Krystle Bascombe has been touring the world as a full-time musician for over 20 years, sharing the stage with local, regional and international acts the likes of Isaac Blackman and The Love Circle, Machel Montano, Shaggy, Beenie Man, Donnie McClurkin, and George Benson.
In 2015 she became a touring drummer and musical director with Cirque Du Soleil, a Montreal, Canada-based entertainment company and the largest contemporary circus producer in the world. But to her, Trinidad and Tobago will always be home and the place to which she most wants to give back of the knowledge and experiences her musical career has afforded her.
On August 3, Bascombe launched Reform Generation (ReGen) a platform through which people ages five and up throughout TT can access training in what she knows best – music and arts.
“If you don’t, then who will? Everyone has a vision but the people who succeed are the ones who can take that vision and turn it into action. The realisation that our young people need more perspective on what their futures could look like sparked the concept of this initiative," Bascombe said.
She had been contemplating starting the programme for many years, but was never “home” long enough to do so. She used the downtime brought on by the covid19 pandemic to get things up and running. The virtual programme takes the form of music education in acoustic and bass guitar, drums, keyboard and music theory for people of all ages.
“In time we will add dance, drama and cirque acts,” she told WMN.
Bascombe, 37, said here in TT and during her travels she has seen the way in which people have made music and the arts work for them.
“I’ve seen the positive impact that music has on communities…I’ve seen a lot of artistes growing up from music groups on the block and what things like Best Village does to pull communities together. Government is usually more focused on sports and has put music on the back burner.”
But, she said, Re Gen is about building on the musical and creative talents of TT and she has pulled together a team of experienced musicians and artistes with a like-minded vision to bring the programme to its full potential.
Bascombe is the programme’s drumming instructor – an area in which she also has formal training. She holds a high diploma in popular music and drum performance from the Tech Music School, in London and has conducted drum workshops in Ghana, United Arab Emirates, and London. She also holds a master’s certificate in music business management from Berklee College of Music, and is currently pursuing an online degree in entertainment law at Harvard University.
How she ended up on the cirque circuit, Bascombe said, is nothing short of divine intervention. The Diego Martin resident told WMN she was a music teacher in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates when it happened.
“One day I was playing percussion with a DJ on MTV Dubai. Someone was watching from Cirque Du Soleil and said, ‘I want her.’ They sent me an email and that was it. To get into cirque, the audition is very intense, so I was really surprised when this happened. It’s a serious process to get in there, so when I got that email I said, ‘God you do your thing, this is all you, not me.’”
She said cirque consists of resident shows in Las Vegas, touring shows that stay in one place for about a week, and big top shows which stay for months in cities. She is part of the touring shows, which have taken her to Australia, Asia, Europe, North American and parts of South America.
“It’s a really wonderful experience, the culture is diverse because there are people from around the world and the acts are so varied. I was amazed by the ways in which people use their talents. I don’t think that a lot of people in the Caribbean understand, ‘I can juggle for a living, or do the Russian swing or high ladder and make a living off that.’ There are people doing what our moko jumbies do. My last show was an ice show, and people were skating on stilts, and stilt walking. I wish more Caribbean people knew they can capitalise on things like that.”
She hopes to use ReGen to also get this message across.
“A lot of people see music as a hobby, and don’t realise they can have a lucrative future in the arts. That’s why I stress on music theory under my programme, because it will help to open more doors of opportunity.”
Bascombe said one of the earliest lessons she had to learn was the discipline required to accompany cirque performances.
“It’s different from the usual band setting. It’s high-energy and very disciplined because you are accompanying very dangerous acts. In a regular band you have the freedom to stray from what was rehearsed, with cirque you can’t. You play what you are paid for and nothing different because people’s lives depend on it.” Over time, she said, she became part of the creative process for new shows – good lessons in discipline and talent-use she believes she can pass on to her ReGen students.
Registration for ReGen began on August 3 and closed on August 21, with a fee attached to cover a few necessary expenses. The cycle will run for three months, and at the end of it participants will receive certificates of participation.
“I honestly wish I didn’t have to charge anyone but I have to pay for things like use of the online platform… But if you don’t have the money, still reach out,” Bascombe said.
She said while online classes are convenient as it regards logistics and the number of people she can reach, it does have its disadvantages.
“One of the biggest challenges with the online classes is that not everyone will have the instruments at home. With the drumming, it’s easier because people don’t need to have a drum kit at home. They can use buckets, chairs, anything they can hit to create the beats. The other instruments are challenging. In-person sessions would have been so much easier.”
She said in time she will be looking into getting people to sponsor a person or an instrument, and to find venues within communities when in-person classes can be facilitated.
“One of my heart’s desires is to get community centres in which I can set up classes. “Hopefully, down the road, spots within each community across TT for people who want to be part of the programme.”
Eventually, Bascombe said, as the entertain industry begins to reopen she will have to resume her cirque tours, so she is focusing on completing her degree as quickly as possible and growing ReGen into a place that can carry it for generations to come.
“I’ll be managing it from afar, but there are other people who understand the vision, and will be able to carry on the programme when I am not here physically. And I am convinced that some of the people in the course will eventually become teachers.”
Follow Krystle Bascombe on Instagram and Facebook @krystlebascombe
Follow Reform Generation on Instagram @reformgeneration and on Facebook @reformgen