A report by Keryn Nelson for the St. Lucia Star.
With the rising, worldwide popularity of Saint Lucia’s soca, sub-genre Dennery Segment, a group of young musicians are quickly becoming some of the regions most influential artists. After his 2017 hit, Any Size, Casim James, father of the “Twaka Family” or as most would call him; Big Sea, proudly wears his mantle as one of the genre’s pioneers. With a budding interest in song and performance dating back to his early days as a boy at the Castries Comprehensive Secondary School, the now 31-year-old musician and entrepreneur has achieved success worthy of praise due largely to his marketing savvy approach to his craft. In the midst of his hectic schedule Big Sea accepted our request for an hour of his time to discuss the business of music in Saint Lucia.
SB: WHEN DID YOU START PURSUING MUSIC?
Big Sea: Well I started quite young since I was surrounded by music lovers in my family but I noticed I was highly interested in secondary school. We use to freestyle, play drums, make the girls laugh you know? I also did talent shows. At college we would also have freestyle Fridays by the cafeteria. In about 2009 that’s when I started going to studios to record music.
SB: WHEN DID YOU JOIN THE DENNERY SEGMENT MOVEMENT?
Big Sea: I would say it happened in late 2016, early 2017. Before that I would focus more on hip hop and rap but one of my friends suggested I go into soca. He told me, ‘Bigsea I could really hear you on a soca beat.’ I told him I had already tried it a few times, because I had, but he said I had not really, really tried yet. So I was like, ‘alright’. People who know me knew I was someone who would always incorporate very local language and culture in my art so when I decided to go into soca, I wanted to go into the most cultured part of it. Plus I already knew a lot of the Dennery Segment artists before they had their hits so they were more than happy to have me.
SB: WAS THIS WHEN YOUR BRAND, THE TWAKA FAMILY CAME TO FRUITION?
Big Sea: Well, yes. Twaka Family is a new brand but before that there was SAM. Although it is not an official label, SAM operates like a brotherhood and is soldiered around me. It is named after one of my childhood friends who passed away. What we do is we prep artists and get them ready to maximize success in the industry. I show them what I know about social media marketing and branding. Since I moved into soca, I wanted to brand it separately. I treat Twaka Family more like a business and incorporate more brand awareness. We have a clothing line and I try to push that, especially since the word ‘twaka’ is very fitting for soca. In the future I want to go into multimedia management and to help artists to get their music published.
SB: HOW LUCRATIVE IS THE MUSIC INDUSTRY AS A SOURCE OF INCOME IN SAINT LUCIA?
Big Sea: It could be better. At a press conference, when the Prime Minister found out the amount a Dennery Segment artist gets paid, he was not pleased. I would say there are a lot of aspects that affect how much artists get paid, like the size of an events, but I’ve found that a lot of Dennery Segment artists are underpaid even when compared to regular, local, soca artists. Now that I’m self employed I have different streams of income I can work with however most of the Dennery Segment artists are only artists. Sometimes the promoters, managers and DJs don’t pay them, but that’s their only source of income.
SB: AND HOW DO THE ARTISTS DEAL WITH THAT?
Big Sea: Sometimes they would trouble the person. Even big promoters, I don’t want to say any names but we have big events and they would still end up owing the artists. There are lawyers but we’re living in Saint Lucia, who knows how long that process could take. And then you have lawyer fees. So in some cases artists would just move on.
SB: DO THE ARTISTS HAVE OWNERSHIP OF THEIR MUSIC AND SEEK TO BENEFIT FROM THINGS LIKE ONLINE MUSIC STREAMS?
Big Sea: There’s a society in place called the Eastern Caribbean Collective Organization for Music Rights (ECCO) which represents artists in Saint Lucia and the Eastern Caribbean. Artists pay for membership and if their songs are played at an event for instance, money goes to ECCO which keeps a percentage and gives the artist a portion. Some artists here have memberships others don’t.
In terms of having music online, that’s another thing the artists themselves would have to follow through with. Most artists in Saint Lucia just put their music directly onto youtube. When you post it directly onto youtube like that there is really no way to generate any revenue unless you monetize the youtube account. The other way artists can make money by putting music online is through tunecore, and things like that where they would tag the song and when you put it on youtube you’d start generating cents everytime somebody views or clicks on it. Some sites would allow you to put it on itunes, spotify et cetera, where people can buy it.
SB: WITH THE RISING POPULARITY OF DENNERY SEGMENT, WHAT IS YOUR RESPONSE TO CLAIMS THAT THE LYRICS ARE TOO DIRTY?
Big Sea: Well if you ask me, I think we are artists. You’re creating art and art is subjective. Some people could be inside of a box others can be outside. The Dennery Segment music definitely streamed from solo and folk music that we inherited from our forefathers who use to do jukefewye and all these type of dances that were very provocative. It just promotes having fun, it’s all about dancing, moving your waist and feeling the vibe. We’re not promoting violence; we’re not promoting rape or stealing, we’re promoting men and women having fun.
SB: SO NO ONE WAS FORCED TO CENSOR THEIR LYRICS?
Big Sea: I won’t say they can get us to change our lyrics. Like I said it’s art and as artists we’re entitled to express ourselves. However if we want to be on an international platform we will definitely have to submit radio friendly or censored music.
SB: DO DENNERY SEGMENT ARTISTS PERFORM ON INTERNATIONAL STAGES OFTEN?
Big Sea: Yes definitely, especially in the last two to three years. A lot of the artists have gone to the United Kingdom, the United States, US Virgin Islands, British Virgin Islands, the french West Indies, Barbados, Antigua. A lot of the seasoned artists get booked quite often. I have also already done a bit of travelling this year I went to the United Kingdom and Trinidad.
SB: AND FOR YOU GUYS’ UPCOMING TOUR, ARRANGED BY THE GOVERNMENT, WHERE WILL YOU BE PERFORMING?
Big Sea: For now, those we know of are New York, Texas, Conneticut, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Boston and Miami.
S.B: HOW DOES IT FEEL TO GET THIS KIND OF SUPPORT FROM THE GOVERNMENT?
Big Sea: It feels very good. It reminds me of when I would play basketball for Saint Lucia you feel like you on team slu going out there, everyone knows, it’s on the news. You feel like a pioneer, like an ambassador. It feels good to get the opportunity, I always like to say people don’t owe us anyting, so when someone decides to put something on the table for you then you have to be appreciate and represent.
Bigsea along with ten other local, Dennery Segment artists left Saint Lucia on August 30 for the US tour. Their first performance was in New York City on Friday August 31.