Freedom is the theme by which Shivonne “Lil’ Bitts” Churche-Isaacs is living her Carnival 2023 experience. With a first venture into Monday wear, four new songs, and the anticipation of being on the road again after two years, she is looking forward to what the season will bring.
Churche-Isaacs said her four songs did not fit any particular pattern, unlike what she had done in the past.
“I just felt a level of freedom to sing whatever it is I felt like. At times I’m very protective or guarded or careful as to the lyrics or as to the kinds of things I’m singing about and this year I felt during the pandemic it was that time where I had a carefree mindset where I just wanted to sing what I want and do what I wanted.”
The song Wuk Up and Wine is featured on the popular Sports Day rhythm from Crop Over. Churche-Isaacs said she took the opportunity to bring Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados together.
She said she used her song The Sweetest Mas to showcase TT Carnival in its entirety, as opposed to the bikini, beads, and feathers (BBF) masquerade many associate with the festival.
“I got my amazing theatre colleagues Nicholas Subero and Syntyche Bishop to direct the music video, and we had the Children’s Carnival, the BBF, the devil mas, and the traditional mas so when you watch the video, you get all the different types of mas. What really is the sweetest mas, some people might say J’Ouvert, some people might say BBF, some people might say it’s the children, it could be any one. We all define the sweetest mas in our own way and we all have our own favourites.
“In the video, I incorporated the pierrot, the sailor, the devil, that was really important to me as well. I felt as if I could have hired people to do that, but I was like 'Shivonne girl, you could play all these characters,' so that’s what I did.”
Churche-Isaacs said Handle My Business on the Cool Breeze Rhythm expressed her belief that she’s a strong woman.
“I could handle my business, regardless of what may come my way, what may be going on in my life. So it’s just me letting the men or whoever it is know that. What I loved about the song, it was a different type of song from what I usually do, even the treatment of the voice and how we recorded the voice was really different compared to the bacchanal jam typical groovy soca, it was very smooth, very R&B.”
Her fourth song, Dat Iz Man was written by Churche-Isaacs in collaboration with Kitwana Israel and Mevon Soodeen. She said it was the most fun song she has recorded.
“The lyrics are not so serious, or it’s not about the beautiful melodies, it’s just having fun, and saying what you might be thinking and you don’t know how to say it out loud, and it was just so much fun writing that song with Kit, it was an awesome experience.”
Churche-Isaacs said she had more music written but decided to hold on to it until 2024 as there was so much music being released by artistes after two years of no Carnival. She said the response to her music has been very good so far, and it’s a good year for artistes as a whole.
“This is the most I’ve heard my music in terms of multiple songs playing all at the same time, and that in itself is a really nice feeling for an artist. It’s really cool when you work in the studio, when you work hard behind any project, and just see it come alive, and materialise, it’s a cool experience.”
Another project Churche-Isaacs launched this year was a Monday wear line in collaboration with Kezzy Martin of KSE Creations.
“She does bathing suits for me all the time, so when I decided to do the line, I sent her my ideas, she put together her ideas, and we produced this Monday wear. There are three, Kitoko which is the black and gold, black and green which is Dayo, tribal prints which is Amale. I chose those names because they are all powerful and I’m a woman and I’m powerful and I want women to feel powerful in the bodysuits, that was very important to me.”
She said her male friends asked if she wasn’t doing anything for them, but she felt this season was too hectic to allow her to do more.
Churche-Isaacs said she was looking forward to playing mas and being in events without having to think about covid19 restrictions.
“I got covid19 and then it left me and I’m alive and well. I got it when we had the lesser variants and I feel I got it when I lightened up on taking the different measures to ensure I didn’t get it. I wouldn’t say I’m worried about it but what I’m going to do is try my best to keep my immune system up, keep myself healthy, and do the necessary to make sure I’m OK.
“Carnival is freedom, and we can actually experience that freedom once again without studying I have to put on my mask or all those levels of restrictions. I think everyone just wants that opportunity to be able not to study anything other than being free and having fun with your friends on the road, meeting people you haven’t seen in years, and just able to party and sing and join hands and hug up.”
She remembered that when restrictions were lifted in 2022, people felt awkward about touching each other.
“People felt so weird to just like touch somebody because we were taught for two years that we couldn’t do these things anymore. Carnival is not about that, Carnival is about having fun with your friends and all your loved ones and everybody and people you haven’t seen in a while, so I mean, why not look forward to that after being away from that for two years?”
Churche-Isaacs said her plans for the future include performing at fetes and other events; putting on a live-action version of her virtual show Talawa, which will combine theatre and soca; releasing new music; and working with the TT National Theatre Arts Company.