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Bottling the Caribbean with Kes

With a new album in production and prepping to play their first European show in over two years at Trace Made In Africa - Kes spoke to PAM between rehearsals in Trinidad.

“Sunshine in a bottle” is how Kes Dieffenthaller describes the music of Kes The Band, the group he has headed up with his two brothers and a lifelong friend since 2005. Crowned International Soca Monarch at Trinidad carnival in 2011, the band blend up pan-Caribbean `island music’ and with over forty million plays of their single ‘Hello’ on YouTube their overproof punch of soca, afrobeat and calypso has seen them collaborate with the likes of Snoop Dogg, Wizkid and Major Lazer.

Kes is a family band and I read somewhere that your first gigs were on a little stage in your backyard!? Take us back to how the band got started.

I would go back to when we were really young. I was probably around five or six. My oldest brother Hans, he was about ten years old and my other brother was like seven when they got their first glimpse of MTV. One of their friends had a (Satelite) dish and they could get MTV and saw all these bands like Van Halen, and Def Leppard. Van Halen stuck out because they were brothers and they were a band and my big brother got the idea of: “Yo! let’s start a rock band! I’ll play drums, you learn the bass” and as I always liked to sing and was the youngest one I just used to be bopping around and doing everything that they were doing, and so you know we kind of stumbled upon music. 

Our parents were sort of pushing us along quietly, you know, slowly programming us! We were in Trinidad `the land of Calypso and steel band’ and we’re there playing punk rock!. We tried to build a stage and my dad felt sorry for us and he got somebody to help us with the stage and we had a switch for the garden lights and invited our friends and school friends around and so that was like our first little jam-out you know!

So when did you first sort of get the feeling that this could be a career? Was there a tipping point?

Music has always been a friend, It’s always been around.  It has always been an escape for us in our family in some form, or a meditation or source of calm or fun. It’s just been around. And that’s why I knew it was always going to be around because it always has you know? We’ve obviously had moments in time like when my brothers quit their day jobs and we had our first tour in Grenada. We were on a beach drinking beer and eating pizzas and were like: “This is my job!?”  and those moments are always powerful. But music has never left me and it’s always been with us and blessing us in different ways. So it’s just like the natural order of things.

You just mentioned being in Grenada. One of the things that everyone hears when they encounter your music is that it’s pan-Caribbean music. Was that part of the master plan?

Well I’m glad it was part of the master plan! In a sense the Caribbean raised me. Mostly Trinidad, but the Caribbean has had such an impact in my life and my influences. I know what ackee and saltfish in Jamaica tastes like, l know what nutmeg in Grenada tastes like, and I enjoy discovering those islands and those people and realising that we are all one ting’ you know. So the music comes out like that, and I’m happy that it does, because it couldn’t only be what I feel and experience here in Trinidad, which is substantial, but seeing the world and applying it has connected a lot of dots. It’s freeing!

Kes – ‘Jolene’ (Official Music Video)

What can we expect from the new album?

I really wanted to bring all these worlds together in one place as we said before and create something totally new and totally fresh. So the single `Jolene’ is like the opening of that conversation. So you get calypso call and response, but you also get dancehall, you get afrobeat, reggaeton, and a bit of pop and soul. So it feels very unique and the time to put all of these genres together and just have fun. I will always put my Trinbagonian twist but it’s all the different influences and I wanted to create one place for that. 

The album’s name is Man with no door and I feel like that creatively! The breeze pass through and I say: “Alright I love this!” So that’s what the album is gonna feel like. It’s gonna  carry you in different places and zones, but it’s gonna make sense. It’s going to connect.

You’ll be in Portugal for the Trace Made in Africa Festival in Porto on May 24th. Are you excited?

I’m stoked! It’s the first time to go to Portugal and there’s gonna be people who are gonna see us for the first time and a lot of people who are going to be hearing soca played by a live band for the first time too! Then there will be people who know all your albums since you started too.  So I keep all of it in consideration. I keep in consideration those people who know me and know what they’re going to get, but I also keep in consideration those people who are learning.  So I’m really excited and it’s a unique position to be in as a performer and it kind of keeps you on your toes, and I like that a lot!

Could you put someone you are listening to and feeling from Trinidad on our radar?

I have to say I love the new wave of talent that’s coming out of the Caribbean. From home there is this new girl called Annalie Prime and she’s just different. She is her own style. She’s very much Trinbagonian and she’s very much where we’re from. But she is a whole thing in herself and the way that she applied it is just brilliant. She is up and coming, and I want to see more from her and more people to tune into her vibe!