Swanks, Stylee & that SoCarnival Energy

Oh Stylee!



De youth dem talented fe true eh!

The first time I had occasion to listen to SoCarnival by Kylo and The Stylee Band was Summer 2015. My sister was catching me up on my brother’s exploits via the Interwebs and combing my hair. My brother, for the uninitiated, myself included, is Swanks, Riddim Programmer, Keyboard Man, Vocalist, and CEO of MPT (Marvelus Production Team), whose own BugZBugs set fire to this tune with his songwriting skills.

De youth dem ambitious too.

The mood was heady that night. Celebratory. My sister, a new bride. The music, an instant classic to my ears. You have to understand, I’m not up on my brother’s music. I still bop to his first, truth be told. So this was a reintroduction of sorts, to my beast of a brother and a public persona (Swanks!!!) that left me proud and primed to flow in my own lane.

I didn’t know if there was method to the badness. If the undercurrent would take me anywhere, deep or wide, or even venture beyond the feels of brotherly love.

All I knew, I felt SoCarnival.

Leave it on the doorstep of that 2015 summer energy, retreat-stylee, (yes, I went there) that I absolutely refuse to relinquish. It was that good to me. I couldn’t escape it.

“Your brother produced this. Your brother produced that.” Whenever I ventured out, wet or dry fete, I was inundated.

“I feel SoCarnival…”

Six weeks later. Touch-down in O-Town.

“I feel SoCarnival. Carnival. Carnival…”

Post Carnival and Festival energies (SKB and STX converging, like the love child they created). Post Boxing Day and Three Kings and the crowning of kings and queens, I still feel it. Of necessity, in 2016, I feel the need to ride with it.

“I feel SoCarnival. Carnival. Carnival. S O CARNIVAL…”

True story: I have never been to a J’ouvert jam. Never tramped in a troupe or behind a band. Never wined until my waist lost steam and then regained it (House parties don’t count. Lights out is a revelation). And certainly not with the mean momentum so proudly exhibited and witnessed this past 2015-2016 season.

I am not a Bachannalist. If you understand that it takes a specialist. A desire to communicate on a whole other level.

Still I feel SoCarnival. Still would stake my ownership of it. It takes a village. Straight outta _____. Yes!

So what exactly was this SoCarnival energy that kept resuscitating me, leaving me with a broad smile, beckoning me with a forward energy? I went straight to the source. I had to hear him tell it!


“It’s just a feeling. It’s like saying, ‘I’m feeling so GOOD. I’m feeling so HAPPY.’ Just a feeling.”

I am a believer, fast learning to pace myself with it. The journey has to feel the way you want the destination to feel.

Ghost Rider - Swanks

Oh Brother, who are you!

I mean that with all humility. I remember this boy, gone burgeoning man and King via the promenade of the Road March win (We Trampin) and the crowning by his peers and their ‘Rents. Was this the boy who damaged every surface that would respond to the pounding of knives and forks and spoons and sticks, but especially butter knives in the creative force of his “music” making? Was this the boy who built a cardboard drum set, leaned up against the side of the house that saw his foot atop imaginary foot pedal, plying the air? Was this the boy who when he finally got the opportunity to play drums in church, like for real-real, would suddenly stop mid-song for lack of stamina? I refuse to believe in any Pentecostal Worship session it could be boredom. I could spill all kinds of bush tea, but all you need know is I have an affinity for the fella. I am the 1st and he is the last of my mother’s babies.

I met him first when he was 3 months old and I was newly returned from New York. I was the one who should have been all shiny and new. But he was the one, dimples blazing deep and wide, neck full of Ammens, chubby fingers holding my blouse hostage, front and back as he sat notched somewhere between my hip and heart, and I loved him like cooked food, saltfish and provision please.

I ask again, out loud: Oh Brother, who are you!? And of course, he laughs and I know we’re going places.

I’m just me. Ayeee!

So crazy. Is how you love music so?

I just love it. I always love it. I don’t know why. At first it was just something I always love. Honestly, I never really sat down and thought how far I can go, how much money I want to make. I never used to study music. I just used to do music.

How did the world, your fans discover you?

I’ve been making rhythms since 2006. Really it’s been word of mouth. One person tell one person tell another person. It spread like wildfire. Social media is a big help also. The future just looking bright.

We Trampin - Road March win

Tell me all about the Road March win and ‘We Trampin’. Did you guys feel that expectation going into the season?

We didn’t go into the season thinking we going win Road March. But when we perform live and I see the impact on the crowd after J’ouvert, and how the whole J’ouvert was literal mass behind us, I knew we were going to win. Yeah dehman. Telling you, ain nothing like hearing them announce it. We were confident. I feel like we changed the game when it came to winning road march.

Really? Talk to me…

They (Carnival/Festival Committee) basically had you going in a direction where you had to be structured for the steelpan Festival. You had to be melody sensitive, so on and so forth. You had to pay attention to those details. Now, you could write a big tune today. No pressure. No rules. No can’t. You can really sing about anything and get away with it. Subliminal doesn’t exist. We can go straight, direct and talk about what we want. The steelpan gon find a way to play it.

The Lab - Swanks - Stylee

What is your approach to music?

My approach to music has no boundaries. I want to make my own market. A create-your-own mentality. Rap. Chant over a Calypso beat. Confuse different styles and genres. The rhythm has so much going on at the same time right now. We kind of chop up everything and create what we want to talk about. Layers upon layers and shut down the whole island – the whole Virgin Islands.

This generation especially. Most of the songs is about sex, money, girls…

Wait, but that’s the Stylee energy too, right?

Yeah. Most definitely. And it also limits you. But you camouflage until you ready to say something. In order to get started you have to pretend to be something. You do that to get started. To get (air) play. But as I go along, I’ve noticed a lot of children and adults too who look to me, who look up to me.

It’s just a push now. If I can speak this much through music, why not push for the bigger cake, the greater goals. Be the best on other levels.

I feel that. I liket that. Two things. First, I saw that you recently performed one of Stylee’s latest jams #NoDrama at your Alma Mater, St. Croix Central High, what was it like to go back and perform for the youth?

It was mass! We were asked to perform. Pushing the Stop the Violence campaign. The children love us, so the Administrators felt like having us spread the message would be best. We were definitely happy to be apart. Everyone loved it and they are definitely ready for another round.

What is the greater goal and your personal motivation?

Like NBA is to basketball, Trinidad is to Calypso & Soca. It’s like the highest point. We mean to get there, using all means necessary. We will get there. I stay motivated by the competition. I let my motivation guide me, lead me.

2015 was one of the best years of the Band’s life. Straight up. Every move we’ve made til now is just a sampling of our growth. We’re busier than we’ve ever been. 2016 is already mass.

Nice. Very nice.

It’s a brand new Stylee to me. I dig the intellectual maturity. The visionary checking the shifting landscape of the music industry but mostly ownership of his territory. The gift. It encourages me.

I dig SoCarnival, as touchstone as it has become for me, as an important bridge, solidified by the artist’s expression. Permission granted, since some of us, myself included seem to hunger for it.

For a lil hometown glory, I am still reveling in it.

Oh Stylee!

Stylee Gang - New Album

Kylo & Stylee Band are Kylo (Lead Vocalist) Swanks (Riddim Programmer/Keyboard Man/Vocalist) Mango Man (Drummer) Pollo (Bassist) Mr. B (Management) Karlo (Engineer) The Virgin Islands (Fans/Party Animals/Stylee Gang).

Get up close and personal with Swanks and Stylee Band on twitter, facebook and soundcloud.


Stir It Up

I had to write you. Yes, you. Reading this page.

Because your testimony rings truth.

It is love and light and overflow.  No need to skip to the juicier parts.

Remember when…

We were so precocious back then.  We didn’t lose it you know.

I venture that we know exactly where we hid her.

On exactly which one of the three back-burners we placed her—ever so gently.

Precious cargo.  We sent her away, without sentiment.

Off Off Off to settle lands.

Brigands of timely thieves.  Breathing a wheeze,

Lest we discovered she had wandered off on her own steam.

Floating on clouds that we could not reach.

Outer space. Now there was the quandary of quantum leap.

There was an area that we would not breach.

At least not just so.  We never thought to return to this place.

Still, we left reminders everywhere.

Mindful that if someone were to uncover this pot,

They would taste and see the bare necessity of consideration.

We wanted whomever to have full-range, a healthy portion—a double portion even.

How did we know that there would ever be this?

This day and place designed for the scavenger hunt.

This is called work. And it can surely be called play because we encountered her again.

Everyone off in different directions with different agendas.

We went back to that place and found a wealth of knowledge.

A wealthy place—wealthier than we had imagined.

Finding her caused us to have to rearrange our face.

To motivate in place.

There was a powerful pull where for many a season we had learned only to push, push, push…

It’s yours for the taking. The making.

Mark the time.  You’ll want the reminder.

For every time you remembered you left something on a cool stove.

Check up. Check in.

Stir it up.

Copy­right © 2015, Tynisha C. Leon



My 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse

Green Smoothie Cleanse - feature

It was not a perfect 10.

