The term three-peat refers to an individual or a team winning a competition three consecutive times.
In the 1970s the Mighty Pelay was the first St. Lucian artiste to ever achieve a three-peat for his performances in the calypso arena. No one would ever have thought that another local calpypso or soca artiste would achieve this feat again. However, in 2006 Alpha scored a three-peat victory for his thrilling performance in the Power Soca Monarch competition.
Fast forward ten years later and St. Lucia witnesses another three-peat triumph, this time in the Groovy Soca Monarch competition, a dynamic musical addition to our carnival festivities. The winner was none other than Elijah ‘Arthur’ Allain, a twenty-five year old teacher from the picturesque and majestic community of Soufriere.
Arthur attended the Soufriere Comprehensive Secondary School and the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College, where he studied computer systems engineering and teacher education. He was the 2009 SALCC Valedictorian and demonstrated his oratorical skills by delivering a powerful speech that captivated his audience. As a child he enjoyed playing cricket and marbles, frolicking in the streets and exploring life like any other youngster. He grew up with his parents, three sisters and a brother. His grandmother also played an integral part in raising him and his siblings.
We sat down with King Arthur for an exclusive interview and inside look into his development as an artiste, what it took to score a three-peat victory and his life as a teacher.
Where did the name ‘Arthur’ originate?
I’ve always been fond of cricket. Many people don’t know that my name isn’t actually Arthur. Arthur came from playing cricket. I used to be a bowler and called myself Keith Athurton. Most of the guys in the crew gave themselves prominent West Indies cricket player names. Since I was the youngest among them, everyone took the bigger names like Lara, so I called myself Arthurton, who I was also a fan of, and that eventually became Arthur.
How did you get into music?
At the Soufriere Comprehensive my music teacher, Mr. Christopher Fevrier sparked my interest in music. He introduced me to the recorder and guitar basics, and eventually the choir. We were also taught to compose our own songs. From thereon, my best friend, Christus Gill and I began to compose songs and record our tunes at home, using a computer mic and Roxio Media Creator.
We then uploaded them to Hi5 and Myspace. I continued doing this over the years. In form four I began doing school performances with Christus, Dwain George and Nichols Charles. We formed a group called SOS – Sounds of Soufriere. At one of our performances, the Matrix Band spotted me and invited me to join the band, which I eventually did.
Tell us about the transition from the Matrix Band to EvaLucian.
Matrix was instrumental in my development, however we had our differences. The majority of us decided to go our separate ways and then in 2013 we rebranded into something fresh to create music that would be enticing to people of all ages. We wanted to be a young band that could represent St. Lucia in the international markets. The name EvaLucian is a play on words. It is evolution in the sense of progress and change, and Eva-Lucian, meaning we represent St. Lucia and we’re aiming to create an impact for the island.
Many people don’t know that you’re a qualified teacher. What led you into teaching?
I come from a family of teachers. My parents were both at one point teachers, my mother now a principal, and my sisters; teachers. So were my grandmother and aunties. It was only natural that I found myself in the field. After leaving secondary school I decided that this was one of the ways I could earn a living, in addition to developing my music. Before becoming a qualified teacher I taught IT and Math at Soufriere Comprehensive. Now I teach music at the Balata Primary School.
How easy or difficult is it balancing teaching and being a musician?
It’s not very difficult. I’ve been balancing the two for the past eight years. Once you put your mind to something and you are aware of what is needed to make it successful, you do what it takes to make it happen. Sometimes it is very stressful having to perform at nights and then wake up early for school, however, it’s necessary. I’m passionate about the two so I work hard at both of them.
What are some of the things you’ve learned in both professions that could be used interchangeably?
Patience. Teaching requires a lot of patience in encountering different students with varied personalities. That also applies to music where you deal with different personalities in the industry. Nothing comes easy.
You are known to be a vocalist. Do you play any instruments? If so, will we be seeing more of that side of you?
I play the guitar, keyboards and the bass. Growing up I used to play the tanbou (African drum) with the Soufriere Action Theatre. Whenever EvaLucian plays at the hotels, I play a bit of guitar. On the soca stage, because of the energy that I emanate, I choose to leave the guitar behind but in future concerts I will take some time to do my thing on the guitar.
Describe a normal week for Arthur.
There’s not much that goes on apart from music and school. From Monday to Friday I’m at school with the students. When I leave, most times I relax and then perform at the hotel. Sometimes we work five nights a week. On off nights I go to the cinema, take a lime or I’m at the studio. Most of my free time is spent working on music.
