By Coretta Joe
Jermaine Coopa Dan Gittens knows a thing or two about perseverance. The average person may not know, but this year marks 15 years he’s been in the entertainment industry. A self-proclaimed “tent baby”, he grew up watching his mother, Alison Gittens, perform as the lead background singer for the Party Monarch Band, Pic-O-De-Crop Band, Bacchanal Time Tent and other shows. And by the time he reached his late teens, he decided to write his own music and perform with De Big Show Tent. This year, he has released his biggest and most successful song to date — Reflection.
The first taste of success came for Coopa Dan in 2013 with Question of the Year. Since then, he’s been consistently releasing music every year. But it was during the COVID-19 pandemic that something shifted. He had time to sit and reflect on his life and decided to use his songwriting skills to create what he calls “message music”, and his 2020 People’s Monarch-winning Deserve It was conceptualised.
“You had to sit down and get to know yourself again, and just like so many other people and men in general, I, too, had my dark days and dark moments, and I had to dig deep. I decided that one of the ways I could express myself and become a voice for others who may not have the courage and strength to speak up, was to put it in my music and make music that people will enjoy while hearing a deep message,” he explained. Reflection is a continuation of his message music agenda, he added.
“That song has received a tremendous response from the public and could be considered one of the more popular songs this season. The single is off to the semi-finals of the People’s Monarch and has also earned a coveted spot in the Pic-O-De-Crop Finals.
“My chances in the competition are just as good as anyone else’s. I mean, the fact that you get to the finals means that judges see something in you that can go all the way,” he told Crop Over Pulse.
“I have a good team behind me, a solid and determined team that wants the best for me. That is my game plan, to work with my team.”
While Reflection isn’t your traditional social commentary or party song, the talented artist is in his own lane.
“I still sing Bashment Soca, but not as much as I used to. There was a time when I stopped singing Bashment for about five years straight because I was starting to think I was getting boxed in and labelled as a Bashment artist. I started in social commentary, but the “funny” type that MADD used to do back in the day. I did Power Soca and Sweet Soca; I’ve been doing different types for years. I don’t want to be boxed in or labelled as any particular type of artist,” he asserted.
As he reflected on his career, Coopa Dan has no doubt collected some pertinent lessons along the way. He relates one lesson to the adage, “You’re just as good as your last performance or your last year”. He recalled that after the success of Question of the Year in 2013, his 2014 season was quite humbling.
“You’re not guaranteed anything from anyone, so you have to work hard the next year. You always have to work hard because you’re only remembered for your success.”
He advises young artists now entering the industry to learn the craft and do their research on its history.
“Be a sponge; soak up everything and be humble. Even if you taste success at your first try, still be humble,” he counselled.
The sky’s the limit for the entertainer as he works on taking his music and his brand “to the world”. The first stop? Marketing himself at the upcoming carnivals and releasing visuals to aid in the longevity of Reflection. Collaborations are also in the works, and he is manifesting a future collab with a reggae artist in a strategic move that aligns with his message music.
Balancing many hats as a singer, songwriter, promoter, teacher and father, Coopa Dan believes that it’s easier to juggle it all once you’re passionate about music.
“If it’s something you’re doing for money or just because you like the fame, I probably wouldn’t have lasted 15 years. But because of my foundation [having his start in the calypso tents] and the love and passion I have for it, it’s something I look forward to doing every year,” he said with a smile.