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Shaunelle marks 20 years in entertainment

Shaunelle marks 20 years in entertainment


Shaunelle McKenzie started her calypso/soca singing career at age nine and now 20 years later, she is already considered a veteran in the business.{{more}}

On July 2, while the young and aspiring soca and calypso singers will be preparing to take the stage for the Junior Calypso/Soca event, McKenzie, who started her career at the same level, will be celebrating her 20th year in the industry.

Describing herself as an easygoing, humble and not much of an outgoing person, Shaunelle told SEARCHLIGHT that it was never a thought growing up that music would have been part of her career.

According to McKenzie, it all started before age nine, when her father, former calypsonian, Gosnell “GC” Cupid, used to record her voice singing old calypso and soca songs.

“I remember as a child, my father and I used to be singing all these old songs and he used to record my voice on cassettes back in those days.

“Little did we know that at age nine, I would be entering junior calypso and winning all these crowns. At first he didn’t want me to go at all. The teachers had to beg and eventually he gave in and I kept winning and winning…”

McKenzie credits her father and teachers, especially St Clair Stevenson, June Harry and her former primary school headteacher John Daisley for being instrumental in her musical development.

From the many songs she has sung over the two decades, McKenzie’s favourites are, “We Don’t Like We,” a calypso done in 2009. The other two songs, “Carry On” in 2012 and “Hot and Crazy” in 2004, are both soca.

According to McKenzie, who is currently employed with the Mustique Company Limited, her musical career was filled with ups and downs, after graduating from the junior stage.

Her experiences stem from being a back-up singer at calypso shows to lead vocalist in various bands, including the one she co-owned, HS Factor.

McKenzie, however, believes that the experiences gained during the years have helped in molding her to becoming the artiste she is today.

“I feel so comfortable doing music… The only issue I have doing music and doing it in St Vincent is what appeals to the people who attend these parties or fetes. Sometimes you’re left to do battle with the fact that you don’t sing a smutty song, you wouldn’t get the hype or the response…

“It plays on your mind. It plays on your mind a lot. But I have managed to overcome that…” McKenzie stated.

McKenzie proved that she can perform for any crowd when she did various genres of music on Saturday, June 1 at the Miss SVG pageant, where she was the featured guest artiste.

“I gave them a bit of everything. I did the ragga soca, calypso and the little R&B in between.

“So, I can please everybody in a sense and I’m happy with that,” she added.

Apart from her daily duties at Mustique Company Ltd and her musical career, McKenzie also has her three-year-old daughter Sade, who also seeks her full attention.

Balancing the three is not as difficult as it may seem, because, according to McKenzie, her mother supports her by taking care of Sade.

This she said ensures that she is able to continue her musical career, even after leaving work at 4 p.m. each day.

“She (Sade) knows that mummy has to go and mummy has to keep going. Even now she asks me, ‘mummy you going again?’

“And she knows my songs. We sing them together at home, but I have a great mother who has been there from the time she entered this world.

“So, in that light, I didn’t have a problem because I had my mother to assist me. But it’s difficult sometimes looking at her crying when I am leaving; but when I have to go, I have to go…”

McKenzie is also part of the vibrant musical group, LIME Soca Dans, which she describes as family.

The group also features Fireman Hooper, Luta, Danielle Veira, Hance John, Parry Jack and Dj Que.

She encourages aspiring musicians to be true to themselves and maintain the image they’ve created.

“Keep your identity. If that’s who you want to portray yourself as, the rock star person, sexy diva or whatever you see yourself as, just be true to you and do it with taste and style.

“Sometimes we tend to take the sexiness over the top, but just be true to you and remain true to the art form, because we have a responsibility for what we put out because children, even the elderly and other adults, are watching and listening.

“So, just be mindful and take responsibility for what you put out to the public.”

As part of her 20th anniversary celebrations, McKenzie will be hosting a fete tonight dubbed: “White on the dock”.

The show takes place at the Cruise ship terminal in Kingstown and will feature acts such as Winston Soso, Alston Becket Cyrus and Soca Dans. (AA)