Sharissa Camejo loves her country and is optimistic about its future – something that paid off big time for her at this year's Junior Calypso Monarch competition at the Grand Stand, Queen's Park Savannah in Port of Spain.
Her nation-building song, Everything We Can, propelled her into the finals, where she beat 15 secondary school entrants to win the coveted title in this category.
“It’s all about the importance of building TT despite the negative thoughts about the country,” she explained the idea behind the song to WMN.
“If we work together, we can slowly put our TT back together.” The song was written by her parents Enrico and Akella Camejo. The title came with a cheque of $25,000, a trophy and a trip to Barbados.
The 18-year-old Holy Name Convent, Port of Spain student previously won the title in 2016, with another nation-building song, Our Blessed Land.
Camejo told WMN, fortunately for her, she was born into a family of talented performers, so although the preparation for the competition was not easy, she knew what to expect. Added to that, she had the support of a great team.
“I have three brothers and we are all into calypso and soca.” Sergio and Stefan are both Junior Soca Monarch title holders. “My youngest brother, Shane, sang backup for me this year.” She was also backed by the Malick Folk Performers and “my whole community assisted. I am so grateful to everyone who supported me.”
Although Camejo has no formal training in music, she has always had a natural vocal ability, something she said she inherited from her mother. “I have been singing since I was four or five. I’ve always liked it. At Sacred Heart Girls', I sang in the school choir, and at school parang competitions at both primary and secondary school levels.” She is also a member of the Marionettes Chorale but has taken some time off to focus on her studies. She is, however, preparing to participate in the musical festival in March.
“I will be doing a solo as well as performing with the choir. The soloists will sing classical and gospel pieces, while the choir will sing a classical. The whole school is so excited.”
She also writes music and has tried learning to play a few instruments. “I’ve tried my hand at the violin, piano and guitar. I would look at YouTube videos and sometimes my dad would help me. He plays the guitars, both electric and acoustic, the mandolin, and cuatro. He can play basically any instrument.”
Camejo is currently preparing for biology, geography and environmental science exams at CAPE level, and said she sometimes had to burn the candle at both ends to put in the work for the calypso competition and keep her grades up.
“The days leading up to the competition were very hectic and sometimes nerve-wrecking. But when I went on stage and everything came together it was a relief. I was nervous because it was a competition, but I knew the presentation was going to be great.”
In addition to her school workload, she had to practice every day for the competition. “It was challenging. But of course, we do this every year, so I know how to get around it. I have learnt over the years how to balance things because I’ve been singing calypso since standard four.”
Of course, the assistance of family members and understanding teachers went a long way in the preparation. “My teachers facilitated me, but I also had to take responsibility and do my work when I had to do. That’s where good time management skills came in.”
Now that this year’s competition is over, Camejo said it’s time for her to settle down and focus on her studies, for as it stands right now, to her music is more of a hobby than a planned career path. “Next on my agenda will be to do well in my exams and graduate. Of course, I will continue to sing calypso, but later this year I should also be attending the University of the West Indies,” where she plans to study biology or plant science.
"I do see music in my future, but I don’t really plan around it. For me right now it’s studies, then hobbies come after.”
But she said she will never turn her back on a chance to uplift her beloved TT, especially through the artform of calypso. “You know, I have never thought about singing in calypso tents before, but if it comes, I will gladly take the opportunity.”