Good woman swimma

Tishanna Williams:
Tishanna Williams: "The best part of being in Freetown for me is I’m making money off of something I want to do with people I like." - Mark Lyndersay


Because Trini to the Bone is an individual feature, all six members of Freetown Collective will appear one by one starting with Lou Lyons on June 30and ending with Muhammad Muwakil on July 4.

My name is Tishanna Williams and I am one-sixth of Freetown Collective and one-third of the supporting vocalists, Trinity.

I am from the east! Arouca, Trinidad. West Indies. Born and raised in Five Rivers.

Moved to the west maybe five, six years now. Feels like just the other day.

I have my Freetown family and I have a core family of my own, my mother Naomi De Gannes, my grandmother Beryl Nelson and my daddy Raymond Williams.

But not a husband and children kind of family.

I have nine godchildren I love very much.

To me, blood could form. I have almost a curated family of friends I consider blood, but I’m not naming anybody because it could get tricky. People go vex: “You ent name me!”

I am definitely not in a relationship and I say that firmly. Because I’m sure.

When I left home, I wasn’t in one and I haven’t got in one since.

So chances are I am not in a relationship.

Loyalty is very, very big to me.

I went to El Dorado Senior Comprehensive! I’m (proud) I went to a compri! People see you in a band like Freetown, moving round the west and they assume you went to a convent. Or another “prestige” school.

But, no, I went to a compri. I come from nothing.

I also act, write, do a lot of other things.

I was christened Catholic and did first communion, but my grandmother is a Baptist, so my foundation is Spiritual Baptist Orisha.

I also went to Islamic and Seventh Day religious instructions.

My grandmother’s best friend was a foot-washing, very devoted Hindu.

So I grew up intimately in many different religions, not just going to sit down in church, but taking part in a whole lot of rituals with love. That Hindu lady would take us on pilgrimages in her maxi.

To me, religions are all the same, just in a different way.

Of course I believe in God! I can handle “the Problem of Evil” because I know that balance is key.

And duality is necessary. Too much of any one thing will tip the scales.

My dad used to play drums in Best Village with Karatal and he has an amazing voice. We had a tapia house, made out of mud, and I remember sitting on the steps and singing “I believe the children are our future” (to learn about) breath control.

Not that he wanted me to become a singer, it was just something for us to do to spend time together.

Growing up in a Baptist church, there is a lot of music everywhere. Off-key music, on-key music. And they used to call spirits. So sound is a very big thing.

So sometimes on the stage I'll be doing my doptions and other kinds of rhythmic things with my voice.

I grew up with music, although I did not realise it. Until people started asking me questions like this.

My family has Grenadian roots on one side. Chinese on the other.

I appreciate all the basic music from heavy metal to pop to reggae to whatever.

Right now I love dancehall hard-hard-hard to my heart.

If there is an element of dancehall that is anti-woman, I think I am born and bred and come from a space that gives me a different context of that than what somebody not from that space might have. I understand the connotation that they are saying is negative.

But I also understand the space it comes out of and how it is assimilated and dealt with by the listeners in that space. Those things are realities and I come from some of those realities.

When my friends come to a Freetown concert and hear the lyrics, they’re like, “Yo!” Because they lived that. They know (the song) Lightman in a way a lot of people don’t. To not have the $500 for rent this month.

They respond to Freetown the same way they respond to dancehall. Because of the lyrics.

I didn’t get into Freetown. I put myself in Freetown. (Jamaican dancehall artist) Chronixx was coming to Trinidad for the first time and I was, like, “I going Chronixx!” And then the tickets sold out!

And then I heard Freetown was opening for Chronixx. And me and Mud were super close. So I said, “I coming to sing for the Chronixx gig.”

Tishanna Williams - Mark Lyndersay

Mud said, “We already have singers – Malene, Shanna and another girl.”

But the other was absent at the rehearsal. And I just jump on the mic between Malene and Shanna and start creating a whole set of harmonies.

And I was, like, right. I singing. I in the band. I going Chronixx!

A couple months after the Chronixx show, I saw a flier saying Mud and Lou were doing a show.

And I rang Malene and Shanna and said, “I feel we have to sing in that show, you know!”

And we informed Mud and Lou that we would be singing in the show. And we informed them we would be coming to rehearsals. And we informed them that we were staying.

They’ve been with us ever since.

The best part of being in Freetown for me is I want to be here.

Because I don’t do things I don’t want to do. I’m not that person. So the best part is, I’m making money off of something I want to do with people I like. Of course there must be a bad part.

We just talked about the duality of things. So I’m really trying to think of something terrible to say about the rest of Freetown.

But we have a really good way of talking things out.

Probably the worst thing about Freetown is all the WhatsApp messages.

If you don’t have a golden moment in every performance, what are you doing it for? So, yeah, every time we perform, I have a golden moment.

BC Pires tells me he found everyone in Freetown was bright and articulate and broke down ethereal concepts into plain language. And I told him, “Put that in, so my mummy could see it!”

I come from a place where it is very easy to not become much. If you don’t make it out, it’s all right. You expected not to make it out.

A big part of the reason I do what I do is because I come from that place.

Even in Freetown’s music, sometimes I grasp it differently.

So to become someone that somebody could say something about with pride, that’s something I want to give to people who come from where I come from.

What is a Trini? I don’t think Trinidadians can be defined at all. Because we’re so malleable that the definition I give now could change by the time I meet somebody later.

Trinidad and Tobago to me means I could do anything and make it anywhere. Once you come out of this particular place, you’re fit for wherever. TT means the ability to persist, to resist. The place I from set me up for whatever all you could bring, so all you come through! I could handle it!

I from Trinidad.

Read the full version of this feature on Friday evening at


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