What led you into the soca arena?
Soca music was not something I initially wanted to do. I started as a hip-hop artiste and transitioned to R&B. However, the Matrix Band, which I had joined, were known for soca music, so I was pretty much forced into it. Since most people in the region love soca, I decided to give it a shot and recorded my first soca song, Turbulence with Slaughter Arts in 2009. I continued with soca but had no intention of competing. Then In 2012 I decided to compete with the song Nobody Can Party Like We. My supporters urged me to continue, so I decided to give it a try, even though competing is not my thing. Though I placed eighth, people told me I shouldn’t give up, so the next year I competed and placed first runner up.
You won the Groovy Soca Monarch title three times consecutively. Some might argue that you’ve had a four- peat. How tough has it been defending your crown?
It has been very tasking. I never underestimate competitions. I recognise that St. Lucia has an abundance of talent. I always go in with confidence. I have a formidable team with me; including Danielle DuBois who cowrote Jumping Alone, Numb, and Who I am. Together, we work to create music that will always capture the attention of St. Lucians. EvaLucian, Kiedel Sonny, Ted Sandiford, Fundamentals, Youth on Fire Ministry, my DTEEA family, Francheska Solomon and Minor Productionz have also been a formidable part of my production team. They form the core of the team which helps to create what people get to experience each year. Having a dedicated and supportive team has helped me defend the monarch title successfully since 2014.
Of all your performances, which one is the most memorable?
My first win in 2014 with Numb. It was a symbol of achievement for me because I was trying to make an impact on the local music industry. The realisation that my hard work was finally paying off was a great achievement for me and set the tone for the other monarchs, and it put my brand of music out there.
Who have been your greatest sources of inspiration and how much have they influenced your music?
I would have to say Kes, Ne-Yo and R. Kelly. Locally, I’ve always looked up to Teddyson John and Derek Yarde. You can find a piece of them in me. I would like to advise upcoming artistes to look up to the more prominent, established artistes and take from them what can help you. Don’t copy their style, be yourself and learn from the different attributes of those you admire, and try integrating it into your performance to enhance it and make it yours.
What has been your most memorable moments as an artiste?
That would have to be winning the Groovy Soca Monarch title this year for the third time. I remember getting off stage, dropping to my knees and thanking God that it’s over. I thought to myself I did what I had to do, and felt satisfied with how far I had come.
What are some of the challenges you’ve faced in the local music industry?
Among them was the amount of finance I needed to get things done early on in my career. Most times, music consumers don’t understand how costly it is to become an artiste. From expenses incurred for studio production, wardrobe, writers, management, promotion, etc. Many musicians are discouraged by this and how long it takes to recoup those costs. You have to be persistent and work hard to reap the rewards. Another challenge was the general lack of support from the masses. It took a while before people accepted my music and gave me a listening ear. However, I slowly realised that I had to earn their acceptance and respect with quality music and performances, and I, in turn, worked on my craft.
Among the people you’ve worked with, which collaborations resonate most with you?
My team – Danielle, Franny, Kiedel, the EvaLucian team and Youth on Fire Ministry from Anse La Raye. They’ve been with me for the past four years. They have been the core of my progress and helped to push me out there. Many others have supported me and I’m very grateful to all of them.
What can we expect from you in 2017?
I have already begun working on new music. I’ve recorded four demos thus far. I’m also working towards the EDF 2017 Concert, as well as an album with previously released and new music.
Many artistes are bowing out of com- petitions. Will you be following suit?
There is a great possibility that I will not be competing in the upcoming competitions. The Soca Monarch has really helped to promote me as an artiste. However, I think it has served its purpose. Somebody else deserves the support it has given to me. Though it’s not all about money, it requires a lot of expense and the rewards are not always profitable. I think it is now time to aspire to bigger things. There’s a lot more that can be achieved and that’s where I’m heading.
Do you see yourself as a role model for your students?
As a teacher, I always look to inspire young people who are interested in music; even those who are not. I try to help them realise that they can achieve a lot through music. I hope that some of them will follow in my footsteps, see what I have achieved and aspire to do more.
Any final comments?
I would like to thank everyone who has supported me from day one and those who have contributed to my success. I would like to implore them to continue supporting me and other artistes. Without this it can be very discouraging and difficult to work in this industry.