I came to JJ Smith’s 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse (detox) via a friend, a lady I have dubbed my Sunshine. She is a vocal member of my tribe and DASHEEN Circle. If you understand the nature of this Circle and it’s invitation, then you understand the implicit trust. When she asked, I, of course said NO, emphatically. Not for lack of trust you see, but 10 days! 10 whole days. My memory harked back to that time when I was doing the so-called lemonade diet/master cleanse, where by day 3 or so, I found myself stuffing whole brownies in my mouth, my open fridge providing the only source of light, sometime after midnight. I was preoccupied with thoughts of deprivation. When she persisted and applied that positive peer pressure (yes there is such a vibrant thing), I know and have come to appreciate so well, I finally said YES. I would do this. Truth is, I needed the jump-start and the partnership.

A little history: I’ve been observing and questioning my nutritional choices since my early 20’s. This coincided with my move to New York in 2001 for College. I am not about that scale life i.e. I’ve never felt the need to hop on the scale with any regularity. In fact, I don’t remember even having a working scale until I became a wife and homeowner. There is a vague memory of being 145 pounds at the start of this transitional College-bound period. Why I remember that number I do not know. Let me say resolutely, it is not my goal to get back there, no matter the BMI dreams of conventional standards for my 5’7 frame. I mean 125 pounds. Really!  Let me also say that I have never been adverse to a little (read: a lot of) jiggle in my wiggle. I do not know how I got to be this way.

My work toward evokes the mantle-worthy heights of Gaston Lachaise’s Standing Woman (Elevation): Softer tummy, bumsy, power legs. Please and thank you! I already feel that woman in so many respects. It’s in the lineage. And I find all women, inordinately good-looking, ferociously beautiful on good and bad days. I can find my way to a woman’s beauty.

This cleanse was not about a body type. It was more this persistent notion that I have been for years doing myself a disservice, almost like I was being unkind to myself with my unabashed love for eating and sampling. I loved food, but certain foods did not love me. Still for years and years I had persisted, ignoring the obvious symptoms. I needed this reset.

Green Smoothie -  Day 9

Coming to the green smoothie life, I was already thinking, researching and exploring a raw food, vegetarian lifestyle. I was also dealing with recently discovered fibroids, “infertility,” my heart, my bones, my needs as I grew into the woman I would be. There was no marker for that, but I could still flow with integrity for this temple. I could still find my way. There was simply this open door or window of possibility. There was absolutely nothing stopping me.

I began my 10-day green smoothie cleanse at 183 pounds. I have been consistent between the 178 – 180 range for the last several years. Full disclosure: Anything over 180 and I am markedly, physically uncomfortable in my own skin. It’s at this point that I craved a change more than I craved dark chocolate.

The 10-day green smoothie cleanse as proferred by JJ Smith, promised to “jump-start [my] weight loss, increase [my] energy level, clear [my] mind, and improve [my] overall health.” It prescribed 3 smoothies a day (breakfast, lunch and dinner) or 2 smoothies on a modified plan rounded out with the addition of one clean and healthy meal. The star ingredients over the 10 days was mostly leafy greens, fruits and flaxseeds. Healthy snacks (nuts, veggies–carrots, cucumbers etc, hard boiled eggs) was also allowed, if necessary.

There were three days when I modified. On Day-3, I struggled with PMS and dark chocolate cravings. My accountability partner, Ms. Sunshine herself was the calm in my storm and I made it through, hot dark chocolate and all. Day-4 was the 1st day of my cycle, which predictably sees me in a fetal position for several hours. As I made it through the day, I just wanted something comforting that evening and so it went. I can’t remember what I indulged but it wasn’t green. The final time I modified was on the very last day, Day-10. I was here, there and everywhere and so determined to make it work. I ended up meeting a friend that evening for a bite, a walk and chat. I indulged in a small soup—wildrice + veg. Determined to end on a win, I still had my dinner smoothie.

Green Smoothie in Champagne glass - Day 10

The things I noted during, about 3 days in and post green smoothie cleanse:

  • The whites of my eyes, were clearer and whiter. Bright might even be a better word. I was surprised, since outside of allergies and tiredness, I had been informed that the whiteness of the eyes was a factor of climate, DNA, not necessarily ascribed to nutrition.
  • My face, in particular the way it was angling out. Still round, but more lean. I almost missed this change until someone said to me that they always notice weight-loss in my face first. Interesting observation.  I also noticed the clearing of my skin. As someone who has been cystic acne-prone for most of my adult life, I can say that the changes in my skin texture have been marked.
  • My ability to do low or high impact exercises without pain in my left knee. I had been experiencing knee pain, regularly, just walking, just rising in the morning. A real testament to this was 4 days post green smoothie cleanse when I was taking 3 flight of stairs for a hair appointment. Mind you these stairs had been painful going up and coming down in the past. On that day, a breeze. Not an ounce of pain. Still to this day, one week later.
  • Movements. I could seriously mark time by my consistent bowel movements and without any griping. My irregularity has always been the bane of my existence. Never mind the vivid green that regularly astonishes me (still).
  • Vulnerability. I hesitated putting this on the list, if only to sit with it, journal a bit and explore. I’ve felt more open, more sensitive, more attuned.
  • New low on the scale. I chose to weigh on the morning after the 10-days. I was down from 183 to 174 pounds. A total loss of 9 pounds. I had already begun to feel lean, lighter before my weigh-in. I also feel that there is another story unfolding with total inches lost, especially in my arms, the lack of chafing between my legs when I walk/run, my wrists, my ankles, my neck. Certainly my waistline.

Surprisingly, I never felt starved or hungry throughout the 10 days. The smoothies tended to fill me up for a good four hours. My choice afternoon snacks was almonds or pecans or walnuts. If anything I felt clearheaded and good, even through my PMS episode and the first tortuous day of my cycle. I have read where some experienced headaches or fatigue. Unless those symptoms clashed with my time of the month I can’t say I experienced the same. I am also not a regular coffee drinker, so there was no caffeine withdrawal. Finally because this matters, I work from home, so I would be lying if I didn’t attest to the luxury and pleasure of making individual smoothies throughout my day.

Green Smoothie Cleanse - Day 8

Taste was probably the most pressing concerns for those who inquired throughout my journey.  As a green smoothie virgin, I can attest to having great-tasting, utterly yummy smoothie days and OK-tasting smoothie days. The latter was when I learned to chew my smoothie and that right early. Ultimately, the great days outweighed the OK days. And 10 days post smoothies, I am still having the great smoothies for breakfast, lunch or dinner. I needed this push. You will never know until you try if this will be the move that will change your nutritional life.

Green Smoothie Cleanse - feature1

My advice, as I consider the myriad of excuses I, or anyone can have approaching this green smoothie cleanse:

  • Research. Give yourself the benefit of foundational knowledge. This may not be the plan for you. I was working in partnership with someone who shared her materials with me and who acted as my accountability partner. She was several days in. She shared her best practices and I was the better for it.
  • Keep a journal. Note the things that sit well with your body, the things that do not. I did not measure myself before or after, but I am also not that girl. Honestly think this is also where your journal will come in handy.
  • Share as you would any good thing. Share your successes, your struggles. Don’t be shy about this. Give yourself over to the process. Treat it as you would an adventure. I chose to share the journey via Instagram because of the accountability factor. Plus there was something sexy and thrilling about a smoothie shot.
  • Buy local. Visit your Farmer’s Market or even your Dollar Store. You are encouraged to shop a week at a time and I personally needed this 10-day smoothie cleanse to be supremely affordable. Whole Foods as suggested wasn’t on the agenda and neither was organic, necessarily. I spent around $20 getting what I needed for the first 5 days. I had some left over frozen fruit and green leafy veggies and spent an additional $10-$13 for the next five days. A grand total of about $35-$38.

Special Note: My mini Hamilton Beach blender struggled some, although she took me through the first week. My commitment spurred my husband to pick up a Nutri Ninja as he also became invested in having smoothies, albeit less green.  So cost-wise if I include an $89 Nutri Ninja, I was fully invested at $127.  Overall, money well-spent on my health and longevity.

Would I recommend JJ Smith’s 10-Day Green Smoothie Cleanse? A wholehearted YES! It jump-started my Live Fit/Love Fit challenge, changed the way I approach my food, opening me wide to the benefits of a sustainable veggie and fruit lifestyle (beyond 10 days and just smoothies) and disciplined me to the almost guaranteed success of the prep process and dark leafy greens prowess.

So, while it was not a perfect 10, I dare say it was perfection.




Full Circle + FAQs

secret garden

My Secret Garden


It still astounds me when I consider that I had not written on this beautiful platform, which loved me so well, for so long, for two solid years. November 2012 and Three Young Men would have been my last post, although I did not know it then.  In my absence, I was always surprised when someone, usually a stranger, would send a simple hello into my inbox, followed by what could only be called a love note about DASHEEN and this writer, dearly. There were requests to come alongside, queries for writerly love, exhibition, adverts… And the questions, always the questions for which there were no ready or easy answers. My heart was tenderized and yet I was not moved.  I felt pulled by possibility constantly and yet you couldn’t wring one more public word out of me. It was not just DASHEEN, it was all social media.  I had unplugged, moved to a headspace that wasn’t outfitted for jacks or outlets or the like.  It was not even that I felt bruised or out of my depth, it was more that I was being pulled along when most times I wanted, needed to push.  I didn’t feel aligned and I wasn’t absolutely certain of who I wanted to be in this space. And the higher truth was that I was living for a collective pride (first love) when my core, my circle, the current love landscape on which I was building was just, different. I was not done with DASHEEN, I felt this surely, but I no longer believed. I was writing for you and I wanted, needed to write passionately for me.

