Tuesday, December 11, 2007

WE PEOPLE - Ma$tamind Productions: Making Beautiful Music Together

By Karen L. Richardson

Over in Brooklyn, there’s a couple mixing business with pleasure, and doing it very well. Shawn Noel and his no-nonsense bride, Natasha, are the dynamic duo behind Ma$tamind Productions. He composes award-winning Soca productions, while she handles the daily grind of management.

First founded in March 2005, the full-service music production and management company already boasts five albums in their catalogue. A Ma$tamind Christmas II is right on time for the holidays. “Ponche de Crème, which is the instrumental track, may be my favourite [on the album], because it reminds me so much of what I used to do growing up,” says Noel. Shawn who grew up in Siparia, Trinidad in a family of Parranderros remembers going house to house at Christmas time playing the cuatro with Dulzura Caliente. His brother, who is the artiste known as Mista Shak, played pan. Mommy sang lead vocals and Daddy played guitar. He’s come a long way from his parang-playing days, and that’s where Natasha comes in.

The couple met in 2003 when Shawn was the keyboardist for the band Asylum. At the time, Natasha Andrews was managing a Brooklyn-based band called Cloud 9. “I didn’t know who he was, but I was in the middle of a meeting and he just sort of barged in. I said, ‘I’m having a meeting, please leave.’ I was rude, as he puts it,” says Natasha about the day she met her husband and teammate.

It was business at first sight. “When I met her, I liked how she handled stuff. She was very business oriented. She’s always coming up with ideas,” says Shawn. “She’s very resourceful and knows how to use whatever is at our disposal to find some way to promote the company through it. Yeah, she’s really the mastermind.”

In the music industry Shawn is known as ‘Da Ma$tamind’, having produced music for Trinidad’s musical elite. That includes A-listers such as Bunji Garlin, Machel Montano and Shurwayne Winchester. Now operating from the US, he has lent his technical expertise to Grenada’s Sheldon Douglas, St. Vincent’s Bomani, and U.S. acts alike. In just shy of three years, the resulting resume is virtually endless.

The team will be releasing their latest CD this month. Da Mastamind Project 3 will be available on iTunes and in stores early December. The compilation is home to an impressive list 2008 Trinidad Carnival releases; from Crazy, to Rikki Jai, Leon Coldero, Pelf, Third Bass and 3Suns. On De Tail Gone, Shawn Noel offers his voice to a humorous poke at women who use hair weave. “We were just sitting here hanging,” says Shawn, “Natasha was on Facebook looking at a group called Save a Horse, Stop Wearing Weave. Patch went home and did some lyrics.” Shawn built the beats.

Natasha builds a healthy home and business by setting boundaries. “It’s very hard being married and running a business. Like Shawn says, ‘I don’t even know what I get into, if yuh is my wife or my manager,’” says Natasha. She insists on sticking to a schedule. The home-business operates during set hours, ensuring one-on-one time for the couple. Shawn praises this structure for preventing work from interfering in their relationship. However, the lines do get crossed sometimes. “A lot of times I just find out about these ideas, because Tasha would jump out of de shower and say, ‘I have an idea.’ I would be like, oh gosh, this means more work!” says Shawn.

“I pray all the time to ask God to guide us to make the right decisions,” says Natasha. Not all decisions come easily. The Noels just celebrated two years of marriage on November 25, but there are no plans to hear the pitter patter of little ma$taminds.

“We’re really not able to do that right now because we’re always busy, always on the go. She never wanted to either, it was me. I was undecided, ‘cause you see them. Oh gosh they so cute!” says Shawn. Even without children, it’s obvious that Shawn Noel and Natasha Andrews-Noel have a good thing going on their own. Shawn agrees, “They always say behind every good man is good woman, but my woman not behind, she beside, and she’s great.”

1 comment:

(Nurse) Karen said...

What you didn't know, is that interviewing Shawn and Natasha was a personal highlight of my journalistic career. I first heard of them when they started their company thre years ago...from one of Shawn's childhood neighbours in Trinidad. I've been watching them closely and taking notes...on how to do things the right way. Loved putting this piece together!