Kleon Mc Pherson celebrates Tobago in new video

The I Love Tobago sign at the Scarborough Esplanade is a tourist attraction. File photo/David Reid -
The I Love Tobago sign at the Scarborough Esplanade is a tourist attraction. File photo/David Reid -

If you’ve attended cultural events in Trinidad and Tobago and even other countries for that matter, chances are you’ve seen Kleon McPherson.

For almost ten years, the spoken word artiste has captured the hearts of audiences with his riveting, true-to-life pieces and folksy appeal.

The Plymouth-born performer has continued to take his talent to new heights.

On Friday, McPherson launched a five-minute film, simply titled Tobago, showcasing various aspects of life on the island.

“It is a film highlighting Tobago through a tourism lens,” he told Sunday Newsday.

Indeed, the feature, produced and edited by Leetech Media Ltd, offers vibrant snapshots of the picturesque tourist destination – from its resplendent, “crystal clear” waters and idyllic landscape to its treasured pastimes and traditions.

Viewers will also learn some important facts about Tobago’s history, including its Main Ridge Forest Reserve, the oldest protected rain forest in the western hemisphere.

McPherson observed the entities that did tourism expos on Tobago, pre-covid19 often carried large contingents of performers to display different elements of life in the island.

But he said the video offers viewers – tourists and locals alike – a brief, easily digestible visual that can be marketed in a way most people can appreciate, moreso given the ongoing covid19 restrictions where there is more emphasis on digital as opposed to physical contact.

The film can be seen on all of his social media platforms.

McPherson said the project, which took about two and a half years to complete, was an eye-opener.

Kleon McPherson has been a spoken word artiste for ten years. -

“Going through the process, I realised that an important role needs to be played in terms of archiving material on Tobago. Visually, we have not been doing what we are supposed to in terms of recording stuff as time passes.”

Creating the film, though, was not unfamiliar territory for McPherson.

In January 2019, he directed a four-minute spoken word video, Back in Times, which copped the prestigious Carmichael Award for Exceptional Storytelling at the Barbados Independent Film Festival. The festival was held at the Walled Garden Theatre. The premiere was held at Movie Towne, Gulf City Mall, Lowlands,

The film, which was featured in Los Angeles and Florida, was intended, in part, to give exposure to spoken word artistes in Tobago. It also paid tribute to some of the island’s leading personalities.

After winning the award, McPherson had told Newsday, “I feel very proud and humbled to win such a prestigious award, taking into account that last year (2018), Green Days by the River won that award. So, to even be within that same category of great films is a good thing.”

Spoken word artiste Kleon McPherson says it took him two years to create his new video, Tobago. -

A research specialist with the Tobago House of Assembly, McPherson said he had never set out to be a performer, let alone a spoken word artiste. He recalled poet Jana Moses had organised an event called Mood Writers, which showcased the work of some of the island’s aspiring artistes.

“I was just helping her organise and decided to perform a piece. But after performing and seeing the reaction I got from it, I realised I might be on to something. From there, it propelled to what it is now. I did not see it (spoken word) as something I would have gone into in that regard.”

A lyrical genius on stage, McPherson holds a bachelor’s degree in history and a master’s in cultural studies from The UWI’s Cave Hill campus, Barbados.

He sees spoken word as an avenue to give voice to the voiceless.

“It gives life to issues, current or even in the past and brings a forum to individuals who may not be too familiar with the artform. So they can now learn something.”

He said although some of his pieces are hilarious, audiences can always relate to the messages. But he rarely revisits those that are sad, even though they may be beautifully written.

“I try to create something entertaining and even whilst its enjoyable, people tend to learn something along the way.”

Spoken word artiste Kleon McPherson during a performance. -

In his work, McPherson is partial to out of the box material, which sets him apart from his counterparts in the field. Uniqueness, he believes, ensures relevance and longevity.

“If I perform it now, five years down the line, I could still perform it and it is still relevant.”

Using domestic violence as an example, McPherson said, “When a domestic violence piece is done, it is always from the woman’s side. So, on the flip side, it could be from the man’s side as well. So, I look for certain elements that are outside the box because eventually most of the topics would be exhausted.”

He said he also recently started experimenting with music to enhance his performances.

McPherson’s talents have taken to Antigua, Barbados, St Vincent, United Kingdom and the United States. He also performed at Machel Monday (2014), the Tobago Jazz Festival and was featured in the March/April 2015 edition of the Caribbean Beat magazine.

The artiste has won several awards, including the Young Achiever of the Year Award in July 2015 and the Youth Award in October 2015 under the category of performing arts.

He was the main act in 2017 at the Antigua’s Neo Soul “Soothe” event.

McPherson has also performed and collaborated with veteran raconteur Paul Keens Douglas. He continues to host spoken word workshops for students, locally and throughout the Caribbean.

Outside of his THA job and stage performances, the artiste finds time to pursue humanitarian initiatives as a means of giving back to the society.

He owns a company RE Promotions that not only does events but charity work as well.

He said over the past six years, the company has been assisting underprivileged and special needs children on the island.

“I had an ordinary, humble upbringing so I have always tried to assist where I could. During the pandemic, I have been assisting with hampers and other items. I have never forgotten where I came from.”

McPherson advises aspiring spoken word artistes to be themselves on stage.

“When I started off, I was trying to sound poetic and a lot of the artistes have the same intonation. So, for the purpose of longevity, it is good to just be yourself. Find your own voice.”

He also advised them to not let competition define them.

Describing himself as a “radical” in the field, McPherson said he has made a point or producing work for people from all walks of life, especially the grassroots.

“I might delve into serious theories but it still comes back to a point where it is relatable, where everybody can digest it in a certain form.”


"Kleon Mc Pherson celebrates Tobago in new video"

More in this section