Chimene Jackson of Vagabroad Journals expresses it boldly:

“I don’t like social media. Can I go back to the days where artists collaborated and shared ideas in cafes, jazz clubs, and salons, and then returned to work and make work and make their living.
Social media doesn’t prove that someone’s living, only that they’re posting.That’s a pathetic substitution. I don’t have time for this. I don’t want to make time for it. The work will still be here, still coming, but you don’t need my feed buzzing to know this.”

OK. So where have you been?

I’ve been everywhere and nowhere.  I moved onto the outskirts, became a homeowner, opened my heart wide to the prospect of motherhood. I almost wanted to just slip een, because a DASHEEN energy will allow that, welcome mat being laid and all that…And I did that. Feel free to linger over the refreshing newness that is the Dasheen Circle and Desire Mapping articles. However, since there is ever the broughtupcy, it felt right and good to share here what has been.  On the morning of my 36th birthday, a little over a year ago, I awoke and wrote a poem quickly (very unlike me).  Something had shifted and it was here that I started to believe again…

Today, I became you. I wore
my newly favored black vintage
jeans and not much else. Someone was
kind enough to break them in for me.
Someone hugged this denim-clad woman 
into softness and fecundity.
Someone said sleep. You know how mean denim
can be. Setting you up to hold it all in.
Ahhh, but not today

This piece went on for days and through the years it seemed. It spoke truth into my 2014 when I began the work of regaining my voice via voice memos. My iPhone appreciation runs deep of late. I guess I knew that soon I would have to own up to the cost of my radio silence, my conscious choice to unplug from it all, because there is always a cost for silence, even the fruitful kind. There are friendships that stutter, that stop. Some will and have already miraculously come full circle. Who knows? There is no deserving. One day you just go to the well, and just like that you are congregating. Doing you and touching base. It’s a good reality. Like now and again with many of you.

Selfie Project 1

Selfie Project 1


I embarked on a selfie project mid-year, I just wanted to see if I could smile for myself, if I could caricature, if I could laugh out loud, even without some much desired dental work. I wanted to do away with perfection tendencies, lay down my poise. That last was hard. It was some good armor too.  I walked out on my job situation. Hard decision considering I was heavy in partnership, acting all soloprenuer, but this leaving too had been as important as breathing. I pushed on a passion project: CAMELITTA INK! + Co., a full-service writing, editing and print boutique expressed via Pen, Passion and Purpose! As my first commissioned work, I have the pleasure of editing a memoir project surrounding love, loss and voodoo. Imagine that, just the simple act of offering my services and being paid exactly what I asked, upfront. Courage on the rise my friends.  I embraced the work, all of it and this brought me right back to DASHEEN.

It’s so good to be writing openly again. To have come full circle and gathered my wits and my dreams. To be unafraid. There has been a loss, but it was coming and I do believe in losing to win. A DASHEEN life is the energy that I pulled out of it all. DASHEEN is, after all, an EXPRESSION, a STATEMENT, an EXPERIENCE, a LIFESTYLE and a STATE OF MIND. The validity of my passions, my strut and the trust that my truth resounds. Voice out the box. Oh yes, DASHEEN lives!

How did you come up with the concept for Dasheen?

I was homesick. Pure and Simple. There were these insistent demands within my body, my mind, and my soul that I couldn’t shake that revolved around home. And you must understand that home for me really means heart, that shoulder or pillow that simply smells as much as feels right. Home is everywhere and anywhere I feel my ease. However, home here bore a cultural Caribbean character and urgency. I was also staring down a novel about coming home which I knew somewhere deep I could not finish without a reconnection. And even with my beloved mom and immediate family in St. Croix, I knew that home meant St. Kitts—that place where I was born and raised. It’s been 14 years since I’ve seen or been, and that at the death of my paternal Grandmother. DASHEEN almost became CARMENJAMES because of her. So much had changed there and in here—my mind, my body, my soul—and I needed to walk those streets. Dreamt of some dwelling in the countryside… I needed that particular space to breathe. And so I decided that I would create an online platform where I could reminisce, dream a bit, and write a lot until I could get there. There were plenty of good friends with great ideas for names and I just had Dasheen on the backburner. No one ever picked Dasheen. But whenever I said DASHEEN quietly, it just resonated with me. By the time I was ready to say it out loud, it immediately led me to a place that I wanted to call home. The tagline solidified everything: “the online destination where culture feeds imagination.” Nothing had ever felt better, and it was culture and my love and curiosity about my Culture that I was craving. Never diluted culture, but pure unadulterated culture and so DASHEEN it was and is! And like Culture, DASHEEN simply is.

How long has Dasheen been online?

My first article went live on April 5th 2010. Of course it was stamped “Love Letter #1: St. Kitts, I love you!” and it spurred me on. It is a personal favorite because it sums up everything DASHEEN – from state of mind to reality. As I have said on occasion, I am proud nuh wah!

Did you go to school for writing/publishing/journalism?

I graduated from Hunter College of the City University of New York with a Bachelors degree in Media Studies. My focus was Journalism. But that was a farce. I did that to please and to give me a reprieve. I’ve always just wanted to write and when I said that to a counselor in high school, it was quickly translated into “oh you want to become a journalist.” I didn’t have the courage to say I want to write my story and yours and hers and definitely his. I’ve been a writer all my life, before I knew what to call my fascination with words and their creative force. I have always been spurred on by creation myths and my own created myths, even extending to the lie as a child, young lady, adolescent, teen. But I am on the other side of that. My courage is layers deep and I have yet to plunge all the way.

Ultimately, where are you trying to take Dasheen?

I always imagined DASHEEN magazine as a page-turner, even in a climate where the news was not so good for magazines and newsstands. I only believe that last is true when and where the strides of New Media have been rejected or sidelined for fear of some loss to what has been a mainstay. Again, I do believe fluently in losing to win. There will always be a work for print to do. Even if it becomes niche, it’s where I ultimately want to hang my hat and call home. DASHEEN is legacy! The vision is far and wide. DASHEEN magazine is one portion of an expansion dream that will hopefully see DASHEEN TV and a publishing imprint. I’m working towards a media tour de force! As one does.

What is the most fun part of the Dasheen experience…what do you absolutely LOVE about what you do?

I love pushing that publish button! LOL Oh yes, there is no other high like it. I have been jotting down notes here and there because I want to explore what that button means to me; and as someone interested in connections, publishing and being publishing, I want to know if I am the only one who feels so privileged at the presence of that publish button in my life. I also love the feeling of interconnectedness, the exchanges, the connections made because of an article of writing and because someone else has tapped into my vision and wants to share in it, or even theirs. That is beauty to behold, that is a conversation worth having through the night until the morning says ‘I’m here, pay me some mind’ and then it rains. LOL Of course then I would write, because I always, always love and need to write. That’s where it starts!

What is the most frustrating aspect of what you do? Do overs?

I am a perfectionist about my platform, aesthetically, editorially as a social media wannabe. You name it and I’ve been up til 3 in the AM about it, with a 6am alarm looming. I know, I know I’m learning balance and patience. Thing is, I simply expect great things from myself and those who want to add their perspective to this carved of space of online universe. I have also learned that the people that I expected to cheer the loudest are practicing a wait and see approach or just outright negativity. I don’t worry the small stuff though. My story is still unfolding. DASHEEN is evolving as I write every word. The welcome mat is always laid. The water is there: Wash your feet and hands, and let’s do what we came to do as we speak peace and create our own wealth and beauty.

I don’t really have any “do overs” I sometimes wish I had started sooner, found courage to just do it when the dream first came. But it wasn’t to be, and it wouldn’t have been DASHEEN. In that way, I trust that everyday now is an opportunity to catch anything I missed. A redemption of the time if you will! Yes, I am redeeming the time for all I am worth!

How do you juggle everything? Family, Job, Dasheen?

I juggle everything like I hula hoop—badly! I am more writer than business woman I like to say, but I am passionate and I am learning–student and mentor always. I am also blessed in that my career path is presently passionately aligned with all that I am and love (writer + creative + mentor). With all these very good things on the fire, I refuse to stay down for longer than it takes to take a power nap or make a cup of my favorite (of the moment) tea. There is too much to do and see and to write and to relay. There is also the buoyant support from my family and friends. This is legacy, and this is the vision for my life being made plain. I pray for patience, I pray for wisdom and I pray to be more responsiveness to those that tap me on my shoulder.

Thank you dearly for always sharing your good energies with me DASHEEN family.  I so love to hear your voices raised.




Passion Agenda: Desire Mapping

Desire Mapping - DasheenIf lingering talks around the DASHEEN Circle are as bonafide as I believe, then an appalling majority of us have no cause (not necessarily indicative of desire) to become intimate with ourselves.

To have an open or private conversation (call and response) with self: Insanity
To touch, succor self in any way: Devilry
To find beauty in our reflection and express it: Vanity

These conversation starters intersected perfectly with some intentional soul work I’ve been engaged in via the Divine Danielle LaPorte and her gorgeous work The Desire Map. The question was always simple: “How do you want to feel?” And like the best of them, it’s responsibility is to send you into the trenches. Warrior-mode. Full-Length mirror check. This was revolutionary on some deeply personal levels, although not always so fearless. Still, I marked time. Read my own mind and heart. Practiced being this and that woman…

“Knowing how you actually want to feel is the most potent form of clarity that you can have. Generating those feelings is the most powerfully creative thing you can do with your life.” Danielle LaPorte, The Desire Map.

