SHOULD Nailah Blackman win the BET award for which she has been nominated, she would be fulfilling the dream of her grandfather, soca creator Ras Shorty I, to put soca music on the world stage, her mother Abbi Blackman said.
Nominations have been closed and Blackman, like the rest of the world, would have to wait until June 24 for the live show to know if daughter Nailah is the Black Entertainment Television’s (BET) Viewer’s Choice for the Best New International Act.
Nailah’s manager Anson Soverall said she appeared to be in the lead around the time when nominations ceased at midnight, June 19.
While Blackman is rooting for her daughter to bring home the international title, she said being the first Trinidadian nominated for this BET award is already ground-breaking.
“We have no way of knowing if she is in the lead. Nomination was cut off on Tuesday night. They are now tabulating the votes. The prognosis feels good. But she has already created a milestone for TT and the Caribbean. Bunji, Anya Ayoung Chee, Godfrey Holder, Machel Montano, Heather Headley have made their mark in entertainment. Our sportsmen and women have been making their mark. In the beauty field, in international competitions, we have made our mark over and over again,” Blackman said.
“She is only Caribbean artiste represented in this category. Think about what this would do for TT, from a cultural perspective if she wins that award. Nailah’s aim is to make soca a category in the BET Awards. Soca is still under reggae, under Caribbean music. What she wants to do is bring it on the world stage, to do what Shorty I wanted to do when he invented soca,” Blackman said on Wednesday.
When she first received news that the last of three children, Nailah Blackman-Thornhill, had been nominated for a BET award, Blackman danced. She laughed. She screamed.
This international acknowledgement of Nailah’s talent less than two years after she burst on the soca scene, is not surprising to Blackman.
“Nailah always had talent. It is what we have been working for all these years. This is a big one. I thank God,” Blackman said beaming with pride days after the announcement.
“I feel elated. I feel proud. I don’t think there are many words to express the feelings. The experience is life-changing. It is the realisation of the sacrifices I have made to take care of my children. Especially an artistic child like Nailah. When her father and I separated I had to sacrifice my career. To make sure she had a piano, a guitar, piano lessons, Indian dancing lesson, tap dancing lessons and everything she needed for art, I had to work three jobs,” Blackman recalled.
“So the multi-talented child you see today did not just develop, I had to nurture the talent. It took time, effort and money.”
As she sat gazing into the still waters of Maracas Beach where she operates a guest house, she reminisced, “Nailah was always an artistic child. She used to draw. She always walked around with a little notebook called 'Taadaa' in which she would do abstract drawing.”
Coming from the musical Blackman family, grandfather Shorty I (Garfield Blackman), niece of Marge Blackman, OC Blackman, Isaac Blackman, and Nihilette Blackman, she also grew up singing, dancing and playing musical instruments.
“She used to walk through the yard picking flowers and making up her own songs. She was always dancing. As a baby she would be rocking in front of the speakers. Everything that looked like a platform she made her stage, singing and dancing.”
Recognising her daughter’s ability, Blackman started to do voice training with her and at age four entered her in her first NJAC competition. There was no turning back since as she entered many competitions, both at school and national levels over the years.
“Her first song,” she recalled, singing the first two lines, “Let me see you dance pique, let me see you dance meringue, is a song I wrote for her because of her passion for dancing. Dance is something I do because it frees your spirit. Our people before used to dance for everything, so that was the whole idea for the song,” Blackman said.
“Raising five children (three biological and two adopted) while managing a career, I did not have much time to rehearse, so I would sing and dance while doing my work. I grew up hearing my mother sing while she was doing her work because she did not have time to perform and I developed the habit. Nailah also developed that habit from me. When she was about three she told me ‘Mummy when I grow up I want to be just like you.’”
Having acquired a wealth of experience from working with her uncle Isaac, aunt Nihilette and her All Girls band, as well as with her big brother Chivon, two years ago Nailah made the decision to take a sabbatical from UTT where she was doing music and do a song to launch her career.
“She said she wanted to do it now. To put herself ‘out there’. That is when she did Workout with Kees (Diffenthaller).”
However, the sabbatical which was supposed to be for one term has extended indefinitely as soca hits like, Baila Mami, Badishh, Dangerous Boy, O’Lawd Oye, Dame Lorraine and Sokah have kept coming.
It is therefore no surprise to her proud mom that she was nominated for the Viewers’ Choice Best New International Act category.
“I was always pushing her, always motivating her. Nailah is a very prayerful person and we used to pray and meditate on this. You can’t do anything without God and prayer and meditation is what keeps her going, what gives her strength and her energy.
“That coupled with the good marketing skills of her managers Lorraine O’Connor and Ansel Soverall. You could have all the talent in the world, if you don’t have good managers to promote your product you will reach nowhere,” Blackman said.