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‘I can’t see myself not doing music’

Sherie Holder-Olutayo

‘I can’t see myself not doing music’

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There are some memories from your childhood that stay with you no matter how old you get.
For 27-year-old Shanta Prince, it is the memories of her teenage years, with her sneaking out of her mother’s house to go to music or dance rehearsals for the groups she was a part of. Also of the disagreements she would have had trying to get her parents to understand her love of music and wanting to better her craft. And she can’t forget the never-ending conversations of the wisdom of wanting to pursue a career in the music industry as opposed to something more “practical” and financially rewarding.
“I was never a traditional child; I went to extremes. I used to be involved in New Radical Generation, and dance groups and singing groups. So it’s always been music for me,” Shanta said. “My mother just got tired of trying to deter me from it.”
While Shanta admits that her parents never really understood the depth of her passion, which began from the age of four, she now understands their misgivings. But it still hasn’t stopped her from pursuing music full-time.
“Doing music full-time has been difficult because of how things are in this economy,” Shanta admitted. “I’ve been doing hotel work and some jingle work, but they’re not as frequent as I would like. Sometimes I go to an audition and people say, ‘We love you but we can’t afford it right now’, so it’s been difficult. Luckily, I’ve had a good support system. I’ve also been using up some of my savings that I had from working. You know I’m not happy in the sense that I’m not always making money, but I’m happy in the sense that I’m working towards my dream.”
Though she considers herself a novice in the industry, part of Shanta’s musical journey in calypso took her to this year’s Sweet Soca competition as a semi-finalist with her song Stush.
“It was my first time ever in the competition and it was an experience,” she revealed. “Obviously I didn’t make it through. I know people like the song, but I didn’t realise how many people really liked the song. The way the crowd responded to me was really something. That song describes me; it’s a girl who is prim and proper, and keeps herself a certain way, but is still approachable.”
The song, which was written by Jason Shaft Bishop from Trinidad, seemed perfectly suited for Shanta.
“They called me from Carnival and said, ‘I have this track’ and from the time I heard it I knew instantly that it was for me.”
Though the song proved to be a good fit for her vocally, it didn’t earn her a place in the Sweet Soca finals, but she has no plans of allowing that to deter her.
“You always anticipate challenges. I guess every artiste always thinks they have a good song but people don’t always grasp onto it,” she says. “Every year, every song has been a growing improvement and this has been true, especially this year.”
While she does admit that being a woman in a male-dominated industry is hard, she knows that every woman in soca music has had to face their share of challenges.
“I don’t think I would have gone through anything different than any other female would have gone through,” Shanta said. “We all have the same struggles, especially when you’re new – you have to earn your stripes. You have to go to the stations and make sure your music is heard. But obviously it’s important to put out quality music.”
Shanta revealed that even in the Sweet Soca competition she wanted both she and another semi-finalist Imani to make it, or just one of them to represent for the women.
“During the semis all the women were backstage having fun,” she said. “When I came off stage at the semis Alison Hinds was the first one to greet me and that was great, having someone you idolised be so approachable.”
While not advancing in Sweet Soca was disappointing, it has only fuelled her desire for success in the industry.
“I want to represent for the ladies, and for my country,” Shanta said. “I want to see myself with a title. I really want to be on the same level as Destra [out of Trinidad].”
So far she has one fan who is close to her heart rooting for her and watching her navigate the musical landscape – her mother.
Shanta said, “We actually had a conversation the other day, my mum and I, where she said she was proud of me because I never gave up on my music.”