Kasim & Jarett: two of Dominica's premier musical prodigies
I will confess that in my many years of reporting and being involved in the arts, I can't recall seeing and hearing such talent from two Dominican young men at such tender ages. In Kasim Birmingham's case it's all raw, without any training and he is only 14 years. Last year he easily won the QTS Talent Search Competition with his powerful and controlled vocals beyond his years. That, in fact was his first public performance. His favorite artist he says is Demi Lovato and locally it's Dice because of their expressiveness on stage. He prefers, he says, Hip Hop and Soul music "because when I sing, I feel emotional".
Presently Kasim feels that all he wants to do is make his parents and his community of Soufriere and environs proud. Like me, Dominica has already embraced him because, for many, he represents one of the most exceptional male voices from the Nature Island. Have you heard Kasim sing the challenging "I'll always love you" by Whitney Houston or "The Climb"? If you have, you are almost certain to get goose bumps.
Guess what, his aim is to reach America and win the X Factor or probably enter the 'America got talent' shows, because indeed Dominicans got talent. I sometimes cringe when I hear and see much lesser talents than Kasim do so well in these competitions that I really do think that some firm of company with the means can invest in this young man's exceptional ability and help convert it into a successful career.
Ovations at performances will suffice for now, but certainly this youth can go places but the required investment is necessary. Meanwhile, the unassuming wonder, Kasim, continues to work at his craft and very importantly, his school work, at the Saint Mary's Academy where he is making himself and his parents proud.
Now we turn our attention to prodigy number two, the sensational Jarett Jean Jacques. Guess what, he is even younger than Kasim, just 10 years old and he is at grade 5 & 6 already as a musician! Jarett began playing music at 5 years being influenced by his two older sisters who are clarinetists.
As is the norm the recorder was the first instrument and in 4-5 years later he had remarkably attained distinctions at grade 5 from the London based Royal School of Music Board in Music theory, trumpet, trombone and euphonium and as if that was not enough he went on to receive merits in piano and French horn. But I'm not through, he is not only proficient in all the aforementioned, but in addition there's French horn, saxophone and clarinet! So much so that from the age of 8 years, he played with the Government Band , the Music Lovers frequently but only began wearing the uniform as a full member from December 2013. This Jarett identifies as a "great honor" which gives him the distinction
Most people shy away from wind instruments claiming that it's difficult to play (hence the shortage of good horn players in Dominica) Jarrett agrees it can be challenging but he says mastering these instruments can be fun. This one can testify to but he as he executes with technical ease wonderful renditions from Beethoven to calypso. Jarett has graced us at youth rallies, Sixth Form Sisserou Singers concerts, Weddings, Music Lovers concerts and many other public events. His family, he says, is his "Pillar of Strength" and though his sisters are also musicians his greatest support come from his parents, particularly his father.
Contrary to what many parents think, Jarett, who has just entered secondary school at the SMA, believes that music is the reason he performs so well in his academic subjects because music stimulates his imagination and makes him think. Not surprisingly he has at the top of his list; a degree in music, then its medicine and he also wants to be a pilot. In his music career thus far he is known for progressing so quickly that he often skips music grade levels. Hence, based on what he has already achieved at 10 years, these ambitions seem just within his grasp.
Meanwhile Jarett is into the things he loves doing as a typical 10 year- old; computer games, riding his bike and reading. Riding bikes is not so popular among boys today, so that may explain Jarret's ability with his sight reading of music notes and his academic progress thus far. He has unique talent.
One thing is certain: in our lifetime many of us may never see in our lifetime another musical prodigy with so many blessings-one who reads with competence, plays eight instruments, all with distinction or some level of proficiency. And still not yet a teenager.