Reggae and soca artist Kenne Blessin speaks to Zoe Reeve about jumping off the stage in Guadeloupe, his future goals, carnivals in America and more...
Zoe: So, for anyone who doesn't know you, can you quickly tell us a bit about yourself?
Kenne: I'm from Jamaica, born in Kingston. I grew up in Yallahs, St. Thomas and while I was there I made some music with my family. It taught me what it's like to be an artist - You have to come out of your normal self. From there, I moved to Antigua and learned soca music. I just recently moved to Atlanta in the USA and now I do soca, reggae and dancehall and I fuse it a bit with hip-hop.
Zoe: Do you plan to stay in Atlanta for a long time? Where else do you want to go?
Kenne: I wanna tour the UK and I also really want to go to Africa. I want to tour Japan, China, New Zealand and everywhere in the world really! I've realised all different types of people love this kind of music. White people love reggae and the culture more than some people might think. I want to perform every day! I honestly wouldn't mind doing it every day.
Zoe: So how's it been in America with all the different carnivals? From what I can see, they seem to be getting bigger and bigger?
Kenne: Yeah, the Americans love Carnival! Girls just love to whine [dance]. It doesn't matter what ethnic group you're from, girls love to dance once they hear the beat and the drums. I think all the different types of music are being more accepted worldwide and they're fusing and coming together.
Zoe: Yeah definitely. So do you have any specific goals for the future?
Kenne: I want to make enough money from music to be able to help people like Akon is doing in Africa.
Zoe: That's awesome. Which country would you help out if you had the money?
Kenne: Well for me personally I would have to start off small. As I said, I have two countries that I see as my own (Jamaica and Antigua) so I would have to help both of them. In my area in Jamaica, the roads need to be fixed and the government isn't doing it, so I maybe I would go and do that, or maybe I'd do something for the community like build a basketball court for the youths. There are a lot of talented youths in Jamaica that aren't given the help they need.
Zoe: That's nice. So, thinking about what you've already done in your career, do you have any favourite moments? Maybe something a fan did for you, or a favourite performance you did?
Kenne: Yeah, actually I have a few favourite moments. I remember I went to Tortola [in the British Virgin Islands] and I did a song called Tallywackle and I was really surprised that everyone knew all the words and they were all singing along.
Also I went to the French island Guadeloupe and I was with a rock band at the time. It was the first time I experienced jumping off the stage and people from the crowd catching me and keeping me up in the crowd. That was the most awesome moment for me!
Zoe: Wow, wasn't it scary?!
Kenne: It wasn't scary because actually you can tell when it's time to do that. You can't just jump at any time. If you do that in the Caribbean you're going to slip and fall. It was a different type of crowd. I was actually singing 'I Gotta Feeling' by the Black Eyed Peas and everyone was hyped up. The people were all shouting "jump!" and I had a chordless mic so I just jumped off the stage and it was awesome. I'd love to do it again!
Zoe: That's funny. On a different topic, who are your musical inspirations?
Kenne: I have two musical inspirations and they're not just my musical inspirations, they're the world's inspirations too. It's Bob Marley and Michael Jackson.
Apart from that I respect every other artist who has good songs and shows good morals to society because I never grew up with proper broughtupsy [upbringing] and proper parenting. I had to learn everything on my own. Now that I am where I am, I actually have a relationship with my dad and I see my mum when I go to Antigua, but I didn't have a relationship with them before. For me, music has been my inspiration.
Zoe: So do you think that your music, because it's quite positive, also has a positive effect on other people?
Kenne: Yeah, I have a few stories about that. I had a song when I was in Antigua called 'Don't Give It Up' and a guy was going to kill himself... he was about to commit suicide but he said my song came on and he didn't do it. It was playing on this station called Gem Radio. He comes to see me perform a lot and he always comes and shakes my hand and says thank you.
Another time, I was on the way to Orlando and I met a lady on the train. I'd just finishsed my album and I let her hear a song called 'Get Up and Go' and she said that she needs to get up and go because she was stuck and what she was doing wasn't bringing peace to her, so she decided to move to Florida. She's my friend on Facebook now and we chat sometimes.
I inspire a lot of people but they give me strength too. We, as artists, sing songs for people, but sometimes we need help too. The people give me the strength I need and I know I was born for this. There's nothing I'd rather do on this earth.
Zoe: I forgot to ask you, how did you get your stage name?
Kenne: I created it myself. My name was Kenne B and I went to Antigua and I'd been through a few competitions, like I won the Caribbean Star Search and I was getting a warm welcome there until people found out I was Jamaican and started stereotyping me, so I had to learn how to not be stereotyped.
Zoe: What can we expect from you in the next few months?
Kenne: Well I've been telling people I want to put out a new songs every 2 weeks, so I'm working on doing that right now. If you go on iTunes every 2 weeks, you should see something from me. I don't have a big marketing brand/sponsor or anything - it's all independent - so I need to make sure I keep putting out new songs.
Vybz Kartel [Jamaican dancehall artist], or even Jah Cure [Jamaican reggae artist], when they're in prison, they put out a lot of music. I'm not in prison so I have no excuse!
A few days ago I released a new track called 'I Swear', as well as 'No Dead Love', 'Touch', 'Where Is The Love', and I've been on a compilation recently with Christopher Martin called the Struggle Riddim, produced by Weedy G from the UK. I've also just been on the Squeeze Riddim featuring Elephant Man and Mad Cobra out of Jamaica.
I'm going to be doing two singles with a big producer in Jamaica called Don Corleon. He produces a lot of Jah Cure's stuff. What happened was this guy from Ruff Cut, which is a big band in Jamaica, reached out to me and told me that somebody heard my music and wants to produce with me and it turns out it's Don Corleon. That's a big milestone for me. I spoke to him yesterday and he let me hear this beat which sounded really good. It's a reggae beat so he wants me to do a culture song on it. I'm really excited for that.
Zoe: That's pretty cool. You mentioned iTunes and I was going to say you seem to have a lot of stuff on there compared to some other soca artists...
Kenne: Yeah, I try to own my stuff now. When I was in Antigua, normally I'd wait for Carnival to finish and then I'd wait for Chosen Sounds [studio in Antigua] or someone else to say "we're looking for the best songs for a compilation CD and we're going to put it on iTunes". I'd see if they picked my song and if they picked it, it would go on iTunes, and if they didn't then I'd assume it wasn't good enough.
Now, I don't do that. I put almost all of my stuff on iTunes now because even if someone in my region might not like it, someone in a different region almost certainly will. If we think about where we are all the time, we're just going to do music for where we are. You have to think of the whole world. The world is weird. Everyone is different so even if some people don't like my song, some other people will. The world is so big and so small at the same time.
I put my stuff on there to keep my portfolio updated. It's not common for artists to get signed from YouTube unless you have really high view counts. Other than that, it'll be from iTunes and SoundCloud and things like that, so it's important for me to have my music on there so that companies can see what I'm doing and see that I'm serious with it.
Make sure you keep up to date with Kenne Blessin.
Twitter - @KenneBlessin
Facebook - Kenne Blessin
Bookings - 404-519-6120
To read more about Zoe Reeve and her adventures, check out her blog - zoereeve93.wordpress.com