The movement of youths using the internet to market creative products and promote them outside of TT is catching on and that is how local creatives will make successful careers out of their passions.
Kareem “Kaz Fuego” Kasumu, 21, believes this movement will make a difference to the talented people of this country and get them recognised worldwide. And he speaks from experience.
Although he has been on the local music scene for only three years, Kasumu has made it on Complex UK’s 10 Artists To Watch From Trinidad And Tobago (2019 Edition) list, and has been contacted by many people in the international music industry since then. However, he got on that list because of the quality music he creates and posts on music streaming and social media sites.
“The movement is a family of different types of people creating and getting love outside of this space. A creative collective. We are not taking the route people did before. We do it how we want to do it and it’s working out for us. And the movement consists of more than just music artists. It’s all kinds of creatives – photographers, fashion designers, all sorts of people.”
“I feel artists down here need to try their best to get playlisted (on music streaming sites). I feel this is what will transcend most of the artists who are not making music the everyday Trinidadian would listen to. TT has so many great artists but music is a mood and most of the time the music people are in the mood for isn’t always the music that’s dope so it gets overlooked and we don’t get to hear it.”
He acknowledged that his name is not well-recognised in some circles but said those circles are gradually growing as new people are introduced to his music via the internet.
He supplements his music with music videos of good production quality.
“The songs I’m making right now is me showing every piece of this music thing I can do and expressing myself. I wouldn’t just call a friend and do a quick shoot.
“I want to make sure you get the same emotion of the song from the video so they need to be powerful videos of good quality.”
Born in Brixton Hill, south London, Kasumu was drawn to music from a young age. He said while he always liked to write songs and often played beats on his phone and rap free-style during his school lunch break in London, music was not his primary focus at the time.
He moved to Sangre Grande with his Trinidadian mother in September 2010 and after settling down he started rapping again with his new friends. One day when he was 14, a friend told him about a studio in the area where he could pay $50 to record a song.
“I was really excited about it but at that time I wasn’t really serious. I just wanted to hear myself on a song, how my voice sounded on a beat, and so my first recording was a remix of a Wale (an American rapper) song with some other guys from Grande.”
He said he recorded many songs and played them for friends at Sangre Grande Educational Institute.
They loved it, although now he could admit that the production quality of the recording was very poor, and encouraged him to record more as well as perform in school.
Therefore, he performed at school shows and events, as well as talent shows in the area, and people would scream and cheer for him.
He posted the songs and videos of his performances on Facebook and SoundCloud, a music and podcast streaming platform.
By that time people started to notice him – on the street, as well as a few young producers and other artists who wanted to do music other than soca. Around form five, he backed off a bit because he wanted to focus on his exams but when that was over he wanted to record again, this time a song of his own.
Therefore, about three years ago when he finished school, Kasumu decided to get serious about the music. He wanted to be an artist and to perform. He also wanted to be true to himself.
“What I was doing then is so different and so not where I am now that it’s strange to me. Even something like trying to rap with an American accent when I came to Trinidad knowing that I wasn’t born in America. People accepted it but it was fake so I rock back and realised I needed to stop doing that... When I did people loved it and gave me the courage to continue.”
The first original song he wrote and recorded was called Instagirl.
He recalled that he found a type beat on YouTube, loved it, and started writing lyrics for it.
He felt really good about the result and bought the beat for about $100, went to the studio, and recorded the song as soon as possible.
He performed it at an event at Euphoria Lounge in Port of Spain for a crowd of creatives and people loved the song.
The next day, he released it on SoundCloud where people listened to it, commented positively, shared it, and followed him. “Doing that song showed me I could really make songs. Even today people still come up to me and talk about this song.”
Kasumu is also particularly proud of the song Chaya which was released on YouTube in September 2018. He said one of his producers, TDSK, sent the beat and a chorus a while before but he eventually wrote verses and recorded it with his neighbour and upcoming artist, Coutain. “That song had a history behind it so I knew it would be great and people loved it.”
Another highlight in his journey has been working with local artist, Kalpee, who, last month, began helping him with the implementation of some of his songs, and giving him direction. He was ready to move on from pre-packaged beats and instead work on making his own as well as work on instrumentals for his songs.
Kasumu raps but considers himself an artist rather than a rapper. “I’ll rap if I feel a beat merits it but I don’t do it all the time. I and others recognise you need to be able to sing as well to an extent. You don’t have to be the greatest vocalist but in order to make music that doesn’t sound dated, if you want your music to sound more authentic to where you’re from, you have to put a little melody into it.”
He stressed that he was “not trying to be Celine Dion” but instead was trying to “create a vibe” and a feeling when people hear his music. He added that when the Complex UK list was published on the organisation’s website (https://www.complex.com/music/2019/06/10-artists-to-watch-from-trinidad-and-tobago/ ) last month many people sent him rap beats but he does not want to be pigeonholed as a rapper.
He described his music as a fusion of R&B, dance hall, and rap with African influences as that was true to who he is – a man from London with a Trinidadian mother and Nigerian father.
He added that his father encouraged him to include his culture in the music and he did. Not only did it improve his sound but it so happens that people are connecting to Afro beats at the moment so it was gaining popularity.
In fact, Kasumu said his most popular song so far was Wahala (listen at https://soundcloud.com/kazfuego/wahala). In the song, he mixed Caribbean and African influences and so far it has gained about 20,000 streams.