Dancehall, reggae and dancehall/hip-hop fusion artiste Curtly ‘Kurt Lee’ Lake is set to release his new song “Star Life” this month.
Kurt Lee, who says he is a singer, songwriter and composer, describes himself as driven. He has already put out several other songs, including, “Thank God,” “She Cry”, “Dream,” “Extravagant,” “My Love,” “B4 & After” and “Bad People Area.”
The artiste who was born on the West Coast Demerara, spent only a year there before his family moved to Essequibo where he’s been ever since. Having grown up in the church, he said, as a little boy, from around the age of seven, he would sing on Sundays.
His shift of genre from Gospel to Dancehall came during his first year of attending the Anna Regina Multilateral School. A fan of Natural Black, he wrote his first song, “It Nice” after Natural Black’s single “Nice It Nice.” A year later, came a moment that propelled him to instant fame in school.
Kurt Lee recalled that his second form class teacher walked in on him one day singing in class and told him he was distracting the class. He was then sent to the principal, who then told him that as his punishment, come the next assembly, he would have to go to the podium and sing the same song for the entire school. When the time came for his high school singing debut, Kurt Lee stepped up to the podium and began to sing a gospel song and then cut it short suddenly and began blasting out a Vybz Kartel song which sent the entire assembly into an uproar. It was a punishment he surely does not regret.
After that schoolchildren nicknamed him ‘Chris Black’ after Chris Brown but black instead because of his dark complexion, while a few others called him Kartel. “After that I continued writing all the time; I never stopped. If I was in class and there’s nothing to do, I’d just channel all my energy into writing music,” he said. Because of his proclivity for music—he often walked the school’s corridors singing dancehall songs—he was reckoned as one of the ‘delinquent’ students.
“I was of those persons always making jokes or who was always jolly. That was deemed as bad behavior,” he said. However, he went on to attain eight passes at the Caribbean Secondary Education Certificate examination.
In 2012, after completing secondary school, Kurt Lee entered the Essequibo Star Competition coming in third place. For the final he sang the Kartel song “Slow Motion.” “My singing, mommy never liked it,” he told The Scene. “Growing up I sang Gospel and now Dancehall. Other relatives and friends, they enjoy it though. They supported me a lot. After the competition, I [began performing] with two of my friends… [We performed] at the Anna Regina Town Night, Essequibo Night, Essequibo Mash, weddings; once there was live music, we’d be there. We sang mainly Reggae, Dancehall and Soca.”
Because this, Kurt Lee has become a renowned artiste around Essequibo. Then he and two other friends pooled their resources and went to a studio [Most Bes] to record an original song, “Summa Bounce.” Kurt Lee entered into the Facebook game ‘Matrixshopping’ and through this his song “Summa Bounce” was aired by NCN on the radio and television. “Many persons said they love the song,” he noted.
He continued to collaborate with these same artistes – Javes Cox and Arvin Singh and another Delon Osborne through Most Bes and Unique Music Records, to record a few of his other singles.
Asked about a standout moment in his music career, he said, “There’ll be many moments to come but there’s this time I’ll never forget. I never ever got a trophy for anything. At sports I always came in third or last or sometimes I even drop out of the race. In school, there were so many better heads than me. But after performing at Essequibo Star I was given a trophy for coming in third. It meant so much. It is my one and only trophy so far. When you’re on stage and you see so much people cheering for you, you know that you must be good and that they see the ability in you. They’re [fans] my motivation and it makes me want to go abroad also to make a name for myself and country. It makes me want to push myself to do so much more.”
Kurt Lee has been a Mavado fan from “day one” and says for him Mavado is a role model. “He is a ghetto youth that came from nothing to something and did so through music. I also like Vybz Kartel and Chronixx. Persons just hear the negative side of Dancehall music but they don’t see the positive. Like many of the songs tell us that through hard times, we should stay calm. There’s a positive side in Dancehall music,” he said. On the local front, he is inspired by Kwasi Ace, Jumo and of course, Natural Black; singers he deems “great.” But if there’s one person Kurt Lee wished he’d had the chance to meet it’d be Reggae legend, Bob Marley. “There’s not a single song that this artiste sang that you could say something negative about. There’s not a single generation that doesn’t revere his songs,” he noted.
He adds, “I strongly believe if radio and television start playing more Guyanese music, people will see the hidden talents we have in Guyana. Why do our artistes like Natural Black, Timeka Marshall have to go out there [abroad] to make a name for themselves? Music is stifling in Guyana because we have too many foreign played music on the radio and the other reason is that we don’t have copyright. You put your music out there and somebody can just go and burn it back.
“My entire life revolves around music.” Kurt Lee also enjoys a game of football, socializing and travelling. “I love meeting new people,” he said.
Kurt Lee hopes to someday own his own record label. “I want to be a role model for youngsters coming up. I want to make my mark internationally. I want to make all Guyanese proud,” he said.
“Once you love music, don’t do it for the money or the fame. If you love music do it from your heart. Never give up. Music is a way people could hear you. You could send a message through music,” he added.
Kurt Lee hopes that his song “Star Life” can educate young people. “It tells them they could be the designers of their own future but once they make it they mustn’t forget about their families.” He is also expected to release eight other singles in the near future. Persons can check out his songs at www.semimp3.com or look for Curtly Lake on Facebook.