Fatima alumnus, Jelani “Pops” Shaw, was the young writer of the 2014 Road March and Power Soca Monarch song, ‘Ministry of Road (MOR)’. Attaining such coveted titles at only 22 years old, he aspires to international greatness in the long career ahead. It is our pleasure to feature this young star in this edition of Living the Grey Shirt as Fatima continues to produce the best of the best in all facets of life.

Q: What year did you enter and leave Fatima?

A: I entered this amazing institution in 2003 and left in 2008, then I returned that same year for form 6 (‘08-‘10).

Q: Was Carnival 2014 your debut carnival as a songwriter?

A: Some people are surprised by the answer, but yes it was; 2014 was my very first attempt at songwriting for vocalists. I’ve written songs before, but they had never been published.

Q: What was your first song to reach radio?

A: As hard as it is for even myself to believe sometimes, the first song I ever wrote…and which also hit the radio waves was “Drop It Down” on the Sando Riddim (produced by Precision Productions). I wrote the song and also had a hand in the Musical Production of the “Riddim”. Credit was also given to me for providing services of ‘Additional Production’. It was the first song I ever wrote and Machel Montano, the “King of Soca Music” liked my work. It became the start of a growing relationship between us.

Q: What is the story behind your alias ‘Pops’?

A: Haha! Well this name began in 2008 in form 6. My classmates were playing football and I had a tendency/signature quality for moving slowly and always being complacent. They would say, “Oh gosh, Pops!!” Some people thought it to be a funny quality. I embraced it because I felt I was always a tad bit more mature for my age. I looked beyond the curve in every situation.

Q: I know of Jelani the drummer. Describe your transition from being an instrumentalist to more of a songwriter.

A: Well, I don’t think it was a transition. I believe in all my gifts from God, I am an artist, yes, but so much more. The contribution I wanted to make to Music and Art as a whole was far greater than rhythmic patterns. Don’t get me wrong, I still play the drums at every opportunity I can, but I just simply have to create on a daily basis; whether it being painting, drawing, composing music, writing plays, songs…simply creating.

Q: What lies at the roots of your musical creativity?

A: I would say melody. My musical peers tell me I hear and approach music in an abstract direction. I think this is because I spent my entire lifetime listening to music; now I’m showing the public what I’ve retained over these two decades of simply listening. It’s amazing to make a form of what you hear inside your mind. The brain is a fascinating organ. I love my mind and the way it works (most of the time).

Q: How did family life contribute to your musicianship?

A: That question should be how they didn’t! LOL. My family is filled with creative people. My father is a well known jazz-guitarist, teacher and performer named Theron Shaw. He played alongside Andre Tanker in the 80s and 90s up until his death in 2003. He was like a brother to my father and a second father to me. I vividly recall going to his home after primary school with dad and playing his Marimba and other instruments. Dad’s friends, who are mostly musicians always encouraged my brother and I to follow in his footsteps and go beyond, and that we are.

My mother is Barbara Crichlow-Shaw. She was the first woman to ever be elected on the executive of Pan-Trinbago. She managed a few Steelband orchestras including the then, Catelli All Stars, Flabej and currently, Sadiki Stiks on Steel. She, outside of her primary, managerial post at TSTT, was the voice of Panorama to the radio airwaves for an astounding 27 years of broadcasting. She can hear a steel band orchestra and instinctively know whether a particular section isn’t tuned well. I judge my songs and creativity with her ears firstly. So it is safe to say I was raised in a House of Music.

Q: How did you get into the HD camp?

A: I worked with Advokit Productions for two years contributing to many popular works such as the Intercol Riddim which featured Machel Montano, Kerwin Du Bois, Nadia Batson and Bunji Garlin. I was credited for my services of “Additional Live Drums” on that project, but I felt like I could do more. I got in contact with Precision Productions and expressed my undeviating need to get into the fraternity of writing and production. They were familiar with work I already contributed to, and gave me the opportunity to work with their team and write songs.

Machel Montano heard a few of the songs I had drafted as demo’s and gravitated toward them. I was and still am immensely grateful for the opportunities he gave me this season. They have and will change my life forever.

Q: What songs did you write for Carnival 2014?

