Written By Kelly Holm
Trinidadian singer-songwriter Kalpee has been playing calypso music ever since he was six years old, a path that propelled him all the way to the legendary South by Southwest Music Festival, where he co-founded and performed this year for the Island Stage Platform during SXSW 2021.
“At the age of 15, I had just joined a band… that was the turning point I’d say, because this is what transitioned me into learning… everything that I apply to my music now,” Kalpee reminisced. “The first song I ever wrote would’ve been a love song with my band. Thankfully it wasn’t released… ‘cause we thought it sounded way better than it actually did.”
Needless to say, he’s come a long way since his humble start. But although he claims a variety of influences from across the globe, like the Nigerian Burner Boy and the American Miguel, Kalpee feels the most duty toward his home scene. The Island Stage, which was filmed in Jamaica and streamed worldwide for SXSW’s virtual festival in March, was created to promote the music of the Caribbean to the greater international industry, in collaboration with Jamaican-born Tessellated.
“[‘The Island Stage’] made me so proud and inspired, because I know it’s going to help open up opportunities for artists from all over the Caribbean,” Kalpee said. “There were so many other dope artists who were there [that] day and we all vibed well with each other… that had been the first time in a while that any of us would have performed, so I know I was definitely excited to do my thing and just enjoy myself.”
Kalpee flew to Jamaica from Barbados, where he was based at the time, to meet Tessellated’s band and rehearse with them in the week before the livestream.
“The only people physically in the crowd were the other artists and the team of people who worked on the show, but we were in the Caribbean, so dun know everyone was vibing and giving each other energy.”
Kalpee is also coming off the October release of an EP, Feel Good Playlist, Vol. 1. Its five tracks were written in a variety of locales, from Trinidad to Sweden to England. He says the EP’s creation was prompted by the first wave of lockdowns in the UK.
“Everything got cancelled due to COVID, it opened up so much more time for me to learn music DAWs, like Ableton Live,” Kalpee said. “I started producing around some songs I had already written and then the EP formed itself… it wasn’t easy but it was a beautiful process, as I had to relearn a lot about production.”
Kalpee especially recommends that you check out track 2, “Water Flowing,” of which he says “every time I listen, it reminds me to own my difference.”
His favorite original song of all time, though, is the unreleased “Jump Off,” a track from which he gets “an energy… without even having to look for it… like I’m in a movie.”
With a voice like honey and a pen that produces music not only for himself but for other artists as well, Kalpee says he just wants his listeners to feel good, promising that the rest of
2021 will bring therapeutic tunes that are both more soulful and more personal than anything else he’s released so far.
“[I’m] actually going over to Jamaica soon to work on some records,” he says.
Today, Kalpee releases his latest single, “Lessons,” ft. Jamaican sensation Mortimer. Take a listen to the R&B filled single here.
He professes that everything happens for a reason and says he’s learned twice the hard way to always back up his work, but confidently asserts that one day he’ll play his dream concert “somewhere with an incredible view, in the Caribbean,” and aspires to lift the Caribbean music scene even higher in the public eye. Still, Kalpee’s always discovering new truths about himself as an artist.
“Having animals around makes your music way cooler,” he says.