Rameses Brown firm in faith
RAMESES BROWN has no axe to grind, no chip on his shoulder. He admits readily to being a heavily misunderstood man within Barbadian society, and now wants to clear the air on those misconceptions.
For two and a half decades, Brown has dipped his toe into the cultural industries ring, coming up with some catchy tunes at Crop Over, but also rubbing some Barbadians the wrong way.
In truth, he has never been a crowd favourite. It affected him before, but is now the proverbial water off a duck’s back
Taking time out of his busy schedule of doing post-mortems of events for the recently concluded Crop Over festival, he sat down with Easy magazine, at Cin-Cin by the Sea in Prospect, St James, to reveal the three major passions in life; his kids, his job, and his music.
Noting that he has held a lot of flak over the years for his style of music, dress and appearance, he says that no longer bothers him.
“I would have to be God to tell you why people don’t understand me, or care to understand me, or don’t like me, or hate me,” Brown told Easy in an exclusive interview.
“I think it’s because of how I dress, or the way I carry along myself. People think I am different. Yes, I am different. People think I am antisocial [because] I wouldn’t just walk up to people and start talking. Barbados is a funny place. I feel more comfortable overseas where people treat me as a person not necessarily for my music or who I am.
“Here, people form their own notions. But it doesn’t bother me because at the end of the day, not everybody would like me. I really don’t pay attention to those things anymore.
“Things that distract me, I ignore them. I am a very God-fearing person. I am not perfect, but I try to do everything through God. I pray a lot. Once I am in line with the Father, I don’t care what man thinks. It may sound weird, but it’s true.”
Admitting he has clashed with people in the past, Brown now turns the other cheek. “I keep to myself. I am not really one to go out a lot, but with my current job I’m out in the open more. I found that a lot more people came up to me this year and said ‘keep it up’ and maybe it’s because they have seen me working and realise I’m not what I’ve been painted to be and that I am in fact a normal person, working, singing and being me.”
The calypsonian has come a long way, overcoming a lot in his 40 years. From battling vitiligo (a pigmentation disorder) as a child and still having a few visible whitish patches on his arms, growing up dirt poor, never having enough to eat at home, to being the “black sheep” in his family, he has conquered all these obstacles to become who he is today.
Reminiscing about his tough childhood causes Brown to ponder, before finally speaking after completing the thought process: “I wanted to surf so badly. I didn’t have a surfboard, so I used to take a piece of door and try to surf with it. I saved my lunch money for months just to buy my first surfboard, and when I finally got it, it used to sink all the time. I learnt to surf hard. Nothing in life came easy for me,” he said.
The proud father of two, 13-year-old Znia and seven-year-old Christian, he says they mean everything to him, and are the most important people in his life. Having grown up with just his mother, and seeing her struggle to make ends meet and being almost homeless at one point, he wants to be a father who is always there for his children, regardless of what may come his way.
“I try to put them first although it’s not always possible. Sometimes work gets in the way. But we do go on a yearly vacation together and when they spend weekends with me, we usually stay in and cook their favourite meal or go to dinner or watch a movie.”
His children are his biggest critics, and also his greatest inspiration. If he plays a demo for them and they do not respond to it, he is usually inclined to scrap the song.
“I value their opinion. If they don’t like it, as in if I play the demo in the car and they don’t react to any part of it, I don’t feel happy releasing it.”
He speaks about his children all the time, and when he does his face lights up like a child opening a first gift on Christmas morning. However, he is very protective toward them and tries to keep the negativity that follows him as well as the spotlight away from them.
“I don’t like to have my kids in the spotlight. I want them to have their own identity. I don’t want the negativity that follows me to follow them. I just try to be the best dad and best father, because being a father and a daddy are two different things.”
A former wine and champagne specialist, Brown recently found bigger favour with his employers Mount Gay Distilleries, and was promoted brand manager for Remy Martin V.S.O.P cognac and Piper Heidsieck champagne under the branch Remy Cointreau Barbados.
Brown studied to become a third level qualified wine and spirits specialist at the Wine and Spirit Educational Trust in London. “Remy is a cognac. Every champagne is a sparkling wine, but not every sparkling wine is champagne. Piper [Heidsieck] has always been my baby. Before I was brand manager I had it under my portfolio. Remy, however was underperforming and I like challenges, so I asked for it [when I got the promotion to increase sales and put the product on the mainstream market].”
To date he has been able to triple sales for the latter.
Asked how he manages to find the balance between work and performing on the same night, Brown says he has his personal phone booth. “It’s like being Clark Kent one minute and Superman the next. If I am working and have to perform I throw on my cape, turn into Superman, do my thing on stage, come off and resume my role as brand manager. It’s not that hard once you get used to it.”
And after taking a year off the soca scene in 2014, he re-emerged to “start de bacchanal”. A veteran in the music industry for the last 25 years, he has written for the likes of Alison Hinds, Destra, TC, Tony Prescott, Nicole Graves of the DN5 Band in St Lucia, Coco and Davi Dan to name a few.
He has had many hits, and this year was no different. Releasing three songs for Crop Over, he has had great success with his songs Carnival Feeling, Start De Bacchanal and Whining. Two weeks ago the music video for Whining, produced by Chris Allman of Slam City Studio, was released.
“Whining was actually recorded two years ago, but never released until this year. As it was my first song to be released, it got a jump-start on the others. Being double entendre, many people did not understand it at first, but the more it played on the radio, the more it grew on people.”
Admitting that Carnival Feeling was his personal favourite for the season, he said, “ . . . . I absolutely love Carnival Feeling, with the feeling and concept, the production aspect, the iron and J’Ouvert element. I know it will be a big hit for Trinidad’s J’Ouvert next year.”
The entertainer made it as far as the semi-finals in the Party Monarch competition this year.
“I was a bit disappointed that I did not make it to the finals this year, but it is what it is.
“It is harder to get support from your local audience than it is from a foreign audience. Not dissing Barbadians, but people overseas appreciate your music. People here look at what you do and nitpick.”
For now, Brown is connected to his job on a serious level. Wedding plans may not even be in the pipeline. “No wedding bells in the future. I’m married to my job and my kids, and sadly not everyone understands that. So for now it’s just focusing on my kids and writing and releasing music for me,” he said with a shy smile.
“We don’t control our destiny so I don’t care what people say or think. What God has in store for me I accept. If I am not to have no big mega song because it would make me turn stupid, and turn foolish and disrespect people, I don’t want it. If it would blow my mind and my cool, I don’t want it.
“I went through a lot but I’m still here. My fight isn’t over yet. But if my life ends tomorrow I’m thankful that I could have been a dad and do better than I saw my dad do for me,” the entertainer said.