FOR Trinidadian Adriel Shane Vincent-Brown life as a musician in New York is competitive. But Brown has managed to establish himself as a worthy contender and is already beginning to make a name for himself and his country.
Growing up in Trincity, life started out simply enough for him. His love for music began as a child watching his father Kenneth Vincent-Brown play the drums in church, the instrument that would eventually claim him.
“I feel like I would play another instrument, if (my father) did,” Brown, 23, told Newsday. “Pops was cool and just seeing the way everyone interacted with him made me want to play the drums a lot.”
His father’s influence would soon change his life. During his time in Trinidad, Vincent-Brown played for his school band at Trinity College East, further developing his gift. “We would win every music festival. It was quite a time,” he reminisced fondly on his school days. He even joked that there were periods where he was in the music room way more than class. He also played with a few steelbands, including Arima Angel Harps and St Francois Girls' College where he accompanied the all-girls' band on drums.
After secondary school, Vincent-Brown moved to New York to attend the New School College of the Performing Arts to further hone and develop his skill. The New School is well known for producing top-class musicians such as Grammy Award-winning singer, pianist and producer Robert Glasper.
But even in attending such a prestigious school, he joked that sometimes you learn a lot more from your friends than you do from the teachers at school. “That’s just how music is.”
After graduating a year ago, he has dedicated himself completely to his music and plays for several bands, including Culture EFX, Biotonic, and his cousin, Trinidadian-American hip hop artiste Trinidad James (Nicholas James Williams).
Vincent-Brown said they lived in the same home for a short time in Trinidad, and he admires him, not just as an older cousin and mentor, but as a musician as well.
“He has the craziest stage presence of any artiste I’ve ever worked with, but he’s still very calculated with what he does. I’ve learned a lot from being on the road with him.”
Brown has performed for Trinidad James at music festivals around the US, including the Billboard Top 100 Festival in New York and the South by South West Festival in Austin Texas. While working with Trinidad James has opened many doors for him, he maintains that he still has to work hard. As a musician, life is not always stable and Vincent-Brown said things can be hectic sometimes.
“It’s no nine to five…Some months you might be on the road non-stop, others not so much.” He said when he first began touring, he would question, “what did I get myself into?” but as time went on he quite enjoyed the pace and non-stop energy of the stage. He describes performing at that capacity, in front of large crowds as “addictive”. “It gets more solid, the more solid you get at your craft,” he said.
Never one to limit himself, he explores his sound through a variety of genres, including jazz and hip-hop. And never being one to forget his roots, there are also elements of soca intertwined into his music style as well. “I think I can hear it in my compositions,” he said of his Caribbean influences.
“There’s so much talent coming out of my country.” He listed some of his local influencers as Lord Kitchener, Shadow and Leston Paul. “Trinidad (also) has a lot of dope drummers…whenever Americans ask me about modern soca drummers, I tell them about Gregory Pegus.” Pegus, also known as the Animal, has a sterling reputation locally as one of the most sought-after musicians in the TT, and has played for bands such as the Asylum Band and Panasonic Steel Orchestra.
According to Vincent-Brown, the Caribbean has preserved African culture in a very unique way, especially through the drums, and has managed to create a sound unlike any other African-influenced genre in the world.
“It’s in the rhythmic core of our music and it’s something that no one else has.”
Despite his age, Vincent-Brown has a promising career as a musician and is prepared to continue growing and exploring all avenues that his career may take him. As for his plans for the future, he wants to get his own music and band up and running, as well as producing.
“People always judge how good you are in relation to your age. That doesn’t bother me any more.”