It’s De Coopa! . . . Coopa Dan is on the mic, and in the classroom.
But how easy is it to be an entertainer singing about “bumpas” and also a schoolteacher to infants? That is the question of the year.
But Jermaine Coopa Dan Gittens says it is easy, and is all about setting the ground rules and loving your job –– both of them.
“I have been a schoolteacher for the past eight years. I have been teaching from 18. People ask me all the time how the children react. ‘Do they call you Coopa Dan in the classroom?’
“At school in the classroom, it’s about laying down your rules. Some shows I would be at performing and I would see some of the students in the crowd, and they would say, ‘Coopa Dan!’, or ‘That’s my teacher!’, or whatever. But they know when I get in the classroom, it’s Mr Gittens.
“You have to separate the two; because then you don’t want the class being disrupted with children calling you Coopa Dan and singing your song. You have to know where to lay the rules and draw the line,” The Wesley Hall infants teacher said.
However at present, Coopa Dan is away from the classroom on leave, being a full-time student at the Erdiston Teachers Training College pursuing his Associate degree in education.
But did the Question Of De Year singer always want to be a teacher? Coopa Dan said it was probably fate, and a case of being in the right place at the right time.
“I did my Associate degree at BCC in graphic arts, but then I wanted to make my own money. I started to work and that’s how I ended up working at the Ministry of Education as a clerical officer; and then I was sent to an interview and I got the job to be a teacher. That was the only job I had since then.
“Then I realized that I wanted to further myself as a teacher; that’s why I came to Erdiston,” he said.
But being a teacher does not take away from his deep love for music. He said music was his first love, having been exposed to it from an early age.
“My mum Alison Gittens was a backup singer for years in the calypso tents, and at various other shows. From the time I was like five, six, she would take me to the shows, and the love for music would have grown then.
“From seeing the greats on stage and and wanting to be on the stage as well . . . . I guess it’s just like if a footballer takes his son to all the football games, he might want to be a footballer. So the love for music was always there, but the courage wasn’t . . . . It’s not always easy to get on a stage or to perform.
“Then when I was about 17, I felt I had the courage, and I was in a duet with Raymond Harewood; and we had a song called It On. When I reached the stage I felt at home, I felt like, ‘You know what? This is what I want to do’. And since then I always wanted to be on the stage,” the 26-year-old explained.
And for Coopa Dan, his dreams came true in 2013 with his hit song Question Of De Year. And it’s no question really that this song was and still is one of the best that year. In fact, to this date many are still going around singing the hook like from the song: “Girl, how your bumpa get so broad? . . .”.
The song even got a response in song from soca queen Alison Hinds.
“My dreams came true in 2013 with Question Of De Year. The year before, I had then rebranded myself Coopa Dan, and that wasn’t a bad year. I had a song called Anxious, and it did pretty well. It was being rotated overseas in places like Canada, London, New York. So the buzz was becoming like a household name at that point in time.
“Then 2013 came and I had my plan. I told myself this is what I going to do this year and what’s not. But then Blood sent me a rhythm called the “bumpa rhythm”. So when I heard it, I say I love this rhythm, and the first idea that came to my head was something about bumpa; but it was like you know, you would hear that people sing about bumpas all the time or whatever; so I wanted to put my own spin on it.
“I didn’t want it to be another one of those songs. So I decided I would ask a question, instead of just telling a girl your bumpa big or whatever. I would ask a question. So I did.
“And the plan I had for 2013 went down the drain because after the song was released everything went crazy after that. I don’t think there was room for another song. The song was taking off at a pace that shocked me. I had no expectations for the song because it was a last-minute one. But I started getting calls about the song not only from promoters in Barbados, but promoters in Trinidad, St Vincent, London, New York, Miami, Boston. So 2013 is what I would call my dream come true,” Coopa Dan said.
Taking a break from class on a breezy Tuesday afternoon, Coopa Dan told Bajan Vibes that while his teaching and entertaining professions may not seem like a good match, he believed they were and allowed him to touch the lives of people –– and that was what he loved the most.
“In teaching you get to mould the lives of children and you get to be a part of their learning process. With music I get to bring out the joy and the happiness [in people] –– enjoying themselves and singing every word to your song. It’s like you get a chance to touch people in a way that other professions don’t,” the former Lodge School student said.
And Coopa Dan hopes he never has to choose between the two, because the decision would be a difficult one.
“Let me say first I love teaching. I love the children. I love the way that kids react. A child’s love is so different because they’re so innocent at that stage and
to them their teacher is a hero.
“Teacher means everything to them; so I love that aspect of it. But I have to be honest and say music was my first love, as I said; so I would have to choose music. But I hope I never have to choose; because I still love teaching,” the young entertainer confessed.
He said one thing he hoped would always remain with him was his humility and love for people.
“I don’t let Coopa Dan become this person that feels he is a superstar. I let Coopa Dan remain Jermaine Gittens. I always remain humble. I don’t allow my friends to call me Coopa Dan. I’m Jermaine to them; and I want it to remain that way. Humble is the way forward.”
Coopa also added that he was anxious to carry his music even farther.
“In 2013 when I had the big year, I made a lot of links and a lot of contacts with deejays from overseas, artistes from overseas. My plan is to do collaborations; and I have already started. I did some colabs with artistes from Trinidad. I did a show in Boston. So I am trying to get Coopa Dan outside of Barbados now and into the global aspect of things,” teacher Gittens said.
And he knows all too well that if he works hard, it will pay off.
“It is a cliché when people say hard work pays off, but it’s true, because I know for sure my hard work paid off; because I have been doing this thing for seven years now, and I was only really recognized fully in 2013 with the hit song. The hard work I put in is what drives and inspires me to be better, because I know that I have put in the work,” Coopa Dan added.