If it is possible for a love of music to course through your veins from birth, that was the case for Jermaine Gittens. The performer has been intimately involved in the entertainment scene from early in his childhood.
In an interview with Bajan Vibes, he explained that his mum was always heavily involved in the entertainment arena. “My mother Alison Gittens was the lead backup singer for the Party Monarch Band, Pic-o-De Crop Band, Bacchanal Time Tent and many other shows across Barbados. That’s where the passion came from – being able to go to all these shows and be backstage from the age of five/six years old. I knew then I wanted to do this.”
As a teenager, he and a group of friends called themselves De Coopers, so when it was time for him to choose a stage name, Coopa Dan was an obvious choice. Although his focus has since shifted to party music, when the singer launched his music career with the Big Show Tent at 18-years-old, social commentary was his genre of choice.
Since entering this field, Coopa Dan has been unswerving in his commitment to releasing quality music. The year 2013 can be easily categorized as his breakout year.
His big hit, Question of the Year, had people repeatedly asking, “Girl, how your bumpa get so broad?” Seven years later, he has returned to musical prominence, beating out the reigning Soca Monarch Mikey to claim the People’s Monarch title for 2020. After some heavy campaigning, he was relieved and proud to not disappoint the heavy contingent which was rooting for him to bring it home.
His title winning song, Deserve It, speaks of his own personal journey and is his favorite tune from his growing catalogue of music. It is a song of resilience and with lyrics like, “Every day won’t be easy, hold the faith and keep the fight. Remember granny tell me every tunnel end with light”, Coopa Dan said it’s a song he wrote from the heart and is based on personal experiences.
“I believe that surviving depression is a big deal because I have been there and it’s a dark place to be.” His music has been a tool to get to the point where he is at now.
“I enjoy being able to go into an alter ego and become a ‘new person’. I also enjoy when a song like Bumpa can bring enjoyment for others and in the case of Deserve It can be relatable to so many.”
Writing credits on this release are shared with Jus D. “I am big on collaborations, although I haven’t had many in my career on the singing tip. I do collaborate a lot with songwriters and musicians,” he said. “I have written most of my songs but as previously mentioned I do collaborate sometimes. Jus D and Fadda Fox are two of my brethren who I collaborate with a lot,” he added.
The singer and songwriter has been consistent in the kind of music he creates. The highly talented Coopa Dan continues to create trendy music, which is craftily written. He captures the unique essence of Barbadians and the way they speak with his lyrics and phrasing. Another necessary component is the infusion of humor into his pieces, and for that element he draws inspiration from long standing comedic entertainers Madd Entertainment.
“Over the years, I have been known for my strong lyrical content and my wittiness as of more recent. My music has evolved into being more melodic and world-worthy rather than just for the local or regional market. This is deliberately done as I am working on Coopa Dan the brand,” he said.
The entertainer’s focus now is creating music which will reach a wider market. “I would have performed at most major shows across Barbados and I did a few shows for carnival in Trinidad back in 2014. I also headlined a show in Boston and two shows in Canada more recently.”
He hopes to follow in the footsteps of greats like Red Plastic Bag, Edwin Yearwood, Lil Rick and many others who he saw up close and personal as a child, while being backstage with his mother. He promised: “Within the next six months my plan is to release some new music and music videos and expand the Coopa Dan brand.”
The pursuit of a music career does have stumbling blocks, he admits. “The biggest challenge is the financial part. It is a well-known fact that producing quality music can be very expensive at times, and with no financial backing this becomes an issue for many artistes every year.
“Another challenge is that every year is not the same, so some years are on a high and some on a low in terms of public response to your music and slow radio play. Despite the challenges though, I continue to release multiple tracks every year and, in my opinion, stay consistent and relevant,” the entertainer explained.
For Coopa Dan, music has multiple purposes. “I’m a music lover first and a soca lover second. I listen to everything from local and regional dancehall, reggae, rap to alternative to R&B, especially the classics. As a teacher and a parent, music has helped my creativity in dealing with kids.”
Being a father is one of Coopa Dan’s greatest joys. “I can be tough in the classroom but so soft for my two kids,” he admitted with a smile. When he is not busy whipping up a dish in the kitchen, the performer has a burgeoning love of travel. “I have been to over ten cities around the world in the last three years and I am also an avid Chelsea football club supporter.”
Music, like life, is a journey that does not run smoothly. “To pass on information to the next generation I would tell them to always put your best foot forward, stay relevant, ask questions of those who came before you, take criticism open mindedly and never give up,” he resolutely advised.