Thursday, November 22, 2007

WE Cover Story - Alison Hinds: SOCA QUEEN

By Cheryl Nneka U. Hazell

It is a cool autumn evening in Toronto, 2400 miles from the heat of Barbados and Alison Hinds is in town on a promotional tour for her new album Soca Queen. What a prime time to make a solo debut. Soca is rapidly gaining popularity among music lovers around the globe with its infectious rhythms and spirited spicy lyrics inspiring euphoric audience participation from waving hands and flags to swaying and gyrating hips. Although her queenly regalia has been put aside in favour of an off white turtleneck, dark blue jeans, and brown suede boots for this interview, she is nonetheless captivating with her brown upswept dreadlocks pulled into a tight bun and zero makeup on her still young face. Alison Hinds, past frontline singer for the successful band Square One has finally stepped out on her own.

Her journey as a solo artist came on the heels of personal life changes. Her marriage to Edward Walcott and subsequent birth of their daughter Saharan in 2004 marked a turn where important artistic decisions had to be made. She had been with Square One for almost 20 years and the time was ripe for her to step back and take a breather.
“At the time that I got pregnant it was a good time. I was ready to be a mother. I was ready to take a step away from de stage, de spotlight, and everything for a little while. I was almost feeling burned out and because you’re in it, you can’t really see things that you can improve about your overall performance. So it was good for me to take that step just being home adjusting to being a new mother and a new wife, and really checking the music industry with different eyes.”

Recent promotion of the new album has taken her across North America and the Caribbean. Being away from home for weeks at a time from her husband and daughter could have taken its toll but with a supportive family and strong unit, the stress is diminished.
Her husband who manages a 600-acre horse farm, which also doubles as the family residence, tries to stay far away from the spotlight. Raising their daughter and training racehorses are his passion. Edward’s own professional fulfillment has helped to engender a sense of understanding and built up a strong bond of trust between him and his wife.
“When we met”, Alison reflects, “I was doing what I do. He understands that it takes a lot of my time but he’s also busy with his job. He doesn’t freak out and think some guy is going to take me away from him. He’s not worried about those things. And communication is key. As much as I can, I make sure to let him know as soon as I get information about upcoming gigs and how much time I’ll be away just so that he knows and that he can prepare himself for the time that I’m not going to be there. And of course, love. We have that respect for one another and all of those things combined help to keep de marriage going and keep it strong. He has been to my shows in Barbados and overseas. I don’t have to edit my shows. I don’t have to decide well my husband’s in the audience so I can’t bring up anybody to wine with me. He understands that it’s a show and that’s a part of my job”. “Far as more”, she says with a laugh, “he’s be down in de crowd winin' and havin’ a time.”

Alison’s time off has benefited not only her fans in building up an expectation as to when she was going to return to the Soca scene, but has also brought payoffs to her as well. Her present manager and owner of Barbados-based Black Coral record label, Van Gibbs, had shown her the pros and cons and had let her know that not only could she really express herself more as a solo artist but she would be able to determine her own schedule.
“I had to think about it for a while because I had grown up with the band. That was my comfort zone, but I felt in myself that I had to be able to have more flexibility. I had to be able to say yes I can do this or that because it’s my daughter’s first day of school or it’s her first sports day. I couldn’t do it within Square One because it wouldn’t have been fair for me to say, well, I can make this gig but I can’t make that one. And also I wanted to stretch as a performer and really get into me as an entertainer.”

A new band, "The Alison Hinds Show", was formed in 2005 when Hinds returned to the Soca scene with the hit song "Roll It Gyal", hailed as a pride-filled and high self-esteem anthem for young women.
“With the Alison Hinds Show I have the freedom to develop my show in whatever direction I want to take it. I have very good musicians who are doing a really good job putting together the show musically, but I also have input in that. So now I am very hands-on and it gives me a sense of accomplishment because I’m really coming into my own, and I’m onstage and it’s just me, nobody else. There’s no guest act or anything – just me and de people are just lovin’ it. I can get into my songs and work dem. I can get into my audience and really pull everything out of dem.”
The immediate acceptance of Alison as a solo artist confirmed Alison’s belief in her destiny. “Everything I have done has been working towards this - to have the opportunity to make my own album and bring my music to my fans without watering down my sound or compromising what I am or what Soca is.”

Which led me to ask who was behind the naming of her album, Soca Queen. Could it be misconstrued as a little presumptuous especially for a solo debut?
“The thing about Soca Queen,” Hinds explained, “is that is the title that my fans gave me. It’s not something that was manufactured by some label or by me personally. That is how I became known within Square One and during that time my fans and supporters started referring to me as the queen and up until now in conversation people that know me call me “Queen.” So for my first album I felt that it would be appropriate. Naysayers and haters don’t bother me at all.” As a matter of fact, the thought of another female soca artist stealing her crown while she was on hiatus didn’t even cross her mind.
“While I was on maternity leave”, she says pensively, “and then when I left Square One there was quite a few female artists that were rising but I just felt like they do what they do, and I do what I do. There’s only one Alison Hinds.”

Soca Queen carries the credits of heavyweight musicians and producers such as Van Gibbs, Terry Johnson, Chris Allman and Salaam Remi Gibbs who has worked with the likes of Kurtis Blow, Nas, Ini Kamoze, The Fugees and Amy Winehouse. Remi Gibbs produced “The Show” and “The More You Get”, which Alison says is “very modern and for the girls”.

The Alison Hinds Show will be touring Canada in the near future and the highly-anticipated ‘Soca Queen’ album is now in stores across Canada as well as available for download on iTunes and will be available in US Stores from November 6th.

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1 comment:

HR said...

If she aint the queen then tell me who! ????