Hypasounds’ heart is at home
WHEN ALL THE FANS have had their fill, and all the touring is done, and the media glitz has ended – for Damian Etienne [Hypasounds] there remains one thing that is more priceless than all of the fame: his seven-year-old daughter Kenza Etienne.
“After entertaining everybody and getting fan love I gotta come home for family love ’cause that’s what matters most at the end of the day. After seeing fans react to songs in such an overwhelming way then to come home to her smile. I see a smile that is priceless,” he said.
Easily the apple of her father’s eye, Kenza, a student of St Alban’s Primary, admits she misses her father when he is away for months touring.
“I miss him when he is not here. But I am happy when he comes home. I love being with my daddy,” she told EASY magazine in what was her first interview and photo shoot with the media.
The two were like peas in a pod throughout the interview, wordlessly mimicking each other. Dressed in sunglasses like her dad, Kenza, or, as he calls her, “Small Boss”, was visibly excited to be spending time with him.
As her father’s biggest fan, she was quite upset when she could not attend the two night events of the recent Crop Over season – the Sweet Soca and Party Monarch competitions at Bushy Park.
Hypasounds recalled: “She couldn’t understand why people who had nothing to do with the songs were there and she wasn’t. She said, ‘I was there when it was written. I was there when it was recorded. Why can’t I be there now?’”
Kenza is very interested in music. She is always on the keyboard and can hold her own in the studio too. But although Hypasounds likes the idea of a protégé he’s not ready to allow her interest in music to get in the way of her studies.
The two try their best to be in touch even when Hypasounds is on tour.
“Normally when I tour we send each other a picture every day. But this time around it was so hectic that sometimes I didn’t get to do that.
“It would be 5 a.m. and I can see her calling on WhatsApp but I just can’t answer the phone ’cause I am so drained from the performance.”
Hypasounds has been touring heavily since EASY last chatted with him during Crop Over. At the time, he was named a finalist in both competitions at Soca Royale. It had seemed then that that was the crowning moment in his nine-year entertainment career since he had long wanted to be part of local competition.
“It was a great season. The music was great, the fans responded. Everything was on a next level. I formed a team and we did what we had to do. The competition was an interesting experience. In the middle of Sugar Rush I felt I could have done more. After getting on the stage it felt like another show. I believe it’s a mind thing.
“The competition has its place. The competition is what is happening at Crop Over time so if you are part of Crop Over the competition is what you should be doing. But my focus is more than competition. It is about building the brand. I make music for the party not for the competition. I don’t try to create hits; I make classics.”
However, he now admits that Crop Over with all its fuss and pressure pales in comparison with what he has experienced while touring.
Over the past three months, the 32-year-old has been to New York, Toronto, Montreal, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Connecticut, Houston, Dallas, Fort Lauderdale, and almost all the countries in the English-speaking Caribbean multiple times. Occasionally, he performed at as many as seven events in one day.
In many cases it was from the stage to airplane. Last weekend he performed in Washington DC at 2 a.m., took a flight to Trinidad at 6 a.m., and was ready for show time at 4 p.m., sound check at 7 p.m. and the second show at 11 p.m.
His numerous Facebook and Instagram posts are his way of keeping fans in the loop. He has almost 5 000 friends on FB and 12 500 followers on Instagram.
On tour now, the former DJ is heading to Washington DC, Boston, Germany and London until the end of this year. And when the New Year comes he is booked up for Trinidad Carnival. He has had a cook, security and medical team while on tour in Miami.
So far How She Like It has won Tune Of The Road at both Miami Carnival and Labour Day on Eastern Parkway in New York.
Most strikingly, most of the fetes on his tours are billed How She Like It, with him as the feature act.
“I have gone from being mentioned in news reports as ‘also performing was Hypasounds’ to being the headline act. It’s just crazy.”
The constant touring has had its defining moments.
He has been bombarded by the media, especially the Haitian and Jamaican press. And he has been approached by other artistes wanting to do collaborations.
However, one of the most touching and memorable moments for him was during Miami Carnival held the weekend of October 2 to 4. While Hypasounds was performing at a fete a fan ran to him and fainted the same time. She ran past security, burst through the doors – “she was frantic”, he said. Her friends rushed to her aid and quickly explained to him that she had waited eight hours to see him and have a picture taken with him.
“It was surreal. I’ve seen stuff like this happen before but to experience it is another thing.”
Then there was the time he sang in New Jersey at a wedding. The groom hired him to surprise his wife by singing his 2006 hit song Sunshine Girl right at the moment when the priest said: “You may kiss the bride”.
But the stardom has not gone to his head. He remains humble and grounded. He is fully aware that with fame comes attention that you sometimes don’t want. Hypasounds said he is now more aware of the company he keeps. He is always cognisant that one silly act could cost him his entire career.
“I’ve been burnt by a few people. I think I now know how to deal with negativity better. I watch who I am with and where I go. I know I must be more careful now.”
Set to receive a Barbados Music Award in January, he used one word to sum up his success this year: “unbelievable”.
“Why I say unbelievable is that we release the music May 1. By the second week in May I didn’t know if any of the two songs would touch radio. We had lost everything. The studio crashed. We had to start from scratch. But the blessings just started to flow.”
He took the opportunity to thank his team: Jamal Jordan and the BOOMMUZIK, DJ Hitman, Cash Money Evafresh, Riggo, Shawn Venom and his two big sponsors, Kentucky Fried Chicken and Carwash Warrens. He singled out Sonia Mullins for “putting things in place”.
“She is not my manager per se but she has been a tremendous help to me.”
Even while on the road he and his team are busy making music.
“I have an on-the-go studio. I am working on new music all the time. Enjoy it now; I am trying to take it forever. I keep working and try not to pressure myself too much. The on-the-go studio is there for me to work when I’m in a hotel while on a road trip.
As for next year, he plans to release a compilation album to mark his ten years in the business. But for now the challenge is deciding which sounds will go on that album.
“People come up to me and ask, ‘What is my favourite song?’. It is very hard to say ’cause every song has a story for the time it was made. Choosing what songs to go on that album will be difficult. There are songs I don’t believe are my best but then I go on tour and people call for them during my set.”
And to his loyal fans: don’t expect another How She Like It next year either. For Hypasounds “it is one of a kind”.
“Next year will take care of itself. I always start fresh. I have plenty songs I have written but not recorded. I cannot do another How She Like It. I cannot do a Part 2. The fans would say I sound the same as last year. This is my biggest and most memorable year but I will not try to repeat it. I will strive to better it.”
Then, not quite as an afterthought, he added: “There is something about Hypasounds that the people love. I don’t know what it is . . . but whatever it is I intend to keep doing it.”