Interesting fact: when I first read that quote I superimposed and wrote charity for clarity in my journal. I didn’t even realize my lovely slip until I was doublechecking the original quote for this post.  Can we talk about love and desire in the same sentence? Yes!

As added illumination, Danielle explains Desire Mapping as going “after your intentions in ways that reflect your core desired feelings…The goal-getting itself has to feel the way you most want to feel. The journey is indeed the destination.”

It’s these ways of thinking, feeling, living, being which helped me regain my voice and find my way back to a fully engaged DASHEEN experience, which is ultimately a celebration of my Love and Life.

Here are my full-fledged core desired feelings, or the Pivotal P’s as I have dubbed them. Unintentional the alliterate P. Necessary the ‘pivotal.’ They are the masterstroke in my passion agenda—which are really quarterly themes/approaches to get me flowing in the right direction—any passion agenda in truth and fact. Still standing–3 years in. Phenomenal for a woman who has a penchant for running to the hills. Now, I just look to them (the hills and my desires) for strength.

PASSION (Passionately)

Redder than red. Bloodclaat. Passion-Preneur. Passion agenda. Always prompting the writer/poet on this Dasheen Life which is rife with love and expression. And then this came:


My desires are telling. Big.

Voluminous with nothing underneath.

Blowing in the breeze. I’m a firm

believer that rainmakers need to dance

for their supper. Not that it is

withheld in the way of the oppressor.

But the right hand of fellowship

on the hip of my delight. I’m a firm

believer that movement in the

pelvic space—independent of partner—

moves the universe into obeisance,

and applause, and big bang theories.

So too, the dance, the laughs out loud, the ready hugs,

the sweetest eye, the smiles, the screams, the truth–

No faking it, not even for the loves. All that.

Multiplied. Passion. Quite. Passionately.


As in my strut. Confidently moving between the soft round of my belly and the evolution of my beating (live) heart muscles to the hard of those calloused areas on my feet and (writer’s) hand. The rough bits of experience that create the nuances which make up the lovely Calalloo that is weird and peculiar. The perpetual imaginings that shimmer along the consciousness of gooseflesh. And the responsiveness, hot or cold, never just any ole thing. Bold.


Here. Still here. Raw. Frayed. Now. Now faith. Ontime (cause Discipline…is the new sexy for me). Embracing the work. Showing up. Leaving the showing out to special occasions, especially since I need little to no provocation. As in today I am. Today. Even before this day. Even after this day. Oh and having done all to stand, still standing. DASHEEN is my witness.


I am precious about little. Things. Nah! I can’t imagine any one thing that would compare to my spark or yours. This is a lot about tenderness, but it was also tough and about roughness, so I could not just leave it there.  It was the most revealing. It is a singular feeling, this preciousness. I want to be precious about my neighbor, my friends, my family. Yes that, but more than I want to be bite-sized and taken in whole, and reserved and holding myself up to myself. I want to prepare my own morsels, savor, sip, enjoy the experience of my own damn company!  Speak to my mind, understand my own body. Smiling not only at you but at the woman in the mirror. Me honoring who I am and who I am not even without a mirror. It took a lifetime to get here. Embrace. Embrace. Precious.


It’s the well for me. It might not work for you and I am not proposing this for you, I’m not bringing it along as my plus one. I’m not passing it on. It’s me waking up to my prayerfulness. Me rolling over at 3 am and feeling my heart stutter or beating like mad and folding into prayer, Me succoring myself cause I can feed the need or the beat the beast or … I want to be ready for the overflow, for the moment when you ask me, cause it’s been my experience, you will ask me to pray and I will because I am here and I am built for this.

I keep my desires very near, like devotional on my beside table, in my scheduler… I know them by heart and I remind myself often.

Listen to Danielle tell it! She has a way…

“Where’s your zeal at? How do you want to feel?



a Love Story

Impossible to know a man or woman’s heart.

Every secret thing. Every beating desire.

Mostly you must know it’s your interest which opened this door, your insistence which started this fire.

Even if you felt pursued to the point of exhale.

You pray that sometime, somehow, somewhere, in some irrefutable way

you will brush up against your best interest, reckon with it and flow into a better destiny:

I won’t let go you say. I won’t let go until you bless me.

I won’t let go until you forgive me.

I would be lying if I said I didn’t carry the conviction of a good-better-best God theory—

that deep-seated belief that I can bend a wave and change, and move towards a superlative me–

Godhead dwelling bodily.

Now, where does theory fit into a circle where you have become vision?

We badly want to make it about trust.

Yet there is elbow room for happenstance. Binary beauty in the shade of the right hand of to have and to hold.

There are so many touchstones in a relationship, each remanding it’s own intimacy.

Lots of hanging in there, loads of hanging on for dear life, sores from letting go,

Reams with the do and the dares of your yes and my no.

These are no easy judgment calls.

Never mind what you thought it should be.

If you are up for the journey: the sprints, the stumbles,

the marathon suddenly turned half as you work yourself up to face what was waiting there in the first place.

Over time, you learn which landmines to avoid.

Some you both disarm. Some you never discover.

Some already burned your predecessor.

Some might have even caught both of you out there.

Some might yet catch and release you.

The evolution of a relationship is not some secondhand story.

If you feel it, then you already know it.

Impossible to know a man or woman’s heart.

Every one has the makings.

Call it a love story.

Copy­right © 2015, Tynisha C. Leon





DASHEEN Circle: The Core & The More

DASHEEN Circle 1

The idea came with a song, “There’s a Brown Girl in the Ring…” You know it.

I imagined a core group of women. There was movement inside the circle, chords of connective tissue that didn’t require my permission or yours. There was movement outside the circle. These women have a work to do don’t cha know, a pull that is demanding as the noonday sun. My responsibility with this vision was the provision of the space, to breathe and speak and be free.

I got caught up in the brown girl for a hot minute or ten, thinking these women had to look like me. How limiting eh. But we do these things. And then we wise up. Hopefully. I let it simmer long, backburnered it. I didn’t quite understand the trajectory, the significance, the whole “why me?” I knew that it had to be a strong circle and when the spotlight hit, one unique woman after another would have to shine bright like she meant it, and then we would do it again because that’s how you catch fire and burn even brighter. Momentum at work.

The-Passion-CamiSo I started praying about it. Meditating on you and you and you… I thought, tight. This circle had to be tight and right. I knew I was going to invite them fully into my home and my heart. And I had room for the more, for sure, but I needed to begin with the core. A sharing session here and there where I could barely contain or explain. Feedback that whether off or on was fiyah to my bones. Then some research on how to organize such a thing and I stopped in my tracks because someone else had called their vision circle. What I had done was my world small again, deflecting. And we do these things, fall backward. But then we raise up and find our footing. The only way to move forward is forward, and sooner than later, full circle.

And so I pressed. I let one woman pick the date. I needed her. I let her know: I need you LADY! I can’t even remember which woman now. Wow right, but that just lets me know that wasn’t the important bit. They all just said ‘yes.’ ‘YES.’ ‘YAASSSS!’ ‘Oh honey Yes!’ Like they had been waiting, waiting, waiting. Oh, there’s courage in it. Who knew!? Imagine that a simple “let us” sent out in a very specific invite can lead to some very specific bliss.

The date was set and they showed up—even my one phone-in (there is a perch with your name on it LADY, come get it!)—EARLY! You know what early does to a late baby like me? Oh early leaves me barefoot and slightly heated and giddy with naked lips and lashes.

We shared our talents, heart-projects, were encouraged to jam and join with whomever felt right spiritually and lined up with current universal needs. We talked passion agendas, full-length mirror checks, the power of yes, we talked value and worth, took it to church and then to the street corners.

All I will say at this pivotal moment in my life is, it was goodness and it was deliciousness and the next go-around I will have at minimum 5 bottles of champagne (exuberant vow), instead of two; because the core is making demands for more and the momentum is calling out to the more. The circle is already doing what it was born to do, it’s holding and expanding beautifully.

Now to fully embrace the work ahead. I say this as a personal and tangential encouragement. We have so much more good work to do, so much more to toast to.

Until the next gathering (online or in the flesh): To all my ladies with style and grace, welcome to DASHEEN Circle: The core and the more.

Dasheen Circle 2

Dasheen Circle - candlelit

Dasheen Circle - Toast



Three Young Men

MIA: Soliloquy of a Dream (4) by Wayne Lawrence

MIA: Soliloquy of a Dream (4) by Wayne Lawrence

I wouldn’t have given these three young men a second thought if it weren’t for my new neighbors, in this new Floridian county of mine, breaking down their garb like it was an indicator of character flaws.

Three young Black men, holding the early voting line while at the same time holding up their Levi’s. Boxers flying proud like any nation’s independence. Oh, they were beyond sagging. If my heart didn’t shiver a little in something akin to shame as their belts rebuffed the silliness of holding onto knees, the moment might not have penetrated my personal force field.

My new neighbors in this new county were apoplectic. I couldn’t exaggerate reddening faces of father, mother or son. And the more they debated under the threat of a blazing sun and these sons (and they are sons) the more I smiled and yes, my heart shook shame like the worst habit.

Yes I wished they would pull their pants up a little higher to the heavens, but I didn’t know their story and I felt deeply that a more important story was unfolding.  We were all here: families out in full force, crossing generations and color boundaries under the blazing Florida sun all to get out the early vote. We were willing this line forward with prayers, sports talk, Sudoku, social media and even, wait for it—debate.

