TWENTY FOUR-year-old Hashim Lewis is all about fusions–a report by Julien Neaves for Trinidad’s Newsday.
His birth was a fusion of a Trinidad- born mother and a father from Nevis. His music, which he calls “soca with a twist”, is a fusion of soca and pop, both genres featuring prominently in his Carnival 2017 releases “Company” and “No Behaviour”.
Sunday Newsday caught up with the young soca artiste last week at the University of Trinidad Tobago at NAPA, Port-of-Spain, where he is third-year a student pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Music majoring in Vocals. He said education has always been important to his parents and they have always supported him.
Lewis’ parents met in the British Virgin Islands (BVI) and he was born and raised on Tortola, the largest of the islands. He grew up in a “calypso and soca-based house” because his mother was a Carnival junkie. She would return to Trinidad every year for Carnival and brought him back music, through which he learned about artistes like Destra (Garcia), Bunji Garlin (Ian Alvarez) and Machel Montano, whom he cited as one of his biggest music influences.
“From early on soca artistes in general were very huge influences to me musically, on a whole,” he said.
But it was calypsonian David Rudder’s song “High Mas” that “really ignited my love for listening to music”.
His “triggering moment” was at age 14 when his mother and principal “forced” him to perform “High Mas” at his secondary school opening. But when he got on stage he had a lot of fun and even “woke up” some sleeping people in the audience.
A year after that performance debut his parents sent him to a camp in the United States to improve on his academics.
It was there that he learned to write songs, sing and record. His first musical foray was not soca but rap/R&B/gospel and he was part of a group called “Church Boyz”. They performed at a number of events and had four number one songs in the BVI, all written by him and two of which were solos. After the group broke up he had a top song as a solo artist.
So how did he go from gospel rap to the sounds of soca? After high school he went through a transitional period and did not want to start college immediately because he was trying to figure out what wanted to do.
He started to write a soca song which evolved into his 2011 power soca hit “Ready to Jam”. One of his Trinidadian aunts had heard the song and suggested he perform it for Carnival 2011. That year the 18-year-old Lewis came to experience his first Trinidad and Tobago Carnival season and performed at “Battle of the Sexes” and “Temperature”, at Club Zen and did several school tours. It was nostalgic for him meeting the soca artistes he grew up listening to.
He returned in 2012 but only as a “feter and observer”. The following year he decided to do a full soca season, and he eventually moved to Trinidad permanently.
He found the fast-paced life in Trinidad completely different from life on Tortola, where after the beaches and two nightclubs he predicted Trinbagonians would be “bored to tears”.
“It really surprised me to see how small Trinidad thinks they are. And don’t realise that they are a mecca in their own right, a real powerhouse in the Caribbean and a lot of Trinidadians tend to take that for granted,” he said.
“I appreciate the opportunity I have here because it has opened the doors to so many opportunities that are happening for me.” For 2013, he released the single “Jumpin”, a catchy pop soca tune. The song and the accompanying music video, his very first, helped him get his proverbial foot in the door. In 2015, he wrote and sang background vocals for the song “Out On De Road” for Darnella Simmons of Roy Cape All Stars on the “Kan Kan” rhythm.
It was also in that year that he worked with Precision Productions and felt like he was creating the kind of music he wanted to. His sound was finally “coming into its own”.
“I knew the path of taking soca past the Caribbean, past Carnival and not making it seasonal music but music you can listen to all the time,” he explained.
For this year he is promoting his high tempo beat “Vybz Overload” about the vibes on the road. This is his first power soca since “Ready to Jam” and Lewis said “it turned people’s heads towards me”.
He was contacted by Bad Royale, a DJ and producer group based in southern California in the United States, and they told him they liked his Caribbean fusion. Together they created the tune “No Behaviour” which received more than 40,000 views on YouTube.
“I never saw my views rise so quickly on a song,” he beamed.
Two Saturdays ago he released the groovy “Company”, another Bad Royale collaboration and this time featuring a duet with Roy Cape’s Darnella. Lewis said he is loving where his sound is now and is a little overwhelmed and excited by the attention.
This Carnival he will be performing mainly in clubs and will also being doing some school concerts.
He said that in the past few years a lot more artistes of his generation – Voice (Aaron St Louis), Sekon Sta (Nestor Boxhill) and Erphaan Alves – have been having huge hits which showed that a new generation was coming up.
“The future is happening now. It is a good sign for soca in general.” One of his biggest goals is to see a soca song on the Billboard charts. One of his biggest dreams is doing collaborations with Machel, Kes the Band, Preedy (Akim Chance) and David Rudder, which he said would take his life and career “full circle