At just 6 years old, Kalpee, -originally from Trinidad and Tobago-, came face to face with his passion for music when he participated in traditional calypso competitions, this is where his talent first stood out in front of a large audience, and this is where he would begin the journey he is on today.
By the age of 14, he already belonged to “Entourage”, a band playing mostly covers, and in which he remained for 10 years, perfecting his talent and gaining all of the valuable experiences that come from performing live regularly and sharing stage and rehearsal with other fellow musicians.
In 2017, shortly after graduating as a marine biologist, Kalpee decided to take a risk and launch his music career with his debut single “No One” with which he conquered fans and also the music label Sony Music, which helped boost his career. A creative powerhouse in his own right, Kalpee writes, produces, and edits all of his work from the videos to the artwork.
As part of his commitment to spreading and boosting positive messages, Kalpee also gives motivational talks in different schools, where he touches on the importance of diversity, equality, and acceptance as well as staying focused and following through with your ambitions and goals.
We had the opportunity to talk to him regarding his newest single “Island Gyal” and here’s what he said.
Kalpee, you’re coming off from the success that was “Jump Off” in which you expressed themes related to fear. And now we have “Island Gyal” How was this one born? What was in your head that you wanted to express with this song?
I wanted this song to feel nostalgic, light and fun, cause that’s what the islands remind me of. The music reminds me of home, blending genres like, calypso and dancehall together and incorporating instruments like steel pan and brass, that make me think of Trini carnival.
The idea for the song started in Barbados and then, I had to go back home to Trinidad, to capture the rest of the energy that I thought was necessary for the track. As I landed in Trini, I linked up with my bro, Tano, who at the time had recently built his studio. I hadn’t seen him since before covid happened, so I played him the idea of “Island Gyal” and we immediately just started collaborating, vybing, talking about memories, about carnival and how sad it was that it didn’t happen and I think that was the inspiration that helped us finish the song.
When hearing the song, it reminds me of a love song but pierced by nostalgia, it’s too crazy to think that?
When I’m making music, I always go back through memories, regardless of the type of song I’m trying to create. Those moments give me the feel that I’m looking for, so I’d say that, nostalgia is a very big part of my music always.
What elements cannot be missing in your music?
I always want to find a way to incorporate my Caribbean influences in the music. Whether that’s in the rhythm or in the writing, when it comes to the cadence, or the type of words that I use. That’s definitely an important element that must be included.
The rhythm of the song feels very modern. How would you describe it and what category would you place it in?
Really appreciate you describing it as modern btw. The genre is known as “new calypso” which is the sound of a new generation of Trinbagonian artists, blending Caribbean rhythms and cadences with international influences. For me, It’s usually a mix of calypso and dancehall and then modernising it with trap and rock drums. Overall I like it to feel minimal, cause that space adds to the swing and swag of the track.
Let’s talk about the music video which is one of the most provocative things I’ve ever seen. Specifically, where on the island did you record? What can you tell us about that process?
We recorded the video in different places around Trinidad and all of the team involved were from different islands, which was special, because they all resonated with the track, so shooting the video was a really fun time. Yes, the visual is more provocative than I’d typically release lol, but I think that that energy was needed for this song.
Ask anyone from the Caribbean and they’ll tell you. Women from the islands are just naturally sexy but cool with it. I don’t know what it is, but it’s just in their blood somehow. Come to Trinidad’s carnival next year and you’ll see what I mean.
Josiah Persad was the director, the concept of the video was his idea? Did you have the chance to participate in the conceptualization process?
Josiah is definitely a real talent coming out of Trinidad, which is the reason I wanted to collaborate with him. The idea was a team effort, all round, from start to finish, which usually would be our process. Every person involved is creative to the point where their vision is trusted, to help add to and elevate the final product.
Do you think where you come from has determined your musical style? Why?
Definitely, it’s crazy to think that where you come from will determine what something sounds or feels like. Growing up in Trinidad, naturally you get introduced to carnival, calypso and steel pan, from the time you hit primary school. I think every person who grows up back home, has been educated across those fields, regardless of want or talent lol. So we have all of this information that’s so specific and intricate, that it can’t be replicated, almost like a language. I’ve been actively involved in calypso since the age of 6 and also played the bass steel pan, so without even realising it, I pull from that knowledge of swing, cadence and accent and apply it to my songwriting and production, to create a blend of genres.
We need to talk about women LOL! You said you have your type, remember the song?:
Ah love women in the West Indies
Brown and sweet
Tropical gyal dem know wa good for we
Cyah help it
Ah love women in the West Indies
Pretty brown and sweet
Tropical gyal dem know wa good for we
Hahah now firstly, I wouldn’t say I have a type, cause vybe and connection are always the most important things. But in my experience, growing up in the islands, west Indian women definitely know what’s good for us, that’s just facts, I can’t help it, or maybe I’m just biased cause I’m from Trinidad lol.
Where do you picture yourself within 5 years?
Geez, 5 years,feels like a long time away, but I know that the quality of work in every aspect is gonna be crazyyyy, I’m extremely excited for what that’s gonna look and sound like. I’ve got all of these plans and ideas in my head, that I know require growth and time and in 5 years I see those visions materialising. My live set is gonna be on another level and I’m already looking forward to connecting with all the people, who are going to resonate with the music in the years to come and who are going to be part of the team moving forward.
Is there any other thing you love to do apart from music? What?
This is always a difficult question for me, but if I’m being honest, the first thing that comes to mind is chilling with animals. Especially cats. That has to be one of my favorite things outside of music. I always want to do that hahaha, I do enjoy sports in general and love shopping for clothes.
Credit: Photos Courtesy of the Artist Story: Mariana Gonzalez.