IT’S no secret that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on the entertainment industry. And the aftershocks are expected to continue into the foreseeable future. This is painfully obvious to musician, model and TV host/personality Arita Edmund. As the TEMPO Networks director of talent and artiste relations, Arita’s job includes handling music video submissions, booking artistes and managing the artistes on the ground. Covid-19 has brought that to an abrupt halt.
“I know that these times are difficult for Caribbean artistes, more so for soca artistes,” says Arita.
The TV personality’s social media content is a reflection of the changing times in which we live. Arita has traded in-person interviews for virtual interviews on Instagram Live with some of the Caribbean’s biggest artistes. Jada Kingdom (Jada Murphy), Verse Simmonds (Maurice Simmonds), Kiprich (Marlon Plunkett), Denise Belfon, Mr Vegas (Clifford Smith), Richie Spice (Richell Bonner) and Cat Coore (Stephen Coore) are just a few of the artistes who have been Arita’s guests on Instagram.
The mood of each interview shifts from lighthearted to serious and vice versa as Arita takes a deep dive into the lives of entertainers whose careers have been put on hold. Among the many topics up for discussion are the effects which the pandemic has had on their livelihoods and the ways in which artistes are trying to adapt in the midst of the worldwide crisis. Her conversations with various entertainers have revealed major gaps in the soca world, and the general consensus is that all are concerned about their income and the future.
Drumming up support
It’s a topic that has struck a cord with Arita. Since she began working with TEMPO nine years ago, she has travelled the length and breadth of the Caribbean and interviewed numerous artistes, but as a citizen of Trinidad and Tobago, Arita is passionate about soca. Since circumstances have changed drastically, Arita and TEMPO Networks are exploring ideas and ways in which soca artistes and the industry can make a strong comeback.
The company has stepped up to the plate and is working to change people’s mindsets as it relates to downloading soca music. The aim of its movement, #SocaIsAGenre, is to drum up support for soca to have its own category on music streaming sites like Spotify, iTunes and other platforms. As it currently stands, artistes like Machel, Kees and Patrice are being classed under reggae and dancehall on music-sharing sites. According to Arita, a soca category on streaming sites will be a boost not only to the genre but to soca artistes themselves; it will also make soca music more accessible to worldwide audiences. And it will change the way fans and artistes view soca—not as a hobby but as a serious business.
As a singer and musician, Arita knows how vital it is for artistes to understand the business side of their art form. She insists that now is the time for soca artistes to unite and work together and talk about possible business moves that can get soca to a place where people will appreciate it beyond simply going on YouTube and downloading the music for free and having a good time until next year. Although the pandemic has shown gaps in the soca industry, Arita is optimistic the industry can emerge stronger and more viable.
“We at TEMPO are doing our own part by having the conversations and spreading the word to our audiences that you need to start downloading the artistes’ music. For 15 years, we’ve been promoting, developing and uplifting the Caribbean. I personally think there is room for change, but the first step is unity—unity is key. If the artistes unite and come together with entities like TEMPO, we can make a huge difference,” she says.
Arita adds that the mindsets of artistes, promoters, businesses, communities and governments must also change.
“We depend on gas and oil and tourism, but our music and culture is so rich and we can make so much money from it, but the mindsets must change. No man is an island;once people get together, the change will eventually start to happen,” she says.
Arita herself is no stranger to change. As a teen, she played basketball on a national level until she exchanged her uniform and sneakers for mascara and lipstick when she began modelling. Apart from Carnival bands, Arita also modelled for local and international designers and photographers. Her modelling career opened up many doors; among the people she came in contact with was the founder and CEO of TEMPO Networks, Frederick Morton Jr, who ended up giving her one of the biggest breaks of her career.
It happened years ago when TEMPO was covering Tobago Jazz. John Legend was in Tobago to perform at the festival and the host who was supposed to interview the singer had fallen sick. Arita, who by that time was used to the limelight, was given the opportunity to interview not just Legend but several other performers later that night. Her impromptu hosting duties convinced the TEMPO crew that her talent wasn’t only limited to the fashion runway. Since then, she’s been part of the TEMPO family..
Travelling throughout the Caribbean in her role as the TEMPO Networks director of talent and artiste relations has taught Arita that the islands are more alike than they are different. She developed an appreciation for the different cultures and music, including zouk, reggaeton and bouyon.
As a recording artiste, being exposed to such a variety of musical styles was invaluable to Arita, who began singing and playing instruments in church when she was a child. In 2018, she released her debut album, Love Sick. Fans of her music can look forward to her new single, “Nah Look Back”, which will be released in June.
In light of cancelled shows and closed arenas, Arita’s rapport with artistes has evolved to suit the new normal. But her goal remains the same—to keep the tempo up and promote the Caribbean, its artistes and its music.
To see which star will be joining Arita next on her TEMPO live interviews, tune in to Arita’s Instagram and Facebook: @aritaworldwide.