INTERNATIONAL recording artiste Christian Kalpee said he feels a renewed sense of purpose and has a greater appreciation for life after surviving a life-threatening accident while shooting a video in Paramin. The accident resulted in ten broken ribs, damage to his liver and him having to have his spleen removed, among other injuries.
Two months later, he has released the video for the first single Wherever You Are from the upcoming EP, Home which will be completed for release in January.
Kalpee, 26, who signed a record deal with Sony Music Entertainment in 2017, has gained international recognition for his talent, receiving millions of streams on apps like Apple music and Spotify, and has ranked up millions of views on YouTube following his emergence on the international stage.
Kalpee has never worked in any other industry although he studied law at the University of the West Indies, St Augustine for a little over a year. “I then realised it wasn’t for me so I moved over to the University of TT to study marine biology. It was extremely tough, but I loved it.”
And even then he decided to dedicate all his efforts to establishing himself as a musician. Asked what inspired this choice, he said, “During my tertiary education, music was always there. I always knew music was what I would end up doing full time.”
There were points during his days in university, where he felt he wanted to drop out so he could focus on his craft as a musician. “But my parents always pushed me to finish because they knew how important an education was in terms of my overall growth. They were completely right, because so many skill sets I gained in school have been applied to my artform and have made me the artiste I am today.”
Kalpee was fortunate to have had supportive parents in whatever endeavour he wanted explore. “Being from the Caribbean, music might seem like a gamble to parents. This is why they always told me to have a plan B.”
He does not believe in the concept of a back-up plan, but followed the guidance of his parents as they had never stopped him from doing anything he truly wanted to do.
“I’m super grateful for their support, because they’re a big factor in me even being able to be an artiste today.” He recalled performing since he was six, when his father would help him write calypsoes to perform in school shows. Living up to the nature of calypso, he said, these songs made some kind of social commentary.
The former student of St Xavier's Primary School in St Joseph and Presentation College, San Fernando said, "We don't preserve our culture. And our culture has become Carnival and I see how that affects the energy of our country." He said when the artform revolves around a two-day event and becomes competition-based, it breeds some amount of negativity in an industry where collaboration in sharing a message of love is crucial for social change.
“I’m not putting down soca and Carnival, because there are artistes who create inspiring music, but we really need balance. I always use Jamaica as a good example because Jamaica has its dancehall, but at the same time there are artistes like Protoje, Chronixx, Koffee. They are all producing music talking about appreciation, blessings and gratitude. But then in TT, I see us stifling our art, because we seem to have decided Carnival is our only art.”
This led to a discussion on the meaning of his latest single Wherever You Are – a song which he said was written with the intention of triggering thought, and to console those who may feel a limited sense of belonging.
“It is a really powerful song, especially in today’s social climate. It was written during a time of frustration but with a mindset that was strong, though emotional. It was written in an effort to inspire and give hope to anyone who listens.”
The single is the product of a collaborative effort between Kalpee and TT-based producer
Tano and features TT-based musical artiste Jimmy October.
The track came to fruition after a conversation between Kalpee and Tano about issues such as inequality and injustices being faced by the people of TT for a long time – with no, or limited sign of progress or attention.
“We wanted to create a song that would comfort people by reminding them no matter where they are in the world and no matter what they might be going through, everything will get better. That’s a reminder we thought to be an absolute necessity in today’s world.”
Leading up to the release of the single, Kalpee made a post on social media in which he spoke about equality and justice for all regardless of race, religion and sexual orientation. In an October 30 post on Instagram, he wrote, “Don’t let those who can’t see beyond boundaries set up by society to keep us from seeing each other as allies. Genuine bonds of solidarity can be forged between people who respect each other’s differences and accept one another for who they choose to be. Be brave, be you, be kind, be open. One love, and to those who disagree well blessings and love your way.”
He said he got some negative feedback for having made the post, but thought it was his responsibility as someone who has gay friends and has been blessed with a platform to spread a message of love and equality.
“We are socialised to be unkind to people who are different.” He made reference to his own experience of being thought to be gay, even though he is not, because he did not fit into the traditional idea of what boys should have been doing.
“I was on the choir and performing – that was thought to be a gay thing.”
Kalpee believes things like equality should be taught in schools to socialise children to be accepting, or at least respectful of their differences. “We are all human beings. We may not have all the same values and opinions. But if you decide this is you, I can’t be upset. You have to allow that person to be who they are, that is the only way we can move forward as a society.”
He is therefore organising a school tour to help spread a message of love and acceptance, with the hope of introducing youth to approaches generally classified as progressive.
The list for tours by Kalpee, thus far, include: Pleasantville Secondary School, Palo Seco Secondary School, Holy Name Convent, Providence Girls' Catholic School, Holy Faith Convent and St Augustine Girls' High School.
“I said this on a radio station once and some people got upset, but we really have the biggest opportunity and responsibility as artistes and people in the media to spread positive messages versus the bacchanal.”
For additional information visit newsday.co.tt for video interview.