KIERAN ANDREW KHAN
Choc’late Allen has toured the US and Caribbean sharing her story of our music and this year she’s taking it to a new level, with a new sound and new team.
“I’m homeschooled and that essentially is a defining aspect of my life,” the musician pointed out. “Growing up in a musical family, given the direct link to my dad, it’s one of those things I simply could not ignore. Music is my high, when a song comes on, I just zone out to it; I see and experience the song,” she added.
Allen’s dad is Kurt Allen, described in the calypso fraternity as a calypso griot, a preserver of the oral tradition. The Last Badjohn of Calypso, Allen has won the Soca Monarch, Calypso Monarch and Young King competitions.
Recalling her musical upbringing, Allen told WMN, “I also spent three years in Jamaica under the musical parentage of Tony Rebel and Queen Ifrica who always encouraged me to focus on my craft and to tell my story the way it should be told.”
Out of that upbringing, Allen would go on to perform across the Caribbean as a Caricom ambassador and across the US youth music festival circuit for the past few years, taking soca music and her sound to new audiences everywhere she went.
“It’s important for me to understand the different aspects of music – from the production level, event level as well as from the perspective as an artiste and singer. Over the past few years, since 2014, I also went into music mentorship to the likes of Helon Francis, the 2018 Calypso Monarch and my dad as well,” she noted.
Allen didn’t plan on re-entering the space as a singer initially but she felt a calling to return to the creative aspects of her profession on a visit home in 2018 to surprise her father.
“I met Kyle Noel during 2017 Carnival circuit when he was working with Kurt and he told me that he had a studio in Siparia where he is from, so I decided to check it out. That’s also when I connected with Black Carpet Movement (BCM) and I decided to return home to write my own stuff and see what magic we could create.”
That’s when Kettle, her 2019 Carnival contribution came to be.
“Kettle is about that moment, when you hear the whistling of a kettle you know that the water’s ready and it’s time for you to brew something good – good for you, for your health, something that you look forward too,” Allen explained.
“But before you get to that, you realise the kettle has been under pressure, on the fire but it’s about taking the pressure and that heat and transforming it into something good. As a country, we all feel like we are under pressure in some way – socially, politically, economically. But we have a very unique way of taking the things that can harm us and turning it into something good – that’s what it’s all about,” she elaborated.
“Ultimately you learn it’s not about what’s happening to you but your response to what’s happening. We have so many issues going on daily – people lose people whether through a tragedy or through the end of a friendship or relationship and we all feel pain in different ways. We have issues like depression. We might not have the same issues, but Kettle takes that feeling of being under pressure and releases it into something positive – making it easier for us to deal with what we’re going through.”
Taking the negative and turning into something enjoyable like a song is nothing new for our country – we have the masters of calypso and extempo to thank for that tradition. Allen is simply taking the tradition forward. “Everything about soca is about that moment, that fun, that happiness. As a people, even in the Caribbean you can spot a Trini in the crowd – we have that energy to carry on despite it all and enjoy life and we have to harness that, embrace it and realise that’s one of the best things about us as a country.”
Within the next few days, Allen will also release a collaboration with Jerome Gonzales. “It’s not just about the season though,” she pointed out. “We have a plan for 2019, as a group and as a team to continue to tell our stories through music. But as artistes, we do feel as though we have to contribute back to Carnival – it’s ours after all so we are starting off by investing in the season first and foremost but we will certainly be adding to our roster of songs in the year ahead too and we will be doing it our way. We aren’t taking the copy and paste approach simply because something is working for someone else. We are staying true to the music we want to create and we hope that the country appreciates what we have to say – and to sing.”