred Jean-Baptiste, Music business executive of Label JB
We talked about what it means to be an artiste and how to become better at our craft. We were also advised that being a superstar shouldn’t be the goal but doing the thing that makes you happy and making a comfortable living off it should be the goal. I agree!
All the contestants became family to me within that short space of time. Everyone was very kind, open-minded, and incredibly creative. I understood exactly why they were all selected to represent. Sabrina had packed our schedules so there was no time to relax. From mentoring sessions to us going to their version of DDI, Rum distillery to dining in such amazing places and just experiencing Martinique to its fullest. One of my highlights was experiencing the pizza (as well as the alcohol *wink*). But don’t get me wrong, there was way more work than play because every morning at 8 AM on the DOT we were told to meet in the lobby to start the activities. It was worth it though as I gained so much knowledge that I am currently applying to my music career. I also made amazing connections that I’m hoping to keep for a lifetime.
Another huge highlight for me was the studio session with Fred Jean-Baptiste. He was professional, talented, and able to get work done quickly and smoothly. A part of Riches that had me very excited was being a part of a Caribbean album with a common song called “We are the Stars of the Caribbean” which will be distributed through Believe. I did my unreleased song “Sauce” and was also fortunate to collaborate with all of the Caribbean artistes. We called it the “We Are the World” track of the Caribbean.
Skipping ahead a bit! On the day of the performance, I felt like I was getting ready to perform at the BET Awards or something. Breakfast 6 AM, Soundcheck 8 AM, Lunch NOON, Makeup and photo shoot right… Sabrina pulled out all the stops. I felt like a superstar that day! Again, no time to rest.
The coaches greeted us and gave us some words of encouragement for the last time before we went off to the location and then it was showtime. All the contestants got together and said a prayer before it was time to perform. Everyone delivered! The crowd, even though there was a language barrier from French to English, thoroughly enjoyed the performances. What made that night so enjoyable for us was being able to entertain a crowd of people who didn’t speak the same language as some of us but were still able to move them in whichever way we could through music. We also enjoyed performing in front of all of the very impressed coaches. It felt so magical! We then went for dinner, shared our final thoughts and thanked all the coaches before leaving the next day. Of course, I was sad to go, but I was so thankful to be a part of such an amazing experience.
Final thoughts about the trip? I think that meeting other artistes outside of Trinidad and Tobago opened my eyes to the struggles or similarities in struggles we all face here in the Caribbean. We’re all fighting for a place to be heard. We all just want to be great in our own way and we all speak one language through music. It was felt for those 5 days I spent in Martinique. Every country has their issues, but workshops such as these truly help to showcase Caribbean artistes like myself. I am also very grateful to MusicTT for always giving us local artistes the space to be involved and providing avenues for us to represent T&T. I also hope to be able to work much more closely with MusicTT so we can continue to bring about positive changes in the music industry!
All and all… Riches Karayib? 10/10 experience. Can’t wait to see what they do in the future!
Written by Elizabeth Waldron – Juss Lizz.