“We are not as divided as our politics suggest. We are not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions.” President Barack Obama said in the early hours of a new day.

These three young men became THE story of that early voting Saturday for me. My one takeaway, above and beyond even. I felt good about Florida then. Yes, the selfsame Florida that is still counting votes today, still coming to terms with the blight of 2000. Floridian. American. Proud.

It was the same feeling four years before in 2008, and then a different county in Florida. Only my second election, but for me a most pivotal one. These three young Black men were all I could talk about when I got home. I said to my husband breathlessly, words racing over each other, per usual: “You should have seen them. You think these boys weren’t determined.”

If I worried before, I put it to bed then. For better or worse. But secretly I knew. I just knew! That moment of these three young Black men, who didn’t command my immediate attention, was important; and it was not singular, for if they were here today, then they were everywhere and THEY knew that they could own an election and make a very real difference.

The pundits today call my three young Black men a part of a defining “coalition.”  I prefer community. Saggy pants.  Well, I never thought I would say this, but I’ll take them.  The only thing I wish to ban or discourage within my community is fear and shame.

Did you vote this election cycle? If so, I would love to hear about your defining moments.


All photography–Portraits from Urban Beach Weekend, Memorial Day Weekend, Miami, 2012–is the sole work of Kittitian & PhotoJournalist, Wayne Lawrence. Check out his great eye here.




Enter Black Jaguar: Sweet Soca Alone!

Black Jaguar is invested. It’s Pure, Sweet Soca or nothing. That’s the foundation and BJ, as he is known among friends and as he introduced himself to this writer, is also grounded.

“The money-making aspect at times want to take away from the pureness. I don’t think it’s being done on purpose, I just think it’s the climate,” BJ ruminates. “But Soca is still pure.  It’s still sweet. And it’s still good.”

Captivated by the pulsating rhythms of the Caribbean from an early age, Black Jaguar never gave up the desire to be involved in music. Now a poet, singer, songwriter, musician and Soca artiste, Black Jaguar is a fearless and energetic rising star within the Soca universe. A native of the lush emerald Isle of Montserrat, Black Jaguar resides in the USA but insists on being home for carnival every year in December.  Over the past five years, he has made memorable impact with his clever and creative fusing of  Soca with other genres.  With the release of his debut album Paws of a Jag in 2010 and his second album Man From Strat in 2011–both of which were well-received–Black Jaguar is excited to be part of the movement helping to introduce and elevate Soca music to a growing fanbase.

“As an artist, I think it’s very important to be true to the music and true to yourself. Always let creativity be the driving force,” he says.

And with the recently released collaborative album Soca Kiss, featuring the lead single Front & Rear and a second track Together For Life both by Black Jaguar–all released through Paran Sounds–BJ is poised to make impact again. According to Paran Sounds spokesman J MaCwell the new tracks “capture the essence of [Soca Kiss]. The album [is] a nice blend of groove and frenzy.  Something that you can listen to and shake your head, tap your feet, rock your body or jump up and down if you’re so inclined. We think the fans are going to enjoy it.”

Front & Rear

The highly anticipated album and single is also a sweet addition to the countdown and celebration of Montserrat’s 50th Annual Festival (Dec. 14th 2012 through Jan. 1st 2013).

“This is the long awaited 50th anniversary of Montserrat festival. Birthplace of Soca.” BJ proudly reminded me.  “I’m looking forward to all my Caribbean people coming out and celebrating with us.”

Together For Life

Dasheen caught up with Black Jaguar and found the hardworking “Man from Strat” immersed in his Soca birthright as well as his singular devotion to his fans.

1. How did you become a bonafide Soca man? What brought you to the craft? 

I like that… Bonafide Soca Man. Well, Arrow has died and gone, but he was and is the King of Soca. Arrow is from Montserrat. I grew up seeing Arrow as a little boy walking up and down the street.  I grew up in that sort of environment with Soca music running through my veins.  Just like someone else grew up on Milk and honey, I grew up on Soca music.  I used to have the fantasy of being on stage performing Soca music.  I would be making up songs in my mind and imagining myself performing. I always knew that I loved Soca music and that I wanted to perform it. I always stayed in touch with it.

It wasn’t until the early to mid 2000’s, when I got involved. I was living in Orlando, Florida. I knew a DJ–DJ Go from Panama. He had his own recording studio and he used to arrange music. I worked in Software engineering. I went in to help him move some stuff.  He put on some beats. Unbeknownst to me he actually recorded a session of me singing. I started listening and I didn’t know who the person was and I loved it.  And he said it’s you.  That moment gave me a vision of what was possible.  We wrote and recorded my first single that same night: When you see me give me some.  Maybe a year later we did One Eye Open.  We had all these songs we were recording and then we said let’s put out an album. That was how I was discovered.

2. Coming from where you’re from, Man from Strat was such an inspired title for an album. It seems obvious where it comes from, but the genius behind a Man from Strat that almost phonetically sounds like Montserrat. Who came up with that?

Actually my arranger was the one who came up with the title of the album. Eddie Prince. The intention was not to have a play on words though, the idea behind the title was to bring home the point of ‘here I am, my name is Black Jaguar and I am from Montserrat.’ When I first came on the scene and I went home to perform the announcer that was announcing me had my name wrong and he had where I am from incorrect. So this was my way of saying, ‘listen you’ve introduced me. I am your own country man. I am from Montserrat.’

In hindsight, I think what it really boils down to is recognition. I was new to the game. They really didn’t know who I was and here I was causing a stir.  I think if they had taken the time to ask a question or two to just get it right.  Now that mistake is not made anymore.

3. So mission accomplished. What is your personal mission with your Soca music? Share the vision…

That Soca is taken seriously. Period. Just like reggae is an artform in the Caribbean. It has evolved into an artform.  People have won Grammy’s for Soca music. Even though Soca music is being recognized on a global scale, I still feel like it is not as recognized as some of the other genres.  My mission is for the masses to know that at the end of the day Black Jaguar is a worldwide selling Soca artiste. Not just calling the music RnB, or reggae, or world music, but Soca. I want it to be called that.

I do this for the love of it, but I would be a liar if  I said I would not want to see something come of it.  I want to see the name Black Jaguar is synonymous with Soca music not just in the Caribbean but all over the world.   I want to leave behind a legacy of music that people can listen to and appreciate and say that’s Black Jaguar and the music is wicked!

There are a lot of other places in the world that are having Carnival because of Calypso and Soca and Caribbean music.  It’s not enough of a stand to just ‘like’ and not comment.  Not just viewing the video, but purchasing the music.  Not enough to go to a party and dance to it.  The music have to become an epidemic. and its because you shared and stood up.  We need the fans to engage and make the music their own ting.

4. Who are some of the must-listen Classic Soca artists and/or songs or you? Who is in your ear at the moment?

I’m a huge Scrunter fan.  So Woman on the Base.  Everything Arrow. Columbia Rock.  Hot Hot Hot which has been rewritten in at least thirty different languages or more and is easily the most popular Soca song in the world. Winston Soso out of St. Vincent. Falcon out of the Montserrat.  So many many Soca artists. What I love most about Soca music back then was that they were telling a story.  You had an introduction, you had a body and you had a conclusion.  I like different forms of Soca music, but I am just partial to that era.  Over the last ten years or so Soca music has reemerged in a different light.  It still has some of the old components. But it’s a different feel, a different vibe. It’s more sexy, even the jumpy tunes. I love both the old and the new. What is always important to me is that we don’t discard what made it what it was.

There are different times when you are listening to an album and the music speaks to you at different times in your life and you just get it. It’s the right music for the right time. Right now I’m listening to a lot of Trinidadian Soca music. Marchel Montano, Highway George…  But there are also times when I am a reggae guy, an RnB guy and a jazz guy. Whatever it is, I just let it flow.

5. Which do you prefer the recording or the performance?  How do you enliven your performances? 

They are two different experiences but geared toward the same end and so I enjoy both of them thoroughly.

Music in general has a life of its own. I think it is a living breathing thing. I think it actually chooses what it wants sometimes and it actually chooses who it wants.  You go into the studio with a mindset of what you want to do.  Likewise, when you go on the stage you go on with a mindset of how you want that performance to be perceive.  But any artist has to bear in mind that that can change. and you have to ready. So you can adjust.  It’s all apart of being a performer and entertainer.

For me with Soca and as a direct result of all the pulsating rhythms and beats you can improvise and do whatever you feel.  You go where the music takes you.  Once you flow with it, the audience will love it and they will love you.

6. Regarding the album Soca Kiss. How did that collaboration come about? And should the fans look forward to more collaborative efforts from Black Jaguar?

I’ve been working with Paran Sounds since Paws of a Jag and we also did music on Man from Strat.  I’m looking to begin work on my third album come January for a release next summer.  Soca Kiss gave me a chance to put some music out there in the meantime.  It was a lot of fun. Definitely a lot less pressure than putting together a whole album if you understand where I’m coming from. These are guys (Paran Sounds) that I respect and we’ve been doing good music together for the last three years. Front and Rear is more Dancehall Soca and Together For Life is more of a Groovey Soca beat.  Fans can look out for more collaborative efforts, particularly on the upcoming album. I’m definitely looking towards more edgy and futuristic music, but we can’t never get away from the Soca base. It will always be Soca music.