A: This year I wrote three songs, which were all sung by Machel Montano :-
(i) “Drop it Down” – Sando Riddim
(ii)“Ritual”- Sun Dance Riddim
(ii) “Ministry of Road”- 2014 International Soca Monarch (Power Category) and Road March winning song.

I continue to clearly state that I am a co-writer and producer of that amazing piece of work, which we all collaborated to make what it is today.

Q: How is it working with Machel?

A: It is honestly a dream come true. I really am a fan, so to sit in the same room, bouncing off ideas in my mind, and watching his face light up, seeing where I’m coming from and agreeing, makes me know I’m doing something right. He is a true hard-worker who believes in having, being, knowing and utilizing the best in all categories. Some say he is a perfectionist; I think we are alike.

Q: How is it working with Kitch?

A: Kernel Roberts is and will always be the first producer/songwriter to really take me in and show me the ropes of crafting a well-structured soca song. He is one of the best artists of this world to me and his legacy is his fathers’, for they are one and the same. We both had separate interview-articles in the local “E TNT” magazine, and we equally spoke highly of each other. The respect is there between us. We knew each other before we were on this level and we are indeed, family.

Jelani with Machel Montano

Jelani with Machel Montano

Q: Your song Ministry of Road has won both Power Soca Monarch and Road March. Is there anything left for you to achieve as a writer?

A: Oh of course! Honestly speaking, to have won the two most coveted titles in your country’s culture for soca music, in my first official year, is by far the best present for my upcoming birthday, my family name and career, locally. I have full intention on writing and producing bigger and better songs as I grow as a creative; both inside and outside of the Caribbean region.

Q: What are your dreams?

A: To become a recipient of several GRAMMY, Billboard, American Music Awards (AMA’s), Brit Awards and Academy Awards.
To be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (even if by the association of another).
To be named as one of the individuals who HELPED carry Caribbean music further than before. I simply want to “take the flambeau further.”
To write and produce alongside the BEST IN THE WORLD.

Q: What keeps you grounded?

A: My simple desire for love, happiness and God keeps me sane. The Bible is also a good read.

Q: Machel admitted in an interview that MOR was a political commentary. Was this your original concept or did the song evolve into being such?

A: It is a political commentary. It was always a statement and desire for a better Carnival experience. The lyrics for all my songs have strong themes. I want to urge people to think and react accordingly. We have voice.

Q: If you were the Minister of Arts and Multiculturism, how would you improve Carnival?

A: I honestly want to have a meeting with him to discuss a few ideas my team and I have for Carnival. But if I were him, I would simply do my very best to ensure that our Art and Artists are treated with the utmost respect, and most of all, given a voice. I want to do for artists what The Mighty Sparrow did for Calypsonians and TUCO.

Q: What is your opinion on the COTT vs. TTCO issue?

A: I believe that sooner or later a resolution will be found because this is business. It’s called Show business for a reason, not show-fun.

Q: Share some memories of performing alongside musicians while at Fatima.

A: Oh man! Gerrain Newton, Johann Chuckaree, Chris Bhageraty, Cassell George, Nkosi Gyasi Meyers, Gregory Joseph and I started a small band called “Las’ Minute.” We played at all the events for the school. Masses in church, School functions like May Fair, Graduations etc. It has really come a long way and I urge the students and teachers to show the musical students attention and encouragement. It was really a quiet time when we tried to have a voice. Now the students have lots of opportunity and respect from other students for their talents. The drama department of the school also needs to continue to flourish. Invest in the arts from now.

Q: What morals and values do you carry from Fatima into your professional life?

A: I remember that every man is created equal, but some grasp opportunity differently. I remember that the brotherhood spans so far and wide. We really are cut from another cloth, us Fatima Boys. We have an edge in all we do; it looks better, more refined and professional than others.

Q: What is the most valuable lesson you learnt at Fatima?

A: To forgive someone who was once an enemy. There is so much strength in forgiveness.

Q: What is your happiest memory of your Fatima days?

A: Being asked anytime to offer musical accompaniment to events. It has always been and will forever be a pleasure to do so.

Q: Which Fatima teachers do you share those Road March and Soca Monarch titles with?

A: I share these titles with ALL the past and present teachers of this institute. No Fatima College member can be left out. Father Gregory at the top though.

Q: What’s next for Pops?

A: …MOR!!!

Interviewer: Stefan Roach