JASON 'SHAFT' BISHOP: A new era of my life has started. I feel that for the last 17 years God has given me another 17 years and when that 17 years go I will be old and still writing. (Picture by Xtra Vision Photography.)
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WHETHER YOU ARE savouring Hypasounds’ Sugar Rush, loving the flavours of Biggie’s Sweet Type Of Way or drenched by Imani’s Wet, you are rocking to the beat of Shaft Vibes.
The Trinidadian songwriter is also behind Mikey’s Hands On The Road, Kirk Brown’s You’re My Number One, and Tionne Hernandez’s Breathe, among other songs that have been setting the pace of Crop Over thus far.
For this year’s Trinidad carnival, his pen was responsible for Destra’s mega hit Lucy, My House by Farmer Nappy and the hilarious Go Granny by Nikki Crosby.
“So, who is this Shaft?” It is a question surfacing among local artistes, songwriters and soca lovers of late, especially as his roster of hits becomes harder to ignore.
“[People want to know] who is this man? Why is he writing all of these songs in Barbados? Embrace me. I would help you all, I will do my part [and] we will help each other. I think I am getting a better reception and I just love Barbados,” Shaft said with a smile. We sat down for an early morning interview during one of his many stays on the island, at Rostrevor Hotel in St Lawrence Gap.
“. . . I am your brother, I am your neighbour, I am coming to be a part of your trials and tribulations,” he asserted. “I am going to dig the ground, dig the dirt and get myself dirty, whatever it takes for the soca, because it is one mission and all of us want to make it international, but we have to put in the work. I will do my part as a writer and soca ambassador to fly the flag.”
Real name Jason Bishop, the sought-after writer got his first taste of writing for Barbadian artistes when he penned Hot Sun And Riddim for Terencia Coward in 2009. However, it was facilitated through a producer in Trinidad, and though the song was successful, Shaft had never met the “people’s queen”.
A meeting with the Red Boyz in Barbados, this time facilitated through Farmer Nappy, afforded him the opportunity to work with Biggie Irie, resulting in last year’s Pankatang.
“I like a challenge because you all twang is different from Trinis. I wrote [Pankatang] and it was a success.
“I said to myself, this thing is easy, I don’t have to do anything different, just be myself and write as a Trini. I wrote for Biggie, Imani [Bacchanal Road] Shanta Prince [Stush] and Ducking [by Fadda Fox] . . . . I started to feel like I was a part of Barbados and I started to feel a little responsible for the music industry in Barbados,” he continued.
Before making his mark on the Barbadian music industry, Shaft was making waves in his home country. He got his start 17 years ago as a writer and rapso artiste. As a songwriter, he received his first big hit with Destra Garcia’s Saddle It.
“That was my initiation. From there, I kept on working, and artistes started to hear about me and then Machel took me on and said he would help me to help him. I wrote songs like Hard Wuk, No Behaviour and On The Avenue . . . More artistes started using my work, and at the time I didn’t know anything about clientele . . . . I was writing because I love to write. Then I started to develop it as a business and saw my music as a brand.”
On his best day, Shaft could write 20 songs. His day would begin around 4 a.m., running until 11:59 p.m. In half an hour to 45 minutes, he could have a built a riddim, set down the vocals, created a demo and then it was on to the next one.
He has also found a formula that works for writing songs for Barbadians: “I write it in my words and I filter out the Trini words, the real dialect words, and [replace them] with the Bajan words. I also have a Caribbean dictionary and that helps me a lot.”
Furthermore, Shaft also used Barbados as one of the places to stimulate inspiration.
“I would get up one morning, and say; I am going to Barbados tomorrow and I would buy ticket for Barbados . . . or St Lucia. I go to places to reset my brain, that I can have a different scenery. I on the balcony [of his hotel] and I was looking out at the sea and I saw a rainbow over the sea and I wrote a song called Rainbow In The Sky. I compared the colours of the rainbow to the colours of carnival,” he explained.
And he sees how the colours of Crop Over could be even brighter on the world stage, but noted that artistes needed to pay more attention to the type of songs they created. It is going to be the next phase of his career as head of Shaft Vibes Entertainment. Starting in October, the company will be offering full packages to artisets who want to develop their personal brand. This will include access to influencial networks, media training, photoshoots, video production and social media assistance.
“I believe that once you hit in Trinidad the world knows who you are. You can be in Barbados and be [known] in Trinidad, but because Trinidad is known as the land of soca and there are more events and bigger scenarios to be heard and seen, there is an opportunity to be scouted,” he told EASY.
“A new era of my life has started. I feel that for the last 17 years God has given me another 17 years and when that 17 years go I will be old and still writing.” (Green Bananas Media)