7. What will be different on your 3rd record and what are the differences between the 1st and the last album?

Working on the 3rd album currently setting things on motion. I want to put a face more so with the music. A lot more live performances. Continually working on the vocals.  Protecting the vocals. The objective is always better.

8. What did you do before you were a Soca artist?

I originally came to California in 1994 to attend Long Beach College. I received my Bachelor’s in Computer Engineering there.  I created a bond with friends over there that became family.  I ran track. I was not into music as such at the time. Track was one of my first loves though. I was heavily into athletics and I chose Track and Field.  Our school actually won the state championships.  The highlight was when I participated in the 1991 world Games in Tokyo Japan. I got to be among some of the greatest athletes sat in the same dining hall, sat pool side with them, ate with them. I will never ever forget those moments.

There’s something that was instilled in me from my days of track and that is preparation and drive.  Whenever I did something I put 159% into it. I put a lot of me into what I am doing and I do it to the best of my ability.

I don’t think that all of us can say that we only have a destiny. You can have more than one destiny.  You can have multiple destinies.  At the time when you are fulfilling that particular destiny, it’s important for you to be present.  All in.  I love singing from the bottom of my heart.  At this point in my life I think this (being a Soca artiste) is what I was born to do. This is what I was meant to do.

9. I love what you have to say about multiple destinies.  I think in a survival dance you get locked into the idea that there is only one destiny. Now we have established that you are a bonafide Soca man and yet you have competed yearly in Monsterrat’s Calypso Monarch competition? Is that a smooth transition for you?

They help each other.  As a Calypsonian there is a way in which you deliver the performance.  You are judged on diction, clarity and such.  It’s a different criteria that I as a Calypsonian have to pay attention to.  Performing Calypso also helps with the delivery of Soca.  Soca is more free, more up tempo, more dance.  The Soca performance would be more energetic.  The beat is more lively. The lyrics are not as heavy. For me it’s not really a huge leap.

9. I don’t think you can ever accurately tell someone’s story without talking about where they come from. How does your culture as a Man from Strat feed your imagination and help you be a productive citizen as well as true to your art?

As an artist I will never, ever lose sight of that where I am from. In all my conversations I always end up mentioning Montserrat because I am proud of it.  We are a proud people.  We have the 50th Festival  celebrations coming up and we expect Montserrat will be packed.  When I make my music, I make my music with Montserrat in mind and I also make my music with the world in mind.  There will always be that essence of me in the music that is essence of Montserrat. When I think of my culture, there’s that peace that I always associate with Montserrat. At the same time in spite of everything we are going through we always remain a happy people.  That reflects in my music.  The mood is always there. Always positive. Always upbeat.  Let me share this with you: I was home recently and I just started pulling my suitcase up the road. I didn’t have to pay a taxi to get home. I could put my suitcase at the closest persons house and leave them there. This is the land that I know and love.

10. Niceness. Any words for your fans?

Let them know I LOVE THEM TO THE BONE!

So said, so done.

The Front & Rear and Together For Life tracks are available for purchase online via Paran Sounds, Black Jaguar Music and ReverbNation.  The full  Soca Kiss album features an eclectic mix of groovy and up-tempo tracks including: “If This World Were Mine” by Prynze, “Go Down Low” by Maxcine and “Road Rage” by Storm.



Buss Up Shut + the Long and Short of Curry Sauce

My husband accuses me often and daily of “always” being hungry. He says that he can “just” imagine me hoarding my snacks as a child, never sharing so much as a morsel. My memory is conveniently faulty regarding that last, but I do unabashedly love to eat and sample.

For me there is nothing worse on the culinary scale than having a craving, going to the spot where there is the promise of said craving being alleviated and leaving disappointed.

Such was the case during a recent impromptu lunch date for Buss up Shut (“Busted-up Shirt” because the roti resembles a tattered and torn-up shirt) and the fixings at a new Caribbean spot in Orlando, Florida.

I won’t name names, as this was my first time there and once I get over my funk, I may be willing to try again. What I will venture was that the vibe was certainly right this first time; Lord knows the music was blazing and I always, always get the warm and fuzzies when I enter any Caribbean joint–whether for eats, drinks or dancing. The appeal is a natural thing. The accent just flows between islands. Everything sweet!

As Si (the husband) and I braved midday traffic and I squinted through a lingering hunger headache, I just knew that this Buss up Shut was going to be what the doctor ordered.  I could hardly sit still after we ordered, my hands clasped in my lap, trying not to sip off all my Vita Malt. Then the steaming plates arrived. Yes! I was sincerely salivating. I slowly unfurled the Buss Up Shut, broke off a piece sans sauce and went straight to mouth. So perfect! Until the next bite, which I had to dip into what looked to be a luscious chicken curry sauce. Crack! Yes, that was not just a piece of bone, which depending on size could be handled and placed politely to the side. No, this was a consistency of small bone chips that no matter how skilled my roti dive I was not about to survive.

Unfortunately, the bone chips in this curry sauce was not the first indication that I was off course. That honor goes to the lackluster and lacking sauce.

Curry chicken needs to reckon with CURRY long before it touches my lips.  And speaking of long, I need my sauce to go on for days, especially when I intend to dovetail it with a healthy potion of Buss up Shut. Still, it was the bone chips in every dip that finally got me up and out.

What’s the point of Buss up Shut if you can’t dip and dive into some rich curry sauce sans the worry of bone chips? All the players were on the plate too: the potatoes, the channa, but the sauce, oh I could mourn that sauce… it left so much to be desired.

Now to be clear, the Buss up Shut is the business end of the stick and it was great, but like most dishes, it becomes the cumulative appeal. Even if its a daub of butter, Buss up Shut does’t just stand alone off to the side. And in the case of my craving, it needed to be partnered up just right. Mercy!

Thankfully, during my mom’s last visit, she left me two things: some Roti skins and some Buss up Shut.  So after a my less-than-desirable jaunt to someone else’s kitchen, I decided that I would satisfy my own simmering cravings for Buss up Shut meets Long Sauce Curry Chicken and make my own.

The Curry chicken recipe I’ve been favoring lately with some minor additions is Uncle Rick’s Caribbean Curry Chicken. I love his inclusion of ginger and cinnamon sticks. The flavor profile for me and mines is distinct and the yummy-factor is out of this world!

I am adventurous in the kitchen, and I can and will curry anything and everything.  When I cook chicken curry I usually use boneless chicken thighs, as they easily offer up more flavor to the dish.  This time, however, I was working with what I had: leg quarters. They had been further quartered with a very (very) sharp knife so as to avoid cracking the bone (I still have nightmarish nerves about bone chips in my sauce), as opposed to going right through. My only advice for this is a cutting board, a very, very sharp knife, and an on-your-mark. You have to just go for it! You only get one shot for a nice clean quartering session.

Thankfully these chicken quarters had already been seasoned and stored in my refrigerator.

When I took out the doving pot to defrost, I thought I would just do what I had always done and prepare the curry on the stove top. But this time was different. I had less time than usual to work with and was focused on another project that wouldn’t allow too much pot-tending.  And so, I decided that since my doving pot was versatile it could and would stand the heat of the oven.  I only had some very small, bite-sized red potatoes and I threw those in mostly whole along with some green onion, some finely grated ginger, one cinnamon stick, MORE CURRY of course, cayenne and a tinge of allspice since I couldn’t remember if I had seasoned with it earlier and covered it all with some low-sodium chicken stock.

Let me just tell you 1 hour later, with my project all but put to bed, that pot was speaking in tongues. I had so much saucy goodness, I hardly knew what to do with myself. I brought the pot on top, only mildly surprised that those small whole potatoes had stood up to an hour cook-time and mashed one or two to thicken-up the sauce. I mixed in my chick peas and about 15 minutes later I had a great reduction et voila… NICENESS!

But the test is in the tasting. I always know when my cooking is just right as there is silence mostly, and the young man’s foot is simply going back and forth, back and forth, swinging in the breeze. OK, so there is no breeze, but there is a fan. My curry is hot! And yeah I have a reputation to maintain. 🙂

So lesson learned: Sometimes when you really want something, and you want it done right you have to just get down to the doing. I think I will reprise Chicken Curry in the oven or maybe the crock. Of course, I will go out and get the actual Buss up Shut or Roti or maybe even Naan (such a good substitute if you’re in a bind).

When was the last time you enjoyed Buss up Shut with some really good (long) curry sauce?

Image Credit: Roxanne J.R. 




The Sounds of the Calabash: Roots, Rock, Reggae

Engraved Calabash

The (Calabash) drum beat don’t stop just cause ribs knock or the poets get cock-blocked. “All these poets think they’re novelists!” quipped Carolyn Cooper, emcee extraordinare & professor of Literary and Cultural studies at the University of the West Indies, Mona as she called time: 3 mins!

She was right, and like her I thought to call time on my long overdue music post in celebration of Calabash 2012, but the sounds are still in heavy rotation. One or two have even worked their way onto  my devotional playlist on Youtube.  And if you were present in that place where a welcome mat was laid for hearts that beat to the rhythm of the arts, then you definitely couldn’t blame the one or two or more renegades who gave it their all on either stage (music &/or arts).

The space between the jam-packed schedule of The Calabash Festival 2012 which courted a “constellation of faces and voices and see­ing and ways of being” that made you feel like you were on this side of literary heaven, and brought to mind a clear excellence among Caribbean lovers and compatriots, was filled with the sounds of the calabash.

