There is a well-worn adage that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Cliché as that may sound, it rings true for music aficionado Yogi Da Producer. Don’t know him? Well get familiar.
Anse-la-Raye native Johann Deterville has always had music on the brain. “I was born to play music,” he laughs. He just may be right about that. The 24-year-old is the son of the late Petronilla Deterville, fabled choir director of the Cecilian Rays and performing arts advocate. Music has always been an integral part of his life.
“I kind of started off playing the piano. We moved to the US for a little while and my mom put me into a piano class just to see if I would like it and from the first time I sat at the piano I just fell in love with it. I honestly did not really know anything yet but my music teacher allowed me to mess around,” he remembers.
Deterville also grew up in the church, and upon his return from the United States he started singing in the choir under his mother’s watchful eye. In addition, he enrolled in music theory and piano lessons, a move which would eventually land him his first ‘gig’ as church keyboardist, allowing him to utilize his newly acquired skills.
Despite his burgeoning aptitude, Deterville was still not sold on the idea of a music career. A talented athlete, he briefly flirted with the idea of pursuing a professional career in basketball. However, music remained on the periphery of his mind, leading him to join a piano performance group. It was there that the first seed was planted.
“The leader of the group introduced me to a program called Fruity Loops and everybody was into it. That’s when I first got introduced to beatmaking,” he said. But the thrill didn’t last long. Deterville found it difficult to use and became discouraged after two weeks. A meeting with St Lucian icon Boo Hinkson would be the game changer. His youth group arranged a career trip where members got a glimpse into the future. They visited Hinkson’s studio, where he schooled them on the nuances of the music industry. Deterville was hooked.
“I saw his studio and thought ‘Wow!’ I would love to have a studio like that or my own little space where I can make music. After this I thought, I need to start working on this, start practicing making beats.”
And practice he did, taking another stab at the forgotten program, this time with greater success. He experimented with Hip-Hop and Soca beats, trying to grasp the intricacies.
Upon his graduation from the Entrepot Secondary School in 2006, and a brief stint studying Mechanical Engineering, Deterville attended a workshop where he became acquainted with more advanced programs. He got a chance to hone his craft at Accela Marketing, creating jingles for various establishments. Over time he purchased several pieces of equipment, building a home studio and a reputation. Aspiring singers and songwriters made regular appearances at his domain. One of these artists was QShan Deya, who he collaborated with to release the single “What You Sow.” Deterville had officially broken into the ‘biz’. But airplay was limited. He realized that he still had a ways to go in achieving legitimacy as a producer.
In 2010, at the urging of his mother, he left for Jamaica where he attended the Edna Manley College of Visual and Performing Arts, majoring in Jazz and Popular Music Performance. While there, he set-up a makeshift studio in the dorm and quickly became the unofficial on campus sound engineer. He became fast friends with another producer Walter Russell, who introduced him to Digicel Starquest winner Romain Virgo. Through those connections, Deterville soon found himself rubbing shoulders with the likes of Taurus Riley, Jah Cure, and Vybz Kartel.
“I was inspired. I realized the direction I wanted to go in and that helped me focus a lot more. I saw that knowing the theory and practicing the piano would really help me when it came to composing.”
Everything seemed to be falling into place, but life would deal him an unexpected blow when his beloved mother passed away in October 2010. Deterville left school to be with his family. He eventually returned to campus to finish off the semester before returning to St Lucia for summer vacation and his old job at Accela. The time off allowed him to reevaluate his goals and he came to the conclusion that Jamaica was not where he wanted to be.
“In terms of music and piano playing I was learning a lot but I wasn’t happy,” he explains. “And it wasn’t because of my mom. It was because I started thinking ‘Is this really what I want to do in terms of being a performer?”
His father endorsed the decision and implored his son to follow his heart, pledging his full support. Emboldened, Deterville researched sound engineering schools. But it was a former classmate, Filbert Salton who would provide the missing piece to the puzzle. Salton, a rising Hip-Hop artiste known as Kayo, based in Canada, had first met Deterville at the Sir Arthur Lewis Community College. The two had stayed in touch, with Kayo even approaching Deterville to lend his skills to a mixtape. So when he heard his friend was trying to find a new landing spot he suggested his own stomping grounds: Halifax.
With his own brother already calling the Canadian city home, Deterville obliged and enrolled to St Mary’s University. Things took off from there. Kayo’s star was on the rise and Deterville was along for the ride. Just like Jamaica, Deterville made connections with top Canadian artistes including top selling rapper Classified. He credits Kayo with his smooth transition.
“Everybody knew him and he was working with all the influential people in Halifax. So because of him I jumped over so many heads. He put me in that circle right away. People started hearing about Yogi, Kayo’s producer and they started coming to me to work on stuff. I just fit right in. Even when he did live shows, it was something new that I added to his set. I added that musical vibe. He appreciates music, so I took it to the next level.”
The two have built a trust and bond where they consult and bounce ideas off each other, intent on producing the best possible sound. Together, they have played at various festivals, concerts, and events across the country.
“Honestly, that’s when my dreams really started coming true because I would be doing shows with him, and we’d get artiste passes, go backstage, be in the green room and I thought yeah, I’m loving this,” he joked. But he is mindful of industry pitfalls and continues to fine tune the efficacy and quality production he is known for.
He is scheduled to graduate in October with a degree in Audio Engineering and plans to explore opportunities in Jamaica, Toronto, New York and eventually Los Angeles. Future endeavours include owning a professional recording studio and record label. He and Kayo have already recorded multiple tracks for an upcoming album. But his mind is never far from his roots and his mother. Yogi would like to continue her life work by introducing recording arts to St Lucia’s youth and giving free lessons.
“Kids nowadays are into technology. If you write something on the board, they might not pay attention, but if you do it using a computer they get it. So I want to introduce them to composing on computers, as well as beat making and production.”
William Shakespeare famously said, “If music be the food of love, play on.” Deterville has continued playing through trials and loss. For this wunderkind, the beat goes on.