Musicians have a way of transcending international borders with a grace that politicians could only dream of having. Modern history is replete with musicians from some of the smallest corners of the globe that have risen to international fame. These individuals raise the profile of themselves, their homelands, their genre, and, increasingly, societal issues in the process. Destra Garcia is from the Caribbean nation of Trinidad and Tobago, and she performs one of the region’s most unique musical forms with energy and a vibrant spirit that few can match.
Born to Sing
Destra was born and raised in the community of Desperlie Crescent, Laventille, in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. The eldest of four children, she was involved in her primary school from an early age as a calypso singer. Beginning at the age of 10, she competed in singing competitions held in her native country that pitted young performers against one another. Her abilities were clear early on as she won her school’s Calypso Monarch title in five consecutive years.
As it turns out, musical talent runs in the family. Destra’s grandfather, Frankie Garcia, is the family’s most accomplished musician. Frankie was a saxophonist in a jazz band and not only became popular in Trinidad, but gained notoriety around the world as his band toured the globe. Destra is quick to point out though, that her musical skills come courtesy of numerous family members:
“My uncles played steel pan, my mother, aunt and my grandmother were very active in choirs locally, I had a little bit of experience as well with my other grandmother who was part of a pan band at Christmas time, who sung Spanish folk music, so I grew up hearing a lot of music and different people’s musical influences…”
Destra’s Musical Style
Destra is known throughout the Caribbean and around the world because of her unique style, among other reasons. Although she grew up amazing crowds with her vibrant performances and harmonious vocals as a calypso singer, today she makes her living as a soca singer. Soca is a genre of music that developed as an offshoot of calypso during the 1980s. Over the course of the past three decades, soca has evolved through the efforts of musicians from Anglophone Caribbean nations, such as Trinidad and Tobago.
All musical genres are made great by the uniqueness of the individuals that perform it. Destra is a proud soca musician, but she brings her own style and twist to the genre. Destra described her style in her own words to Kreol Magazine as follows:
“(My style is) I think the rhythm, the way that soca music is built, the percussive element of the song and whether it’s fast or slow it’s the same element that gets you moving so when we’re doing the music in a slow tempo you get the hip movement or the wining as we would say. You get a bit of the French Creole, you get a bit of the Spanish influence, and a lot of the African influence in soca music.”
Destra is not just a soca musician, She is also an accomplished songwriter. While many musicians might refuse to cooperate with others to create unique sounds and a new feel for a genre, Destra is not afraid to collaborate with others to improve her music. Her approach for any album is to write a variety of songs with a differing and kaleidoscopic spectrum of sounds. However, she also co-writes with others in the industry to incorporate sounds that might be different than hers. She strives to get varied flavours and feels on each track and album.
To date, Destra has released ten albums during her career. At the moment, she is working on an eleventh album that is scheduled for release in the coming months. Her work is never at an end though. While she is laying tracks for her new album she continues to tour and perform throughout the Caribbean in places like Dominica and St. Kitts, and around the world to destinations which include Belgium, Germany, and Holland.
Destra’s onstage performances define her dynamic personality and approach to music. She is well known for putting on high-energy concerts that showcase her eccentric style and various musical skills, from her harmonious vocals to guitar acoustics. Those who are lucky enough to see her in concert have seen her wild and explosive movements onstage. Her passion is so evident in each performance that she appears to be in a world of her own.
When Kreol Magazine asked her what she loved about performing onstage, she gave the following response:
“I love the excitement and energy that my music brings. For me, the challenge or the task at that point is to get the people to feel like I do. To get them to jump like I do, to get them to wave like I am, or get them to sing and enjoy the music and leave the show saying ‘oh my god! That was just so amazing!’ That is always my ultimate goal, to get people to enjoy and as long as they are enjoying it then I just feel so elated and high over the music.”
If not Music, Teaching
Every musician has a dream job or vision of what their life would have been like had they not followed their ambitions. Destra is no different. Although music has been a key fixture in her life, Destra is capable of envisioning the life she might have had without her skills and devotion to calypso and soca. She believes that she would have pursued a career in teaching.
She notes that Trinidad and Tobago has a shortage of good quality language teachers, and believes that she would have filled that void if given the opportunity. In particular, she muses over an alternate career in which she devoted her life to teaching French and Spanish to her nation’s youth.
In the real world, her musical talents took her down a different path. However, she still has wisdom to impart upon others. She has a clear, strong message for young musicians hoping to succeed in music. “Embrace your strengths. Be sure you enjoy what you are doing, because you’ll spend a lot of time doing it. Never give up. And most importantly, don’t live in a bubble. Listen when people who impart advice because you are never as great as you think.”