From voices that did the gutter swipe, to the falsetto heights, to the rub-a-dub-stylee, it made no never mind because it was potent ROOTS-ROCK-REGGAE, and I fell in love more than once.

The following is me playing favorites. I urge you to take a listen…

1) NoMaddz — I won’t even waste precious breath labeling. #The yuth talented fe true. These young men brought the madd-ness the first night. That is, madness coming good like ill can be rendered superlative, and dubbed illest.

Sort out Yuh Life Jamaica!

The Trod

2) Raging Fyah — ‘Six musicians divinely united to create and perform wholesome music for Generations.” Judgement Day is the title track from their debut album Judgement Day. Meet Kumar Bent (lead singer/guitar), Anthony Watson (drummer), Demar Gayle (keyboard/singer), Delroy ‘Pele’ Hamilton,(bass guitar/singer), Mahlon Moving(engineer/singer) and Cortland ‘Gizmo’ White (guitar). Raging Fyah, spiritual music to a higher level.’

Judgement Day

You want to talk about “wheel back de tune Ms. Selecta” then please do, I can do this all day.  Also gaining momentum in my life of late:

Irie Vibe


3) Jakoostik nee The Calabash Acoustic Ensemble — ‘Jakoostik’s mission is to bring the catalogue of classic Jamaican songs to life through acoustic performances and arrangements energized by the spirit of improvisation.’ You can well imagine that they knew their stuff. They took it slow–decade by decade. Two that set my heart beating:

Book of Rules

Sammy Dead/Hard Man Fe Dead

Some history on the group: Jakoostik came as the result of a feature on the last day of each Calabash literary festival where a group of respected Jamaican musicians were asked to present and interpret classic Jamaican songs as literature. At first, the group was known as the Calabash Acoustic Ensemble and then the Jakoostik Music Ensemble, nowadays it is simply Jakoostik.


4) I-Octane — There was a rumor and as untrue as it turned out to be, I must confess I delighted in it. I like how the young man stays which is why he’s here. Life hard in the interior and life hard at the edge of the water, but we are ever good at survival. His story is blazing!

My Story


Who have you been listening to lately?




Easy Like Sunday Mornings…

Sundays for me have always had a special rhythm to them. As far back as I can remember, it’s the one day when sleep was allowed to linger and I was allowed to wake up on my own steam. When I lived on a street called Upper Malone Ave, it was the sound of Sunday morning hymns that woke me.  Not pushed through a human voice box necessarily, although now and again you could hear a country twang, or a Cockney accent, or a particular local talent straining through a little transistor radio, that had more heart than stamina, as it sat obediently on the window sill.  Mostly what called out to me on a Sunday morning was the equivalent to the Sound of Music, cue the “…hills are alive…” with full unseen orchestra plying keys, bending strings and giving vent to wind instruments and outstretched arms. It was worlds away, but it was still here, right there in my backyard.

Others times while I resided there, it was the scratch-scratch of a coconut broom winding its way under our window.  The outside was making its way inside. There was that feeling on the inside.  I was miraculously alive and the day was already winning.

Sundays were feast days…

Breakfast was saltfish and eggs and soft doughy bread or Johnny cake, followed by freshly peeled and sectioned pineapple. If Cereal–Cornflakes, Cream of Wheat, oats or what have you reigned during the week, Sundays always brought the sauce. Lunch was meat long simmered in brown sauce.  There was no such thing as white space on a plate. There was no artifice. No posing off. Sundays also brought Pound cake from scratch. Belly full. Mmmh… You can well imagine.

Sundays were a family reunion…

We were 13, give or take to a modest house that always felt like mansion. We wandered about. There were age gaps. There were agendas. There was grown-folk business that needed tending. As children we would make ourselves busy with scrapes and loose dirt and red-light, yellow-light, green-light… We were diverted during the week. Everyone was in and out. Sundays we got dressed together because we were leaving together, at least in groups and not just in twos. Back in those days, every cousin had a pair. On Sundays, we were destined for Zion and the walk would never run, since there was no reason to court trouble and a tell-tell situation on an easy Sunday. We would decide, which way? Would we go through the alleyways, which had the lure of being dubbed the backway, or would we travel the main?  No contest there, as we usually took all the short cuts. I don’t ever remember being late to a Sunday Service. Seriously! I must take note. For where would one even sit.  Back then Zion was filled to the rafters.

On the way home, we would make our way towards historical and picturesque Independence Square. I want to say this represented the long way as we added friends to a familiar posse and created memories that can be found today in someone’s beloved album.

Sundays grew up fast…

There are too many angst-ridden years when Sundays were a blur. The beat down of the constant church schedule. The rebellions. The quarrels. Sundays practically became petrified. Bad girl. Bad girl. Bad girl… The poem “Grace” is a portion of my redemption song.

Sundays fell in love…

I blame the Sunday Times. After lackadaisical years and sojourns through islands, and islands states and the United States, Sundays blossomed into full-grown love and the Sunday Times. Yes, I happily bought into the advertising. At the time, the ingenious Sunday Times brought relief, if only for his recommendation.  And the peace after the pace of the rush-rush of a New-York-state-of-mind meant something to my heart, which had learned to beat only to fear at warp speed. You could fall in love reading the Sunday Times, and If you were lucky–and I often was–you would find a spread on some Caribbean Isle that you knew; not in the words that the writer used, because they were touristy and tourism loves to loot; but you know, you could look into a lover’s eyes and get to where you’re getting to and smile a while over the Sunday Times…

Sundays came full circle…

I don’t know exactly when it happened, but as much as things change they still remain the same. Some 30 years since the first memory and in a Florida-state-of-mind, I still feel my way on a Sunday. There is always a song, most especially today and it emanates from somewhere deep down. My own internal transistor radio transitioning me into what a day like today could be. I move slowly, grateful for so many things and recent happenings. I listen to my own breathing, make blanket angels. Sometimes my heart pitter-patters for family and I move with the need to spend time with my church family. Other days, I know the need to fold into myself and just be by myself; I watch myself sideways in the mirror, touch a mole I only discovered or rediscovered two weeks ago, smiling at stretch marks, marking time and years, wondering baby thoughts, which is so new like melancholy that I am unused to.

Sundays are a beginning…

True, it is more tradition than science or even natural evolution. Sundays are a great day to let it all hang out. Clothing is optional. Spa dates manifest. I am totally invested in self-grooming, and there is no other day I feel so up to a painted nail, a green-masked face and a run-on sentence.

Sundays are an invitation…

Like an ushering into the newness of what is around the corner. Or preparation for the battle out there, which is very dependent on the one I am planning to win today. Sundays could be a day for scattered thoughts on paper as they make way and give vent. Not that they need a special day for the latter, but you understand. There is introspection happening. Pattern set and followed.

Ultimately, it’s nice to revisit the fabric of our lives, because there were good times, and good food, and good girl days that grew into womanhood.

Sundays are simply special.  And to that I say AMEN! 

Do you have any special Sunday memories? Or is there another special day that holds sway?



Calabash is (A)Live!

Novelist Chimananda Ngozi Adichie Speaks

Novelist Chimananda Ngozi Adichie Speaks


The first time is the charm. For better or worse, the first time is unforgettable.

For many, Calabash 2012 was not so much newness, as well-seasoned, not-to-be-missed (even in the lean years) and a definite feeling of chasing a certain high-ness. I didn’t have or need comparisons. This was my first Calabash and I had enough song and laughter in these bones to be solid, liquid or gas.  I had enough stories to share, enough warmth in my belly to make a home wherever I would trod. I was here. There. Finally. The Calabash Festival. Jubilation! 50. Treasure Beach. JAMAICA!

I hardly know where to begin… I am full to overflowing. Nursing a love hangover that I refuse to crawl out from under. I refused to write there. Ha! 3 nights. 2 1/2 days. A lifetime really. I wanted to imbibe. See. Be seen. Openly eavesdrop on giants while making eye contact. At the same time I was still a baby sucking milk, overeager there, yet with a grown woman feel. Calabash 2012 was a beginning at a new kind of writer, the one I knew before performance writing became my sway and began ruling the day. I know what I am saying. I used to live there. I know what I want to say. I am here.

Evernote is close. My pen is closer. My journal and these neon bright stickies I prefer, everywhere and closest. And I can’t forget that voice recorder on my HTC Shift. Quick-hitting but effective. If Calabash promoted anything, and there was So Much Things To Say to bridge the gap to Jubilation, it was that writers write, and writer’s speak in tongues of fire that discern the quality, the fiber of being. I preferred the weight of that message. The blood-fiyah piercing quality of the missive that I couldn’t miss as my soul recognized and recognizes revival in any and all forms.  Especially under an open-air tent, held up by sunrise and sunsets, buoyed by the vessel that is the calabash, and rooted by the clear vision of a tree of life to the right of me and left of the stage. It was flowering red-orange…

Calabash is not a lone setting. It is a constellation of faces and voices and see­ing and ways of being. My best effort to keep the fire burning and express all that was not just Calabash, but the extended Calabash Village is this stream of energetic memories…



 Calabash. Jubilation! 50

Calabash. Jubilation! 50

Treasure Beach. “Soon reach…”

Welcome to JamRock!

Kingston speakers blaring.

Tuff Gong. Heart tug.

Island time. Island Ride. Advnturesome precipice.

