T’shanna Cort has hope in her music

“I Have Hope” is the name of the song with which T’shanna Cort won this year’s Junior Calypso Competition and today, nearly six months later, fans from all across Guyana greet her with those words and praise her performance.

T’shanna Cort
T’shanna Cort

The competition, which went down in February at the National Cultural Centre, saw T’shanna Cort taking the monarchy from ten other participants, with not just her performance and amazing voice, but also the lyrics that had the judges and the crowd going wild.

The road to T’shanna’s victory is an interesting one, paved with her perseverance and determination over several years.

T’shanna was also a finalist in the 2013 GT&T Jingle Competition, which was what led to her being in the Junior Calypso Competition. In an interview with The Scene, she revealed who she came to be a contestant on the GT&T Jingle Competition in the first place.

T'shanna Cort (second, right) after winning the Junior Calypso Competition with designer Nelsion Nurse (right) and her mentors Burchmore Simon (left) and Melissa 'Vanilla' Roberts
T’shanna Cort (second, right) after winning the Junior Calypso Competition with designer Nelsion Nurse (right) and her mentors Burchmore Simon (left) and Melissa ‘Vanilla’ Roberts

“I would usually sit and watch television and I’d see the ads,” she said. “Then I saw the ad about the upcoming auditions in Essequibo and the number I should SMS. So I stole my mother’s phone and sent them a message. When the auditions came to Essequibo, I snuck out telling my parents I had to collect something and I just left,” she laughed.

“Later on, I did tell my mother that I stole her phone and sent the message and that I was going to audition but she never took me on.

“At the auditions, Charmaine [Blackman], Joel [Ghansham] and Gordon Moseley were the judges. I sang for them ‘We need Love’ …. When I began, they were shocked. In the end, they applauded me and asked why I hadn’t auditioned the year before.”

Every year T’shanna and her family would sit together and look at the competition and so 2013 was no exception. “On the night when the Essequibo audition was to air we sat together. Of course, daddy heard them call my name and he got upset about not knowing in the first place. He got up and left the room and so I headed for my room. But as I sat in my room I could hear mommy outside cheering all through my performance,” she said.

The artiste recalled singing from childhood, since she was about five, in fact; she sang gospel. But because she was shy she never sang in front of an audience until years later, although her grandfather would boast to visitors about his five-year-old granddaughter who could sing and dance. She would often serenade them with Christmas songs.

Over time, T’shanna said, she became even shyer to the point where she considered herself a bathroom singer.

“My aunts were always supportive also. They’ve been pushing me since I was small. I always used to be singing for them using a water bottle as my mike. Later on, one of my aunts [who is now dead] requested me to sing her a song while on her dying bed. It made me feel good to know I could still bless her heart even then. When I sing it always blesses people’s hearts. That stimulates me to see I can do that and it just keeps me going,” she said.

It was these very aunts who encouraged her to enter the 2010 Cellink Kids Stage when she was 13. According to T’shanna she was scared into participating after they told her that if she didn’t use her talent, God would take it from her. So after talking herself into doing it she entered the competition where she ended up being one of the finalists.

After she competed in the Jingle Competition, T’shanna was approached by Burchmore Simon of Kross Kolor Records’ and asked to represent the studio at the Junior Calypso Competition. T’shanna placed second last year with “Ansa Me”, written by Simon. She returned this year with “I Have Hope”, also written by Simon, to take the victory for Kross Kolor Records. The studio’s previous wins at this level were with Tennicia DeFreitas who took the title in 2010 and again in 2012.

T’shanna said her biggest competition was the previous Calypso Monarch William Plowell.

“He was good at performing and that was where I lacked. My performance coach, Melissa ‘Vanilla’ Roberts would say ‘you don’t have a problem with singing, it’s your performance’ and so we worked on that. I wasn’t nervous though it was something that usually happens. I did my thing. I wasn’t nervous until it was time to announce the winner and that was when nervousness kicked in. When they announced the winner I was shocked, excited and overwhelmed altogether,” she said.

T’shanna said that over time, performing and singing have helped with her shyness and now she enjoys performing for her fans, which she said is an honour.

She went on to participate in this year’s Calypso Competition, though she didn’t place.

During the interview with The Scene T’shanna was interrupted several times by persons asking if she was the girl who had won the competition. She shared a story of meeting a little fan of hers. “One day I was going to the Ministry of Culture and there were a few children walking on the road. This little child came up to me and said, ‘I Have Hope, right?’ and I said ‘Yes,’ and she said ‘I love you, I love you.’ Whether I’m in Essequibo, Berbice or Georgetown, I have a lot of fans rooting for me. I feed off of my fans.”

T’shanna said she is supported by her family and friends and even her father beams now when he talks about her to his friends.

The artiste was once a pupil of Adventure Nursery and Suddie Primary. She also attended Aurora Secondary.

Though she’s home for now, T’shanna is planning on pursuing a degree in Public Management at the University of Guyana.

Concerning her journey in the music arena, she said, “I see myself developing in the music industry. I see myself representing Guyana and being an ambassador for my country wherever I am.” She plans on keeping within the Calypso, R&B and Soul genres.

Her favourite singers are Jennifer Hudson and Rihanna.

She said, “Kross Kolor is like my second family. They’re always advising me and moulding me. They not only push me musically but academically as well.”

T’shanna enjoys dancing, singing, cooking dhall and rice with salted fish and browsing on her phone.

According to T’shanna, being the ambitious, determined and vibrant person she is, fans can expect a lot of energy “and me being me.” She recently performed for Guyana’s 50th anniversary at the National Stadium and also for broadcaster and theatre personality, Ron Robinson’s birthday.

She also did “Mama’s Wish” on Kross Kolor Records’ Christmas album ‘Christmas With Us,’ which was released last Christmas.

T’shanna is expected to defend her title at next year’s Junior Calypso Competition.

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