I returned from my home and heart island of St.Lucia last week with thoughts of carnival and music on my mind. And although I think I have said it many times in that we Lucians will listen to anything, (musically, we don’t really discriminate) the growing popularity of Dennery Segment, (also known as Lucian Kuduro) in Lucia, within the Caribbean and indeed internationally is hard to ignore.
It is said that the roots of this genre can by traced back to the 1990’s with songs from artists such Shepp Dawg and Alleycat paving the way for this new genre of music. We have this fusion of zouk, soca, dancehall with noticeable African beats. Listening to it, it does bear similarities to Kuduro music from Angola. However, add to this the lyrics which could be a mixture of English and Lucian Creole with very … direct shall we say content and this new genre is unequivocally, uniquely St.Lucian. Distinguishing it further from Angolan kuduro, it has been dubbed as ‘Dennery Segment’ with reference to the local area it is most prominently associated with and where the pioneering artists are from. This has culminated recently in the very popular songs such as ‘Split in de Middle’, ‘Half Half’, ‘Bad in Bum Bum’. New generation of music listeners can’t get enough of it. I heard some of the artists at the local Vieux-Fort carnival band launch and saw the reaction of the crowd. They were loving it. Apart from St. Lucia, this year I’ve heard Dennery Segment played in England, New York, Jamaica, and even Ibiza. That piqued my interest even further about this genre of music that is uniquely St.Lucian. There’s a song which I can’t get out of my head and is almost a guilty pleasure of mine; ‘Bad in Bum Bum’ by Mighty and Subance on the Local Drum Riddim. Can’t help it. At the most random times the lyric ‘But you bad in bum bum’ will just pop into my head. I just had to find out more about the artists.
Subance who mainly performs with Mighty on stage is the artist I readily link with Dennery Segment. In St.Lucia he has won Piton Soca Starz in 2014, Dennery Soca Monarch in 2014 and 2015. And this year he is the first ever Dennery Segment Lucian Kuduro King. His hits with Mighty include ‘Fini Wom’ (Finish Rum), ‘Wine on de Cocoa’, Readi for dat’ ‘Chiney Wine’, ‘Sit down and Bubble’ and more. And thanks to Mrs Keisha Chastanet-Athil, I had the opportunity to interview Subance.
When did you begin to sing? Well I started singing at a young age, from 5 at primary school. When we had skits to do at school, I would be the first one to come up and entertain with a mic. It started with Mighty and I. Mighty is dere like my brother. We aren’t blood brothers but we were raised together. We are a duo, we always sing together. It’s rare to hear me on a track and Mighty is not there. We did our first show for Creole Day at primary school and from there we went to secondary school in Dennery. We did a hit song and started tackling different genres of music; we do dancehall, reggae, afro beats. But people know us mostly for Dennery Segment.
My first hit was Wimi wimou. It’s a creole song. We did that on an African beat. And people in the south accepted it. After that we did ‘Wine on de cocoa’ and that’s when everything started. There was a point in time, we were the only artists that hit the Dennery Segment on the head. Let me tell you, growing up in that genre of music, we were the two artists that used to get a lot of criticism.
Who writes the songs? Well Mighty and I like to freestyle most times. With a beat, then might write some other lines for fluidity. But most times we freestyle. Then we work the production house Jammin Productions and with D.R.C and Swifna Octave who produce the beats for us.
I know you like football as well as music. Which is your favourite? Well my favourite was football. I had success and won trophies. But it is not my favourite anymore. I love music and have become more successful as a singer.
If you had to describe Dennery Segment, how would you describe it? We mix the Creole with the English. When we freestyle or write, most times it appears to have a double meaning. So people may think that it is negative but it is not. The musicis getting far. Someone sent me a clip where ‘Bad in Bum Bum’ was played at Bermuda Carnival. I would describe it also as having fun. You have soca and dancehall but Dennery Segment really makes people burst a sweat, real wine their waistline. You feel like doing a mad thing. When the beat drops and you have the lyrics? You fall in love with the music.