Mountaintop shout. Re-route. Deep-down valley.

Junction. Mandeville. Nain.

Yuteman? Miss?

“Dis waaay pass Jamaica!” Bridled laughter.

We got this!

Yes-I. Blessed Treasure Beach. Evening Tide.

1st Night. Kingston Noir. Festivals!

Tropical Rhythms: Carrot & Guava, Carrot & Mango. Deliciousness.

Raging Fyah! NoMaddz!

No SeaPuss. Laughter. Plenty Snapper.

More Pussy Talk: “How to Hypnotize a Cat”

Slow Talk. Eloquent Patois.

Mannish Water.

Rasta Love!

Love is my religion.

African Queen hail-up.

Songs whispered in the middle ear:

(As dangerous as the middle passage)

No turning back.

Belly chains. Gods hanging low. Low hanging fruit.

Lioness Heart: Strong. Vulnerable.

White Rum: Wray and his beloved Nephew.

Chaser. Hunter. Protector.

Greeting the dawn.

Child Month. Issues. Phobias.

Chase Her. Hunt Her. Protect Her.




Sexy Fried Chicken!

No transport. No money. No worries.

There and back again.

A great cloud of witnesses.

Black Power Fists.

Colin Channer. Absent. Missed.

The Inside Scoop: More Cerasee Tea. Less Sweet Basil.

Open Mic. Every gap filled.


So Much Things to Say. Still.

Poetry. Freedom. Play.

Feet- up.  Nakedness.

Sun Sets. Bon Fire promises.

Shivers. Gooseflesh. Plums.

Dancing in the street.

Music themes along seams.

Blouse and Skirt! Pants and Shirt!

Kisses. Near misses.

Sweat. Sweat beads multiplied. Divide.

Friendship under fire.

Dirty feet. No sleep.

Strip Shops. Visions.

Rise & Shine.

Zap Mama. Soca. Beach Lime.

Hairy Breed. No shaving.

Waves. “Wine and go dung.”

Mind floating. Feet threading salt.

Sucking salt.

Low Pressure. Standpipe.

Showers of Blessings.

Debate: Most potent.

Contact high.

Belly Full. Lovers Choice.

Acoustic Unwind.

Jamaica Gleaner meets Dasheen.

Natural Beauty.

“I like your style…”

“I like how you stay…”

“Will you stay?”

Bittersweet this.

Never a goodbye. Next time.

Next time…


If you were there, please share and if you made your way through the maze then talk to me.


Photo of  Novelist, Chimananda Ngozi Adichie by Andre Bagoo, poet, journalist and fellow Calabash attendee      






Mane Attraction: That Spring-Summer Feeling

Lately, I’ve been having all these Spring-Summer feelings about my hair.  It’s like mother nature giving permit to come out and play and there’s a freshness in the air and a feeling and obvious realization of new life that is hard to ignore.

I reside in Orlando, Florida, a metro-city that doesn’t really boast seasons (as in marked, prolonged weather shifts), but I can still appreciate the mental bliss that comes when I think of that Spring-Summer feeling via my hair.

This feeling is further epitomized by those “la, la, la…” notes made famous by Minnie Riperton’s Loving You or eponymously to this post on Jill Scott’s Spring Summer Feeling. It really just comes down to a feeling, and if you’re going to go there, you have to pay attention and just flow with it.

My hair has come a long way, from my relaxed and slicked into a low pony tail days to it’s headwrap heyday, to my love affair with flat twists-out, then the famous afro curl style (I miss that one!) to kinkies to wanton-wigness  to my recent victory rolls.

I’m really just want to let it all hang out and that being said I have zero hang ups about hair extensions, as in braids and wigs. Call it what you like, protective styles, treason… but when I wake up and I’m contemplating my hair, my question to myself in the mirror is aways: What do we feel like today?

The following is the consistent drumbeat of inspiration for what I am feeling for my Spring-Summer hair:

Leela James and that EPIC blowout! You walk into a room with this hair and the volume is turned way up. You are definitely bouncing to your own soundtrack. I can almost hear Leela singing… “Don’t Speak” here. I love the way she moved through that song! So Soulful!

This next do, I have been flirting with for ages–circa 2001. A little backstory: My first trip to a quote unquote natural hair salon was to Afrigenix. Founded and branded by Francine Toukou, it was the place where I felt most at ease in the knowledge that rocking a natural was the flyest thing since discovering my New York strut. This is one of Francine patented do’s called the Havana Twists.  These do for me what the Janet’s Poetic Justice locks seem to be doing for a new generation. The Kinky twist look has long been a favorite of mine, so I already know the look will work on this round face. Another reason I flowed with this as my second look is this vision I have of a blowout that can transition into Francine’s twists.

The final do is all about a celebration of COLOR & CUT . Truth be told, I tend to prefer higher heights when rocking out my natural than length. It’s been harder to achieve with hair growth, but something about my hair just standing up every which way or in some molded shape makes me feel light and lifted and sassy in a way that no length via extensions or wig has ever let me.

What I love about this sistah’s DO: EVERYTHING! From the graduation into frolicious, luscious curliness to that intense color combination that I wanna call sunset.  It’s so how I am feeling right now. Color has not been my friend in the past. After two self-applied box colors, which led to a 2nd big chop, I know that color for me is a delicate undertaking.

Aside from that dilemma, what’s great about this look is that you don’t even have to get the back cut to achieve it.  The back can be flat-twisted or braided into a singlestrand twistout, or a bantu knot-out at top. You can even do some tight victory rolls or bantu knots in back. The options are all nice.

I’m headed to the Calabash Festival at Treasure Beach, Jamaica in about a week and would love a new do-debut for the trip. In the interest of that and this great time of year not leaving me behind in the doldrums, I mean to make a decision soon.

One of the best things about our hair is the options–whether natural and otherwise–to go take it wherever we want to go. With Spring well on its way and Summer just around the corner, I say let’s get it!

What Spring-Summer hair have you been flirting with and what are you currently rocking?



Pot Spoon Monologues: Happy Mother’s Day!

Mother's Day 2012 Feature

My mother could wield a pot spoon with the best of them. In fact, she was so good most times I didn’t even see her coming, but I always felt her. She surely held sway and the upper-hand for many a thwarted childhood rebellion.  In hindsight, her fury was a beautiful thing because I was her first and she was determined to pour everything into me. Truly she would make and remake me over the years.  And there were others who were equally invested in my best. Aunties,  Bigga Cousins, a Nana and a Grandmother.  They all took part in the raising. After all, as I was reminded ever so often: I wasn’t dragged up!  I was brought up.

And in the bringing up some things just stuck.  No one might have suspected such, or maybe there was some hope held out. I was such a “special” child, always in some sauce or the other and “armed to the teeth with questions.”  My mother would say “you have a plaster for every sore.”  I did.  My one saving grace: I was never the child talking about, “licks must cool.” Ha! I knew better than that. Better to bawl muddoh than pretend indifference.

However, the Pot Spoon Monologues is not so much about licks, although the title does spring from the focused agility of a parent or parental authority (granny, auntie, cousin, neighbor, teacher, principle etc etc) to bear down with say a pot spoon in one hand and the wrath of history (past, present and future) or it could have been God on the other.  The Pot Spoon Monologues is about all things in season, and those things, in this case are represented by colloquialisms or expressions that have been perfectly seasoned over generations.

The following colloquialisms are from my house to yours:

  1. “Who carn hear does feel.”  Perhaps the one I heard the most and feel I did.
  2. “Hurry dog eat raw corn.”  I was beyond curious, so this applied spades.
  3. “See me and come live wid me is two different things.” Truer words were never spoken. Even now a few could stand to be reminded.
  4. “Every skin teeth nuh laugh.” I was not checking anyone’s cemetery to verify.
  5. “Time long like twine…” This one always just hung in the air for me, like dun dun dun… It was good enough to make me afraid of my shadow. LOL. Perhaps that was the point.
  6. “Keep living.” Period. Full Stop. What can be said after this one is invoked? Serious question.

Some of my favorites gleaned from friends and family for this post:

  1. “Me naar clean grung foo monkey to run pon.”  In other words you meet it clean, it’s in your best interest to leave it that way.
  2. “Play wid puppy, puppy lick u tail.” What comes to mind is laying down with dogs and coming up with fleas, except you know it still goes a lot deeper.
  3. “Watch out for how deh face cut like a bill on both sides.” This one I was told is for “dangerous” people, those wolves in sheep clothing characters. There was or is a tool called a bill from my great great aunt’s generation. It has a sharp point. This saying is comparing the intentions of people to that object.
  4. “Monkey know what tree to climb.” Love this one. Indeed experience teaches us where we should take a risk and where we should hold back.  Some risks or trees aren’t worth it.
  5. “New broom sweep clean but old broom knows where the dirt is.” A friend thought that this one could be about friendship i.e. you make new friends all the time, but your oldest, truest friends know you best.
  6. “Pig de ask he mother why he mouth so long. Mother said wait.” This one reminds me of “Time long like twine…” Experience is ever the best teacher.
Indeed it takes a village. For me that village has most consistently borne a feminine carriage. HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY to Mommies everywhere, to my Mommy especially, and also to those particular and special lights that were so dedicated to delivering me to my best self.
Now do any of the above sound familiar? What are your interpretations? Lastly, what were some of the expressions passed down from your mothers or mother-figures that have stuck with you in your life?