Saturday, 31 October 2009

ARTISTE FEATURE: Catching up with Barbee

IN HER WORLD: Barbee says what's on her mind

The daring and delightful dancehall-pop artiste opens up about hunting success, her endeavours outside the studio and what she really wants to do with her life

Sitting across from me in a boardroom somewhere in Kingston on a warm Friday afternoon, singer Barbee, attractively attired in a full black ensemble, is talking about her ongoing musical journey. “I’m really excited about the direction in which my career is going. I feel like I’m growing as an artiste more and more every day,” she says, leaning forward in her chair. “I am understanding who I am as an artiste, as well as experiencing personal growth.”

Barbee says all this before revealing that over the course of the past few months, she has had the privilege of sharing the stage with an impressive roster of contemporary hip hop and reggae/dancehall artistes (including Dean Fraser, Fabolous and Bobby Womack) at shows across the Caribbean and the United States. But the bootylicious singer (now in her early 20s) admits that despite this kind of success, so early in her career, nothing has been easy as she strives to carve out a unique place in the saturated dancehall landscape. “Nothing has ever been perfect, but I have to say that I’m truly blessed. I like to look forward; I don’t like to look backwards.”

Born in New York to parents with a Jamaican connection, Barbee says she made a deliberate decision to pursue dancehall and reggae, though she had ample opportunity back in the States to enter the R&B/pop market. “It was definitely a deliberate choice. I want my music to have a strong Jamaican influence, but I don’t want to ignore R&B totally. I have a commitment to Jamaica; that’s why I am here so often to maintain contact,” she says.

For many persons (both industry people and general folks), the name Barbee is synonymous with controversy. Who can forget the Beenie Man/Barbee/D’Angel saga a couple years back? Not only did the dissenting episode put Barbee in a negative light, it almost cost the young artiste (still a relative newcomer) a genuine shot at stardom. But if you ask her about it now, she will tell you that she has closed that chapter of her past. In fact, negativity and controversy is something she says she refuses to focus on.

“I don’t pay attention to [it]. I don’t pay attention to negative things that people have to say. Nobody can take anything from me that I have worked hard for. The only person that can stop you from succeeding is you,” she stresses, getting more serious as she speaks.

She adds: “When you are in the public sphere, people are always going to say what they want, and you have to contend with that. That’s the reality.”

Instead of entertaining gossip and rumours, Barbee says she is pressing ahead with her mission to take her music and passions to the next level. Already, she has set up her own recording studio (Rare Diamond Studios) in Manhattan, where she is busy working on singles like her latest radio-friendly release “Feels So Good.” But she wants to use this new creative space to do more. “For me, it’s about bringing a taste of the Caribbean to New York. It’s my personal studio for recordings and performance rehearsals, but I also want to share it with the public,” she notes.

Barbee, who also relishes beauty products and fashion, is equally committed to giving back to the less fortunate. Last Christmas, she spearheaded a feeding programme that benefitted homeless persons on the streets of Kingston. Now, she wants to bring some structure to the initiative. “I am seeking a charity that will allow me to help persons who need help, especially disadvantaged young girls, because the system is skewed against girls in today’s society,” she observes. “I have access to resources in the US that will support this venture and allow the funds to reach the deserving hands.”

For the time being though, Barbee remains content learning and improving her understanding of the business side of the music industry. “I have a huge responsibility to build my career. The sky is the limit for me, and I am willing to seize one realistic opportunity at a time, as they come along.”

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