Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Fya Empress brings the heat

Lornette Nedd-Reid


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Lornette Nedd-Reid was born on the island of St Vincent and as an adult, gave birth to Fya Empress, a strong and versatile artiste.

"I came to Trinidad to live with my grandmother. When I first started singing, I tried other islands but it wasn't working and I knew I wanted to sing and make a living at it. I went across to Tobago and worked as a waitress and ended up meeting Michael Baker, who was doing the talent show there." Nedd-Reid participated in the show and would perform weekly wherever opportunities arose.

"The Hilton Hotel was my first big gig and I've performed at top hotels in Tobago for about 10 years. "I remember looking at Michael Baker and thinking that he was getting this money from people and then paying us and I thought, 'When will I be like that?'. So I started buying equipment from him but then had them like toys in my house." That annoyed her husband so with the encouragement from her Tobagonian love, David, otherwise known as Mr Fusion, they eventually started the band, Fire Fusion.

She released many songs over the years, including 'Bam Bam Talk', "Rollin Hard" on the Stag Riddim and has been performing calypsoes penned by Prince Unique, namely, "Painter of the Images" and "Woman". She admitted that singing calypsoes is challenging. "Girl, you know what it is to remember SEVEN verses?! And with "Painter", there was so much history and so many names. Oh lawd!" She fidgeted in her chair and cast her head in the palm of her hand.

She is now enjoying heavy rotation with her offering, "Rum Please" which features a remix with Fay-Ann Lyons. "Bunji actually saw me perform the song in St Vincent and thought that it would be a good idea for Fay-Ann and I to collaborate on the remix."

The idea for "Rum Please" came about when her husband had a drink in his hand and she asked for a sip. They began playing around with a melody for the line "Pass me a drink of your rum". I wanted something to make people move and sing. For a whole week, I was like, 'Pass a drink and what? What next?' I wasn't going anywhere with the song but we got it together."

Her husband is also her manager. Asked about the dynamics of that arrangement, she shouts, "Best thing ever!" My eyebrows shot up as she explained, "I prefer him. I had a manager before who stole my earnings. David has my back. Other men want to feel and see and a woman might want to take mih husband!"

"Rum Please" earned her a spot in the finals of this year's International Soca Monarch competition and she is excited at her 'virgin' opportunity. "I am doing my thing. I've been getting advice on how to prepare for such an event. This is big." Speaking animatedly with her husky tone, she shared, "There is a theme that I'm going with and at semis people probably didn't get it but they will on finals night. Trust me."

Over the years, she has won many titles, some of which are consecutive wins. Her accolades include 'Best New Soca Artiste' in the International Soca Awards in 2011 (different to the International Soca Monarch competition); National Calypso Queen last year, among others. Additionally, she was among the top 20 artistes for calypso awarded in 2012. This year, she was named as a reserve for the semi-final round of the National Calypso Monarch competition. The highlight of her career was when she won three titles: Calypso, Groovy and Road March titles in her homeland. "At one point, I even had eight songs on rotation!"

The Vincy-born gripes about certain issues in the industry. "I can't stand the 'jump, jump, jump; wave, wave, wave' thing. As simple as "Rum Please" is, I paid attention to the music in the song. I don't like how people are just putting a stupid drum beat in songs now. You won't find me singing "Rum Please" at any show for children either. It eh happening!"

Nedd-Reid prides herself on her work ethic. "I record my performances so I can review and make whatever changes." The petite artiste even does her own background vocals. The vocals on her calypso, soca and background tracks sound like three different persons.

Her looks are as versatile as her voice. She bears a striking resemblance to dancehall queen, Lady Saw at times and her range of photos depicts images from edgy to classic glamour. Sporting a cornrow-styled Mohawk for the interview, she swung her head like a pendulum as she said, "I don't like to look the same way all the time. Besides, if I don't dress well, one of my daughters, they're 17 and 18, would say, 'You shaming me. I don't want you shaming me' so I have to keep up with things."

She is one of the few female soca artistes who has a fairly conservative dress code on-stage. "I don't have anything to hide, you know, mih girl, but I can't handle the nakedness. I didn't want a separation of Lornette and Fya Empress."

She also 'covers up' her disappointment in people at times. She has gone through experiences where people she trusted did not invite her to important events and then lied to others to make it seem as if she just did not show up and recently, she was even cursed at and verbally abused by an artiste at the local airport simply because he did not favour something she did during a performance.

"I try to tread light on people's corn. I like keeping a clean vibe." Some of her accounts revealed that she spoke her mind when necessary and as she spoke of petty behaviour from men in the industry, she quipped, "Girl, is like men wearing the panties now yes."

She already has bookings for gigs in Canada, London and a host of other countries and she'll be heading to her native land for their Carnival season which is from early May to early July.

"The sky is the limit." She believes in destiny and one of her mantras is: "When the stars are alignedů"