For the most part, entertainers have erratic schedules that can prevent them from pursuing interests and, though in good spirits and engaging, Trinidad & Tobago’s high-energy soca artist, Destra Garcia, was understandably subdued when she arrived in Toronto last Good Friday for a series of events that included a photo shoot, a CD signing and an appearance at the Polson Pier’s Fire Fete.
She had fasted 40 days and was looking forward to her first big meal.
Raised in a spiritual family, this was the first Lent that Garcia did not perform on stage. Her last appearance prior to Saturday night was the Champs of Steel Plus event on February 25 in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad & Tobago.
“My parents are churchgoers and they observe Lent,” she told Share. “As a member of a band you have to think about the other members. I, however, took control this year and opted not to perform. I am blessed and grateful for many of the things I have achieved in life and I don’t think it’s asking too much to give up some of the things you are accustomed to for 40 of the 365 days in a year.”
The break also provided the diva with the opportunity to spend some quality time with her two-year-old daughter, Xaiya. It’s the soca artist’s first child and the second for her partner, Brian Morris, who is also her manager and producer.
The eldest of four siblings, the 29-year-old said she’s still adjusting to being a mother.
“Motherhood can be nerve-wracking,” she said. “One of the things it has taught me is patience…My daughter is very determined and stubborn and she knows exactly what she wants and she goes after it. One of the first words to come out of her mouth was ‘no’.”
With Morris standing in close proximity during a make-up session at a downtown photo studio, Garcia made it clear she’s not content with just one child.
“My mother taught me that you should have at least two children,” she said. “I don’t want my child to grow up by herself even though she has cousins. It’s not the same. I would like to have a boy, but on the other hand I will be grateful for whatever I get. I am going back for another one.”
The winner of her high school calypso crown five straight years, Garcia caught the attention of leading alto saxophonist and bandleader, Roy Cape, who invited her to join his All-Star band in 1999.
She holds Cape in high esteem and spent two years with his band before pursuing a solo career and then joining Atlantik a decade ago.
“Roy is like a father figure to me,” Garcia said. “I come from a musical family. My grandfather was a saxophonist and his sax was the first one that Roy blew. My uncles were pannists and my aunt was in a choir. But being a member of Roy Cape All Stars band was like being enrolled in a musical academy. I learned how to work an audience, present myself on stage and project my voice. The exposure I got with them is priceless. It was quite a learning experience and I gained a lifelong friend in Roy.”
The first four months of the year has been quite challenging for the singer.
The family home in which she was raised in Laventille was burnt down and one of her musical influences – Whitney Houston – was found dead in her Los Angeles hotel suite on the eve of the Grammy Awards.
She received the news of Houston’s death just minutes before going on stage at the Chutney Soca Monarch competition.
“I could not hold back the tears, but I managed to pull myself together and do the show,” she recalled. “After I left the stage, I cried again. Whitney touched me and I will miss her so much.”
Garcia had just returned from a Carnival shopping trip to New York and was on her way to visit her mother when she learned about the blaze. She praised the residents of the maligned Laventille community for rushing to her family’s assistance during the fire.
“That is something I will never forget and there is no way I will ever turn my back on that community,” said the 2003 Brooklyn Labour Day Road March winner. “Laventille is just like any other neighbourhood in that there is good and bad there. It’s unfortunate that the negative publicity makes the headlines and few people talk about those who have emerged from that community and have done amazing things.”
In addition to Garcia, Laventille produced the late Rudolph Charles who invented several steelpan instruments, including the nine and 12 bass and the rocket pan, the Desperadoes Steel Orchestra – the 10-time Panorama champions – which Charles managed until his death in 1985 and former soccer player and manager, Russell Latapy.
Garcia has also had to deal with controversy.
She was criticized by opponents of Guyana’s ruling People’s Progressive Party/Civic for performing at a show in the country two days before elections.
She defended her position to appear at the event.
“I usually think things through before I make a decision,” said Garcia who has released seven albums. “I love Guyana and the fans. I was contracted by a promoter I had worked with. For me, it was just a matter of going out and doing a job. That’s the way I saw it. When I became aware that there was a controversy, I decided to go ahead because I was already committed to doing the event. I am a professional and it would not have been good for my reputation to just pull out at the last moment after I had signed a contract.”
By RON FANFAIR