By now you should be familiar with the Caribbean urban pop band Freetown Collective. Known and loved for its unique and energising music that explores the human condition and realities of our being that carries profound meaning, Freetown was formed by two friends and spoken-word artists, Muhammad Muwakil and Lou Lyons, in August 2010. However, the family expanded when they added the “Trinity”, three supporting vocalists Shanna Joseph, Malene Joseph and Tishanna Williams. Today the group’s distinctive style is easily identified not only by the powerful duo that is Muhammad and Lou but now the Trinity who bring their own musicality, rhythm and flavour that seamlessly make the music whole.
Shanna started performing at an early age. Coming from a musical family, she was exposed to limitless learning opportunities. As a result of this, she had the opportunity to sing in different parts of the world and today, inspired by her mother, she is a music educator. She told We Mag, “Five years ago, if someone told me that I would be teaching music in different schools across the country, I would have said that it would be highly unlikely. Yet, I have discovered that I love it.” My personal belief is centred upon making an effort to be kind and loving to all who cross my path. This applies especially to the example I work to set as a mother to my daughter Xyon.
Malene, like Shanna, knew music from a very tender age. After all, they are sisters who were molded and guided by a musical family. Her first stage memories were with the La Petite Musical Junior Chorale around the age of five and she has never looked back. She has since performed and toured as a soloist and ensemble member of the Marionettes Junior Chorale, Bishop Anstey Senior Choir and the Lydian Steel. Her first solo recital was held in August 2007 and she has also graced stages with Must Come See Productions in the musicals Beauty and the Beast and Aida. She has also provided live and studio supporting vocals for a range of local artistes.
Tishanna, before stepping into the spotlight of acting and music once considered a different direction. However, her love for the arts married with her own drive, has brought her to being the force that she is in the local Arts arena. Today, she holds many titles as a lecturer at the University of the West Indies, a director, a journalist and an actress. She is also an art education facilitator with Arts in Action – the leading Art Education company in the Caribbean. She disclosed, “As Artistic Director of the Patrons of the Arts foundation Theatre Camp, I’m about to work with an amazing team to mount a July production with 100 children on Queen’s Hall stage.”
The We Mag team is inspired by the three songstresses that make up the Freetown Trinity. We had the opportunity to chat with them. This is what they shared with us:
Who is the Freetown ‘Trinity’ and what does this name symbolise?
TW: I have no idea where it started but it stuck and I think names given by the people in love, mean more than anything we could have given ourselves. They claimed us. So for me, it symbolises validation and loving ownership.
What makes the Trinity work so well together?
MJ: Yuh (You) ever make a carrot cake? I always say the vocal layers we each bring are like ingredients in a carrot cake. Shanna is the base; solid stuff…flour, water, eggs, brown sugar…nothing could bake without the base. I am like the cream cheese frosting…kinda like whipped and light…added to the top or filling some of the areas between. While Tishanna is the secret ingredient. The spice and texture that makes the thing our unique recipe: cinnamon, essence.
What is Freetown Collective working on at present that’s keeping everyone excited?
MJ: We’re about to take our music and message across different communities across the island in a very unique and interactive way. Lots of work to be done.
We have noticed that you are all often dressed in local fashion. Why is supporting our local designers important to you?
SJ: To keep the blessings flowing. Our local designers create comfortable, fun, colourful and unique items that mix nicely with our vibe. It was a no-brainer to incorporate their tasteful pieces into our performances to share with our audiences. We are drawn to their pieces naturally.
What is special about being a part of this family?
MJ: Besides actually getting to sing and experience different places and stages with my biological sister Shanna? (laughter). When we sit with a blank canvas and all contribute to the shape and sound of the songs it is a beautiful thing. There is a newness to the music that truly happens every time we present or rework different parts of the catalogue. Each space brings a new energy and magic that floats around the lyrics and harmonies that is priceless.
SJ: The good vibes. It is a blessing to share positive messages with some like-minded people.
TW: That no matter where you go, what crazy stuff you do or who you are upset with at a particular point in time, there is always a family to come back to.
What is your best advice for any upcoming female musicians reading this article?
MJ: Pay constant, close attention to your craft and cherish and value your talent. Spend time intimately understanding your instrument(s), your strengths and areas for improvement. Stand firm in your own brand of magic.
SJ: Get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Take care of yourself so that you can give your best – authenticity is a must.
TW: Be hungry but humble. This game is cutthroat, guard your spot. Every male in the industry who can forward your talent is not interested in your talent…do not get caught up.