People have said that it should not be called Dennery Segment, it should be called St. Lucian Kuduro. What’s your take on that? Well I don’t have a problem with what it is called. When the artists in Dennery started to sing, they sang on loops from France, Nigeria. That could not be branded as something from St. Lucia. We came about one year or so after. We built a riddim which caught everyone’s attention. We didn’t really have a name for the genre. We didn’t give the name Dennery Segment. It was people from St. Lucia who did so because they knew it was the artists from our area that did that kind of music. For me it’s a good name for the music. It’s local. If we say that it is kuduro and people look up what is kuduro, they will see that there is another place Angola where kuduro comes from. But if you type in Dennery Segment, that’s local, something Lucian. That’s why I now think that name is better.
What are you most proud of? Well the fact that Mighty and I came from right down, way below and we are climbing up the ladder. I wouldn’t say we are there, where we want to be as artists. We want to be two artists that are acknowledged and respected.
How will you know when you get there? We put in the work. Maybe when we are booked in other countries like the soca and dancehall artists, I would say that we have finally broken the barrier.
Is there anyone else you would like to collaborate with? Apart from Mighty? I’d like to collab with someone like Denise Belfon, Patrice Roberts, Destra. One of the three.
You have been winning quite a few awards. Yes. I won Piton Soca Stars in 2014. I won Dennery Soca Monarch in 2014 and 2015. I was the first ever Denner Soca Monarch. This year I am the first ever Dennery Segment Lucian Kuduro King. This year I am competing next week in the Dennery Soca and National Soca monarch both Groovy and Power. I am doing Dennery Segment for the power ‘Bad in Bum bum’ and in Groovy, I will be singing a song called ‘Fireworks’.
Do you think Dennery Segment fits with Carnival? Dennery Segment has always been a part of carnival. I’m shy. Yo, you see me wining on stage but I have never really jumped in a carnival band. This year hopefully I will be jumping. Everything is going well this year. I have been booked for all the big events of carnival season.
What would you say to your critics? As you have said you and the music has been criticised. When people criticise my art, I don’t really see it as all negative. I listen to the criticism, I take it in. I have seen people writing things on social media criticising the music. To me it is just their opinion. I take it as motivation.
And what would you tell your fans? Well my fans are also my motivation. When people tell me ‘yo that music hot, that music is my ringtone,’ you feel blessed. I get emotional and am thankful for it. It’s not about the fame, it’s about the fans. I am always interacting with them. I pray every day that God will pave the way and I can reach at a level that I can give back. I’m on a mission.
If you had to describe St. Lucia and tell others about Lucian carnival, what would you say? St. Lucia is a beautiful place. It is a party destination. If you like to party, if you want to enjoy yourself, if you like the music. you come to St. Lucia, you will not be bored. Especially during carnival season? You won’t be bored. And if you come to St. Lucia and see Subance perform? Trust me that’s a wrap! [laughter]
Speaking with Subance, here is a man who is determined, talented and who is proud of his roots and national heritage. He is also a man along with Mighty and others who continue to pioneer this relatively new music genre. I used to ask myself has St.Lucia got music which is unique and readily identifiable as such to showcase on the world stage? Oh yes we do. In other parts of the caribbean there is Soca, Zouk, Jab jab, Bouyon, Kompas, Reggae, dancehall and more. Make no mistake about it, in St.Lucia, there is a unique musical genre with the Dennery Segment. It’s a fusion of various musical sounds highlighting all of our musical influences. It’s the fusion of Creole and English language demonstrating our dual heritage. It’s direct, it’s mad fun, it’s St. Lucian and it’s ours.
References: The History of ‘Dennery Segment’ Music as told by Dylan Norbert-Inglis & Sant Justin. Documentary narrated by Alison Kentis. Www.damajority.com.
All images were used with the authorisation of the artist Subance.
Many thanks to corespondent Mrs Keisha Chastanet-Athil.