Masters of Evolution
“Everybody here brings a piece to the pot. And without everybody here, the pot would not bubble”
Representing Trinidad & Tobago, KES the Band has made an indelible mark and is very influential throughout the Caribbean diaspora. As one of the tightest musical units to come out of the region, the band has built a reputation of consistency with electrifying live shows fronted by lead singer Kes, who expertly delivers sweet harmonious tones over high energy performances.
“Everybody here brings a piece to the pot. And without everybody here, the pot would not bubble.” (Kes Quote from the opening of ‘Incredible’ video, 2017) THE BAND core consists of founding members, the Dieffenthaller brothers Kes (lead vocals), Jon (guitar), and Hans (drums); and childhood friend Riad Boochoon (bass guitar). The team also includes additional musicians Mario Callender (keyboards), Robbie “Styles” Persaud (DJ and samples), Ricardo Rameshwar (Keyboards /Musical Director) and Aaron Vereen (Percussion).
Mixing calypso and rock with pure island beats, Kes has perfected its unique sound with a versatility that allows them to easily blend into other musical genres while maintaining their own identity. They are such a well-oiled machine that they appear to work almost instinctively, anticipating each other’s moves, smoothly flowing into seamless transitions. It’s definitely organic, but even more so the evidence of brotherhood, hard work, determination, and belief.
The full band is involved in the creative process, everybody adding a piece that compliments the other. Kes’ natural talent as frontman is equally matched by his song writing skills. With lyrical content that he takes ultimate pride in, he effortlessly pens the most beautiful songs of love. Some speak to romantic love, others love of self, love of country, love of people. But LOVE is always the underlying theme, and that love is shared with every audience.
Always expected to be a force in T&T’s carnival season, Kes came armed with an amazing set of unexpected collaborations that could not disappoint. The first 2 releases – a groovy and a power, were the work of young fast rising producers, St. Lucian Motto (“Boss Lady”) and fellow Trini Travis World (“Proud”). Both great songs with expected results, as Boss Lady is still one of the biggest songs of the year. But it was “Dear Promoter” with Voice that really resonated. Lead by brilliant musical arrangement and superb melodies, this song is a beautiful ode to how Trinis party touches every music lover’s spirit.
Other hits include the sexy “Dushi,” “Pick A Side” with Erphaan Alves, and “Soca Take Over.” Each release better than the last, but the most surprising of them all “Stage Gone Bad” with Soca vet Iwer George, flipped carnival upside down. The idea was borne out of Iwer’s camp, and when called Kes was excited at the prospect of how they would merge their different styles. Working in secrecy for months, somewhere Kes and Iwer found a pocket in which both could exist – uptown meets downtown, and it was golden. At first listen “Stage Gone Bad” sounds like classic Iwer – powerful in its own right, but when fans realized Kes was not only on the song but delivers the opening verse matching seamlessly with Iwer’s gruff vocals, pandemonium ensued. By carnival end, the surprise duo had earned the Road March title – Kes’ first, and Iwer’s first in 20 years, and the Soca Monarch title – Kee’s second and Iwer’s third.
Even after all of this, Kes still managed to sneak in two more jams, “Reason to Love” produced by famed Soca DJ Private Ryan and “Magic” featuring young Calypsonian Jimmy October. With their universal summer appeal, both songs properly showcase not only Kes’ writing talents, but his ability to showcase Soca’s diversity.
“It’s a blessing and an honour to be an artist in these historical times where our mission is to spread joy, spread energy, connect the world, change the world, inevitably through music, through art.”
As a group that began as teens jamming together, officially debuting in 2005, Kes seems to have mastered the art of evolution. Evident by the many song writing awards, top 10 hits, video game soundtracks, and non-stop international appearances, Kes consistently finds new ways of reaching audiences. Once quote as “taking advantage of changing times to remain relevant without effort”, their most recent movements prove that even in the craziness of 2020, this band successfully adapts to anything.
One of those moves is new management. Kes is now singed to US-based Ineffable Records and international management team Damon DeGraff and Evan Vogel. The move is effort to further spread their sound and Soca music globally. Of the change, they simply say “natural growth forges new relationships.” As Ineffable’s only Soca artists, the band doesn’t worry about creative interference. “We’ve worked together in the past and they have a great understanding of who we are and our sound, so they don’t get in the way. If anything, they are trying to enhance who we are.” Already, the new partnership has garnered access to new audiences across the web. Music platforms Spotify and YouTube tapped Kes to be the cover of their newly launched Soca Classics and Carnival Plus playlists respectively, and they hosted Pandora’s exclusive mode “Road to Carnival” for the month of September, talking Soca and their latest body of work “We Home.” They’re also rumoured to be in talks with Apple’s new Music 1 station.
“We know how to build it for ourselves. We’ve been doing it for years and that’s what keeps us going.” Like most performers, Kes uses the power of social media to link with fans and send good vibes. The first was an IG Live dubbed Live Vibrations, a 20-minute acoustic jam racking up almost 70,000 views and thousands of shares. Next came BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Using an undisclosed location along Trinidad’s scenic north coast as backdrop, KES’ first official virtual performance was lauded as one of the event’s best. For a band that thrives off connecting with its audience, they describe the experience as the difference between TV and theatre, and missing the live interaction definitely took adjusting. Fortunately, their innate adaptability prevailed so when WIADCA’s Brass Fest for New York’s Labor Day wanted a virtual KES, they yet again perfected the medium. So, by the time they were ready to host their own KES LIVE, it came off like a walk in the park. Timed to coincide with the release of their first album in 5 years and T&T’s Independence Day, the hour-long TV concert aired across 9 Caribbean countries, Africa’s Trace TV, and the band’s social media pages, drawing more than half a million viewers.
“It’s an exciting time to do new things, take advantage of new mediums while keeping aware and making the right moves” Studying the impending ‘new normal’ Kes said “It blows my mind that carnival came out of Trinidad in this form and now its form is going to change inevitably so this carnival was almost like a full stop, and new normal brings a regrowth a re-evaluation of everything. This is a time to look at ourselves and what we do, what works and what we need to do.” Pointing out that young artists today have “exponentially better” opportunities that when he came up, he believes much more still needs to be done and is in full support of an art district or organization where artists exchange ideas, learn business fundamentals, and broaden their horizons.
As for their own continued growth, Kes is slated to release 2 albums this year. The first entitled ‘We Home’ dropped in August as the first major Soca release since carnival. Containing all live renditions mixed of 2020 hits and fan favourites like “Hello” and “Savannah Grass”, this is homage to their roots and career as one of the few Soca bands in the business. With no carnivals in sight, “We Home” evokes sweet memories for carnivalians, while gracefully depicting our musical diversity to new comers. The piece de resistance is the one previously unheard song “Beautiful Life”, and endearing retrospective that solidifies the album as thoughtfully well timed.
The one caveat to “We Home” or virtual Kes, is that they’re double-edged swords. Each so energizing they’re like daggers to the heart because 3 songs in and you’re lamenting over carnivals that should have been. ‘Damn You Corona!’ There’s an infamous quote that states “It’s not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best evolve with change.” If this is even the slightest bit true, the influence Kes has on music, love, and life will be our silver lining.