In celebration of the 50th anniversary of soca, Brooklyn Public Library (BPL) and Brooklyn-based Caribbean cultural organization Tropicalfete, Inc. recently hosted the Soca Conversation Series with Trinidadian Kees Dieffenthaller, also known as Kes, lead singer of Kes The Band.
According to Alton Aimable, the St. Lucian-born founder and president of Tropicalfete, Inc., the series shone “a spotlight on soca” and provided a platform where the music’s practitioners discussed their artistry, live, in front of an audience.
Aimable said the second installment of the Soca 50 Conversation series “Hello: A Conversation with Kees Dieffenthaller” took place on Sept. 7 at the Dweck Auditorium, Brooklyn Public Library, Grand Army Plaza.
“Hello: A Conversation with Kees Dieffenthaller” was moderated by vocalist and popular event host Keran Deterville and veteran journalist Patricia Meschino, who specializes in writing about Caribbean music and culture.
“Keynotes of the event were a deaf fan of Kes and soca music getting a round of applause,” Aimable said.
“For soca music to continue to grow, artists must focus on delivering spectacular shows while implementing strategic business moves that will bring their performance product into new markets,” he added. “Kes The Band (and their management) do a great job balancing the band’s first-rate performances with smart business moves, taking soca to the world. We’re excited to co-present an enlightening conversation with Kees Dieffenthaller.”
Kerwin Pilgrim, director of Adult Learning, Brooklyn Public Library, said: “Welcoming Kes to our stage as part of our collaboration on soca amplifies the resonance of the genre worldwide.
“Known for traveling the globe and spreading the blends of Soca for over two decades, the pioneering Kes the Band group has positioned their unique sounds and mashups as a bridge from Trinidad to the world,” he added. “Brooklyn Public Library stands at the crossroads of the Caribbean Diaspora, and we are delighted to be in the company of one of its most beloved and unifying ambassadors.”
Kes The Band was formed in Trinidad and Tobago in 2005 by three Dieffenthaller brothers, Kes (vocals), Jon (guitar), Hans (drums), and close friend Riad Boochoon (bass).
Hans has since left the band, replaced by Dean James. Supporting members are keyboardist Mario Callender and DJ Robbie Persaud.
Kes The Band’s captivating pop, rock, soul and reggae-infused soca blend consistently impacts the heart of carnival activities, yet has widespread appeal beyond those celebrations.
Kes The Band’s breakthrough arrived with the 2011 Trinidad carnival hit, “Wotless,” an irresistible anthem of carefree abandonment at carnival time.
“Wotless” earned the band Trinidad carnival’s prestigious Soca Monarch crown in the Groovy (slower) category and a Soul Train Music Award nomination for Best Caribbean Performance.
Their dynamic repertoire also includes the year-round favorite “Endless Summer,” the gorgeous, Afrobeats-tinged “Hello” (the most streamed soca song released in the last decade surpassing 70 million plays) and 2019’s joyous “Savannah Grass,” a heartfelt tribute to the culture of Trinidad and its smaller sister island, Tobago.
Earlier this year Kes collaborated with dancehall luminary Shaggy on the soca hit “Mood.”
At carnival 2023, Kes The Band presented their Iz We Festival showcasing the diversity of Trinidad and Tobago’s music and culture.
“As a band, we have always been a bridge between genres, and we wanted to create a festival to represent that,” Kes said.
The popular soca outfit’s extensive touring and scorching performances at carnivals and music festivals across the world has earned them a large, loyal international fan base.