Artist collective Island Wave aims to support Caribbean music and build mental health awareness in their communities

Formed by a desire to bring Caribbean music to the forefront of the world music scene, island wave – a collective of Caribbean artists – aims not only to showcase and support Caribbean music and the artists who create it, but also to make significant progress towards better mental health care and awareness within the community. Caribbean community.


The seed of Island Wave was planted in 2019 when its founder, Trinidad and Tobago musician Kalpee, attended SXSW and imagined himself not just as a spectator, but on stage. He thought he had his chance when asked to play SXSW in 2020, but unfortunately due to Covid-19 lockdowns the whole festival was cancelled.

In 2021, the festival asked him to take part in a series of SXSW live performances, performing on the Russian House stage which was also home to world music that year. Kalpee asked if the festival had a Caribbean stage, and when he found out it didn’t, he suggested creating one. Together, with the help of his management team, Kalpee brought together Caribbean artists to perform at a live event in Kingston, Jamaica – their performance was listed as a “recommended watch” by SXSW and ranked in the five best showcases of the festival.

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Thus, Island Wave was formed and the collective of Caribbean artists played their first physical SXSW performance this year and are set to return in 2023, further sharing their music with the world.

“Island Wave gives a voice to Caribbean artists and musicians and by playing side by side, it is also easier for international audiences to recognize the different musical genres within the islands.” ~Kalpee

In a unified commitment to supporting Caribbean artists, Island Wave also combines their efforts with promoting better conversations and access to mental health resources. This lack of understanding, especially when it comes to men and their mental health relationship (or often lack thereof), is something that is closely tied to Island Wave’s mission to support and grow; a message that comes precisely from one Caribbean directly to another.

Island Wave consists of Kalpee, Grammy-winning artists and producers Walshy Fire and IzyBeats; Freetown Collective of Trinidad and Tobago; Oritse Williams, founding member of British band JLS; Attention Popeye; Afro-Latin Colombian band High Connection; Haitian singer J-Perry; and Jamaican dancehall artists Bling-Dawg and Vyzadon. Kalpee and some of his fellow Island Wave artists took the time to answer a few questions about their overall mission and drive to raise mental health awareness.

GG: What are your goals in aligning with Island Wave?

Kalpee (Trinidad and Tobago): island wave is a platform dedicated to bringing Caribbean music to the forefront of the international music scene. The goal was to create a platform for Caribbean artists to come together, showcase, celebrate and support each other. Island Wave gives a voice to Caribbean artists and musicians and by playing side by side it is also easier for international audiences to recognize the different musical genres within the islands.


Island Wave is so important because it’s a tight-knit group of like-minded creatives, not just one artist trying to break through, but a collective of artists, musicians, managers, stylists, videographers, designers, and designers. FPV agents from all over the Antilles seeking to be recognized, seen, heard and employed.
Unlike other countries which have a much more advanced creative industry, grants are not readily available in the Caribbean, so Island Wave not only seeks to provide the opportunities, but also provides the funding through sponsorship for the Caribbean artists travel internationally in order to export. their music. This includes facilitating and funding visa applications, which is a huge challenge and a 1000% necessity to bridge the gap between the Caribbean Diaspora and the rest of the world.

Kalpee 2022
Kalpee, artist from Trinidad and Tobago

GG: Tell me about the Island Wave initiative to talk about mental health? How does the collective lend itself to the push for better mental health among black men in the Caribbean?

Kalpee (Trinidad and Tobago): At the end of 2019, I had a very serious accident in Trinidad which almost cost me my life. The hardest part of recovering from the accident was not the physical injuries that were obvious to all, but my mental state of mind. Since there’s no talk of men’s mental health in the Caribbean, I didn’t even realize I needed support, which made my days difficult. Honestly, I was so depressed, my anxiety was at its peak, but I didn’t know how to express it. During my travels, I was lucky to find this support that I needed. Talking about my own experience actually helped the healing process. Being able to share this knowledge with the Caribbean community was important to me and by coming together as a prolific group of like-minded Caribbean men, we hope we can eliminate the stigma of being seen as weak for asking for help and we hope that by standing together we can begin to normalize these conversations in the future. Island Wave being a platform that supports and celebrates each other, it was the perfect opportunity for all of us to come together to deliver this important message.

GG: As a musician and creative, how do you feel able to carry that message and help others find their own path to better mental health?

High Connection Straightforward Design (Colombia): Music is of great importance. It is an instrument to guide people towards other alternatives to overcome or overcome the events that hinder their mental health. Since we started doing this, we stopped paying attention to the things that weigh us down emotionally, we focused our energy on one goal, happiness, and that has been the key to full mental health. We rely a lot on my experience – we sing about things that we experience and from time to time things that happen to our close surroundings. When I write a song, I try to interpret it in such a way that when you hear it, you feel every word and every rhyme.

High Connection 2022
High connection

GG: What do you think is a helpful first step that everyone can take, regardless of their circumstances or resources, to take care of themselves mentally and emotionally?

Vyzadon (Jamaica): The first step is to separate yourself from toxic people and maintain a positive mindset which can be achieved through meditation as well as surrounding yourself with like-minded people who also have a positive mindset.

Walshy Fire (Jamaica): I’m not a therapist, but sanity is about surrounding yourself with things that only increase your frequency and energy. When you find people in trouble, they’re usually near things that aren’t useful. It’s about getting in the right place with the right people, or with no one. Whatever you do, it’s all about proximity.

Bling Dawg (Jamaica): Mental health is very serious in the Caribbean community. We live from it every day. This is something serious that our community should look into. Mental Health [doesn’t] always show from the outside – it’s nice to have conversations with people you trust, with whom you can share personal things. Most of the time, it’s the things you store inside of you that get overwhelming. We need to talk more, communicate more, look at the simple things and appreciate them. For my sanity, I work out, focus on the things within my reach, and take steps to progress in life every day. We need to communicate more with each other to help each other.

GG: What is one thing you wish a young man knew about the importance of good mental health or self-care?

Lou Lyons from Freetown Collective (Trinidad and Tobago): In Robert Bly’s book “Iron John” (a must-read for any young man coming of age), there are three lessons every young man should learn: the importance of healing, the importance of see [and] the importance of understanding and embracing one’s sexuality. I wish every young man knew that great men also struggle with these things. There’s no age when you do things right and never have to worry about it again, but there’s no progress if you can’t heal the the wounds that life will inflict on us, if we cannot have a healthy picture of who we would like to be, and if we cannot embrace what we discover about ourselves. Good mental health starts with knowing that this journey will last a lifetime, and we go through it doing our best every day and asking for help when we no longer know what we do best.

Freetown Collective 2022
Freetown Collective

Recent work and performances by Island Wave artists include a remix of Kalpee’s catchy single “Island Gyal” released last month, High Connection’s new single “Aurora” and a performance by Freetown Collective at the Haitian Film Festival in Miami. .

Lyrics: Patti Sanchez

For more from Island Wave, be sure to visit their website and follow them on Instagram and Twitter.

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