The Many Passions of Vanilla

THOUGH it may seem as if three-time road march queen and performer, Melissa ‘Vanilla’ Roberts has been off the scene these days, the Soca aficionado confirms that she is very much still active, with several upcoming projects on the horizon. Melissa hints that it is not that she has been inactive, but that the work of local artistes is not given enough attention on the airwaves, though many continue to produce current material. While this remains a significant problem, however, the 30-year-old singer continues to focus on her passions, both in the singing and filmmaking industries. This includes work on her upcoming 14-track album, “Who I am”, which she hopes to release later this year. Melissa says that the songs will seek to portray what she calls a ‘root sound’ in an aim to reflect her African heritage. “That’s why even though I sing Soca, my music sounds different to Trinidadian Soca because I really try to get that root sound aspect of my music through drums; I am deeply rooted in drums. I also like unique sounds, like the Amerindian flute and the Indian tabla drum,” she said. In addition to a unique sound, the album will also touch on personal experiences as a means of opening up to her listeners; a task she admits is not an easy one. “I think the biggest problem that I have is opening up myself,” she said. “I like to be in control at all times, and when you open up yourself, people get to see inside of you. And I like people to see just what is there. But there will be some deep things on the album though; personal stories…” speaks about drinking responsibly. Upon completion, the artiste says that she will also looking at promoting her music in international markets through her record label, Kross Kolor Records which has affiliations in Germany and the UK. Melissa noted, however, that one of the most important means of spreading music is to ensure that it is first popular in one’s home country, adding that this causes the ripple effect of having locals themselves wanting to share that music wherever they go. “It’s important that we at home get the concept of loving our own stuff,” she said. “And Guyanese do love their own music, but the biggest problem is that the general populace has not been exposed enough to Guyanese music as of recent.” She stated that a few years ago, Guyanese music had large play on the radio and television, but today, it is less so. “I really don’t feel that Guyanese have a problem with their own music, especially since the standards have improved greatly over the years. Even though, economically, it hasn’t been beneficial for artistes, producers etc, people are still investing in themselves to make better stuff,” she said. FILMDOM When she’s not in the studio, the talented artiste is also very active in the filmmaking industry. Having always felt connected to television and the behind-the-scenes workings of music videos she has been a part of in the past, Melissa took up studying Motion Picture Arts in Barbados at the University of the West Indies. After realising that she not only had a talent for production, but also writing, she left UWI, having penned three feature films and five short films. ‘A BITTER LIME’ Melissa then returned to Guyana, after turning down offers to stay in Barbados, and then in 2012 was put in contact with an Australian director looking to begin filming for a movie in Guyana. And thus her work as production manager on the motion picture, “A Bitter Lime” began. The film features a couple from Los Angeles, who, tired of the metropolis, decides to move to a new country to start life all over again. Shooting for the movie took place in both LA and Guyana, but the film takes place primarily in the latter, and also utilises mostly Guyanese actors. Melissa says that the film has completed shooting, and is currently in post-production phase. “We are hoping to get it released in May, because it would be good to have a feature film on Guyana released at that time,” she said.