gifted musician: Boston-born Kelley Bolduc.

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Trumpeter Kelley B sings soca

...and she's loving it

By Essiba Small

For the last 20 years, US trumpet player and Berklee alum Kelley Bolduc has been coming to Trinidad Carnival to play her instrument.

This year Bolduc, whose stage name is Kelley B, has something extra up her sleeve – a soca track which she hopes she would get an opportunity to perform before the end of the short season.

"Sexy" is the name of track that was written by Bolduc for her Hot Like Fire band.

According to the musician, the song started out as a "fun and cute" ditty that she was encouraged to record by her bandmates and later evolved into a bit of a YouTube video sensation, hitting well past the 10,000 mark up to press time.

"Sexy" is actually my second release here in Trinidad," Bolduc said from her East Trinidad location last week.

"I released "Soca in de Party" on the Hot Like Fire album in 2000 and it got some airplay."

At the time Bolduc was a musician at the Spektakula Forum calypso tent and the lone show she was contracted to perform at was rained out.

On "Sexy", Bolduc rap-sings against a lightweight groovy soca beat. In the song, the Massachusetts native sings about sexy men and how they use their good looks to have their way with women. It can be found on Bolduc's band Hot Like Fire's album Forward.

Judging from the comments on her YouTube video, the response to "Sexy" has been mixed.

Bolduc has noted both the positive and negative things viewers have said about her and the song but has taken it all in stride.

"It was surprising at first but I sure got a good laugh at some of them," she said of the unfavourable comments.

"I have always been a unique and different person, marched to the beat of my own drum, if you will, so it doesn't bother me. The song strays from the 'norm' so it was expected in a way. There will always be haters out there. I kind of like the controversy."

At the time of our interview, the dreadlock-wearing musician was enjoying downtime in between gigs—her schedule non-stop since she arrived here almost two weeks ago.

For the last few years, she has been a part of Joey Rivers's Rhythm and Moods band which provides backing music for the Kaiso Showkase calypso tent.

The band also plays for school, regional and corporate calypso competitions across the country.

"Rhythm and Moods is an extremely professional unit with some of the best musicians in this country. It is always a pleasure to work with Joey."

Given the exchange rate of the US to the TT dollar, one wonders how financially beneficial it is for Bolduc to come out to Carnival every year. She insisted, however, that performing in Trinidad is much more than a money-earning venture for her.

"I play music full-time and maintain my band Hot Like Fire in Boston during the year. The majority of our work is during the summer months. It's very convenient that Carnival in Trinidad falls in the wintertime when it is very cold back home and we don't have a lot of shows."

Coming to Trinidad, she added, also gives her a nice break from being bandleader, manager, sound person of a band and allows her to just play her trumpet.

"I think all musicians, including myself, aspire to be paid appropriately for their talents. I have a bachelor's degree in music and this is what I do for a living."

Bolduc will never forget her first taste of T&T Carnival and performing here. She was fortunate enough to cut her teeth with one of soca music's biggest exports, Machel Montano and his band Xtatik.

As Bolduc told it, she was studying jazz trumpet at Berklee College of Music and her first love, a student from Barbados, invited her to attend the Boston celebration of Bajan independence.

At the festival, she won a trip for two to Barbados and was encouraged by her guy to book her ticket during Cropover and to bring her trumpet along.

"I played in Conquerors tent and they loved me so much, they flew me back for the next three years."

Bolduc started Hot Like Fire based on her work during Cropover, but was told she needed to come to Trinidad if she wanted the real Carnival experience.

"Tambu was in Boston at the time and gave me a list of phone numbers for Trinidad bands— Blue Ventures, Roy Cape and Xtatik—so I just called up Machel's mom and asked if I could come and play with them and it was a done deal. It was a great experience that I remain grateful to them for allowing me to have.

"I am proud to say that since then I have backed up pretty much every calypsonian in Trinidad through the years. It's such a pleasure to work with the talented musicians and singers here."

Carnival 2013 is shaping up nicely, according to the musician. She is impressed so far with the new soca releases and she has been reconnecting with old friends when she is not performing.

"I am hoping to make it to Tobago or Maracas beach for some relaxation and wear my bikini before the season finishes."

Being a female musician and bandleader has its challenges, particularly when it comes to maintaining intimate relationships, Bolduc said.

"Most men can be insecure with the late nights, travelling and the social part of my job – chatting with fans and taking photos.

"I am blessed to have a peace of mind and never take for granted that I have been given this gift to do what I love to do and make a living doing it."

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