VAUGHNETTE BIGFORD is unapologetically Vaughnette Bigford. Her name does not have to be a global one, if it happens, she’s happy. But if it doesn’t, she’s okay with that too. There is one promise she makes to her listeners and followers, if you come to see Bigford, that’s exactly what you would get, Vaughnette Bigford.
The popular vocalist will host her first full-length concert in Port of Spain on June 9 at Little Carib Theatre, corner White and Robert Street, Woodbrook, from 7.30 pm. The concert will also feature guest performers Mikhail Salcedo on the pan, John Francis on vocals as well as “a special surprise” guest.
The decision to host a full-length concert came after realising she had never done a full concert in “town.”
“I have been doing concerts in south. I have done at least four concerts in south. As much as I have been doing performances in Port of Spain. I do a lot of performances in Port of Spain but I have never really done a full-length concert in Port of Spain...So I just thought that I would look at the option of doing a full concert as against to a 45-minute set, to doing a full concert in town,” she said.
The timing is right for Bigford now because “people have been asking for it...When 2018 started I knew that I probably wanted to do maybe two major concerts; one in Port of Spain and one in south. So the one in south will be later on in the year, probably in September.”
At this concert, Bigford intends to take patrons back to the vocalist they knew before the local song book. The local song book refers to Bigford’s Born to Shine CD, released last year, which is made up of 11 local songs written and arranged by local writers and arrangers.
When she started in 2004, she said via phone, “I started singing straight jazz and world music stuff. I kind of ventured away from that to focus on the local song book. I am going back to, maybe, showcase a little versatility too, in terms of, ‘this is not all that I do’.”
So the June concert “would be primarily Trini music as well as the stuff that I did before, jazz, world, Latin and stuff like that. It is a combination of cultures.”
Those attending could look forward to new arrangements and approaches. Working along with her husband and manager, Shurlan Griffith, when she began singing professionally in 2004 a strategic plan was developed. The plan outlined where she wanted to be in ten to 15 years. “I am really happy to say that the plan worked because we stuck to the plan really. The plan really worked. I am really comfortable,” she said.
Bigford “would tell people, ‘I want to be a household name,’ when they say jazz in Trinidad and Tobago I want them to call my name. I think I am at that point now, where I am comfortable. I play a lot. I think I play more than a lot of musicians.”
“I think my product is recognised somewhat, people kind of associate my name with a certain kind of quality which is important to me. I am comfortable; there is always room for improvement...(but) I think I am at a comfortable space and I am thankful for that.”
When asked what she plans to do next, she said, she doesn’t plan that far ahead. Her intent, however, is to continue developing her craft. “I might take a little time away, go do a workshop. Go study with somebody. I intend to continue doing that for a very long time. Ever-evolving. You learn new things, you hear new people, you are exposed to new things and that is how you hone your craft, by continuous development and learning.”
Although a new CD might be within her range of vision, Bigford said she does not know when since her biggest goals right now, are “to be alive, be healthy, be happy and play the music.”
As the local music scene flowers with new initiatives such as the Live Music District, Bigford is happy to see these develop but also believes there is still work to do. “From zero, we’re (local musicians) thankful. We talk about sustainability and we talk about veering away from oil and gas and getting into creative and exporting Trinidad and Tobago as a space for tourism. Exporting our arts but we don’t really lay the foundation for that, it is all talk. So, when we see initiatives, like this, we’re happy. Any movement from zero is movement. But I am still saying a lot more could be done.”
With these initiatives such as the Live Music District and the University of Trinidad and Tobago’s (UTT) jazz programme, a lot of local, younger musicians are becoming interested in the jazz genre.
For Bigford, the word jazz has a certain “connotation associated with it and people like to be associated with it. They associate it with something that is classy, that is tasteful, something that is a little more mature...which is not necessarily a good thing for us because we hardly attract young people because young people associate that with a middle-aged crowd. So they don’t particularly want to go see it. But we do have a lot of young people who are now getting into the genre as well.
“I think it is wonderful to see a lot of young people coming out of UTT now. Young musicians who are heading in that direction. They do have a jazz programme at UTT led by Anthony Woodroffe. I am kind of happy about where I see it heading,” she said.
As Saturday’s show approaches one thing patrons can expect is Bigford giving 100 per cent of herself. “What you see on stage is who I am. I don’t pretend. It is just an expression of who Vaughnette Bigford is...If you’re coming to see Vaughnette Bigford in concert, you’re coming to see Vaughnette Bigford in concert.”
When asked if she wanted to become a global name, Bigford said, “I guess it is because I don’t want to seem unambitious but it is never foremost. I tell people I have the perfect balance... I have a day job. I have a nice family and I play my music.”
Her life is about “striking the balance and remaining happy and contented.”
She is, after all, “a simple girl. I am a simple La Brea girl.”