A good manager can make or break the career of an artist. Musician Choc’late Allen said it was her curiosity which led her to investigate the management aspect of the music business and eventually become a manager for other artists, specifically her father Kurt Allen and the reigning Calypso Monarch, Helon Francis.
Allen first came to the public’s attention in 2007 by engaging in a five-day fast to draw awareness to the concept of taking personal responsibility for our individual thoughts and actions. Growing up in a musical family, she was inevitably drawn to the music business and developed her passion for national and Caribbean development through music and interactive projects.
“I’ve been involved in music for quite some time now, directly linked to my dad, who is a Calypso griot. I lived in Jamaica for a while under the musical parentage of Tony Rebel and Queen Ifrica, under their label and their mentorship. Being homeschooled, my thought process is always very different and I wanted to understand the different aspects of the music industry a little bit more. I was very focused on the creative aspect of things, and the deeper you get into it, the more you recognize that there are a lot of questions you can’t answer and you need to find people to bring clarity to things like copyright and shows. So I decided to get into that part of things to experience and gain knowledge firsthand, which led me to marketing and management. I also did event productions and there is an element of theatre there as well through the Barrack Yard Initiative.”
Allen has also gotten back into the creative aspect of her music, releasing the song Kettle with the group Black Carpet Movement (BCM). “I started working with them in October when I got back to Trinidad. We just started creating music immediately, there was this really wonderful vibe between us. They are a music production studio, but they basically do everything else too, including writing, mixing, mastering, production strategies, etc. BCM is headed by Kyle Noel and the team I work with is Kyle, Dennison Maloney and JD Belcon.”
Allen said Kettle is a snapshot of the mood in T&T as she sees it currently. “How the concept of the kettle came about, you put water inside it, put it on a blazing fire and it’s going to boil until it finds a route of escape through steam and sound. The whistling sound is an indication that something is happening inside that kettle and that it’s time for us to get something beneficial out of it, it signifies hope and a way forward. That’s the general energy when I think of the people of T&T, it’s part of our culture where it doesn’t really matter what’s happening, we always find a way to overcome it, be happy and release the stress. The song touches on topics like corruption, politics, the economy, crime, hospitals, healthcare, the relationship between police and citizens and just thinking of all of these different things that could break us but yet still we continue, we whistle, we look forward to tomorrow and creating something positive.”
Allen said working in management and being a performer are different experiences, although there is some overlap. “I definitely take aspects of the creativity to the management environment, because obviously when you’re working with your artists you want to be able to understand their brand, their strengths, their weaknesses and things that you would need to work on, and you want to see how best you can craft that to suit them without trying to take them too much out of their comfort zone. You have to think like the artist and say this is the music they create and the messages they want to portray and find the best way to get that across to their market and to the people that you are expecting to embrace the music that they are creating. On the other hand, it’s way too easy to become lost in the creative zone. I start asking myself questions about who I’m creating this for, where do I want it to go and that influences what I create. I also have to take into consideration legal and copyright decisions when creating and forming partnerships. So while there are differences, I have to consistently make that effort to pull the different aspects of it into play.”
Allen said she’s looking forward to managing Allen and Francis through the upcoming Carnival season and beyond. She said “they’re each very different, they have different processes and timing. Everything is individualized because dad has his own reputation and you have to take that into consideration and then Helon is this young fresh energy, he’s been around for a while and he is growing beautifully and so I just need to see where he wants to take himself and guide it. I prefer to let the artist guide the process while I coordinate it and direct it in certain ways. They have to lead it and I have to feed off of what they want, so for now we’re going to focus on 2019 Carnival and then do all the craziness after.”
Allen said she thinks there’s room for calypso outside the season. “It just depends on how you see it as the artist and who you are creating for. We need to be aware that calypso is not just a topic or an angle or political or social commentary, it’s music, and so once we start embracing calypso music again and therefore creating the content to suit the music and not necessarily the competition I think it’s going to give us all a little bit more room to play ourselves throughout the year.”