Nikki Edmunds: Fighting through stereotypes

Nikki hopes to inspire others with her music.

I first heard her catchy tune on RSL’s The Agenda one morning during the calypso season called Shame on You Officer.  I found myself humming the melody throughout that entire week and even joking with some of my police officer friends about the lyrics.  At the invitation of one cop, I made my way to De Soca-Lypso Revue’s Bustin’ Loose.  It was the tent’s inaugural exposé.  She was the third performer and to say she rocked the crowd would be the understatement of the century!
I caught up with Nikki Edmunds at the St Lucia Blind Welfare Association where she works as a receptionist.  I forgot to mention she’s visually impaired but one would hardly notice from the way she carries herself.   She describes herself as shy and reserved but I am yet to see those qualities in this outgoing and personable woman.
Nikki was reluctant to tell me her age but she said “I was born in Castries on January 26, 1976.” In a fit of laughter she said, “Oh gosh! I just gave away my age . . . but that’s okay.”  As we spoke I learned Nikki comes from a family of eleven children, most of whom are musically inclined.
“It’s all natural,” she boasted.
Singing appealed to her from a very young age but she never pursued it seriously until now.  This mother of two started her schooling at the School for the Blind in Santa Cruz, Trinidad because at the time, there was not a school that catered for the visually impaired in St Lucia.  She spent three and a half years in Trinidad before she returned to St Lucia to attend the School for the Blind.
She said, “The institution here today is not the one I went to. It’s more revolutionized.”
Eventually, young Nikki went to the Canon Laurie Anglican School where she wrote the Common Entrance Exam and succeeded to the Bocage Senior Primary.  There, she wrote the Common Middle Exam and moved to the George Charles Secondary School.
A lover of animals, especially cats, Nikki fashioned a stage name to exude her personality—Ally Cat.  Ally from her middle name Allison and Cat from her feline passion.
“I never dreamed that I would go into the calypso arena.  It was a big step for me,” Nikki told the STAR.  She explained how it all began.  “Originally I wrote the songs Tomas and Take Care of your Own.  However, I allowed a few people to look over the lyrics.  I wanted someone to sing the song.  I wasn’t too keen on singing the songs even though I did get the encouragement until (I know she’s going to kill me for saying this) Ms Jessica Jacobie, my coworker (and a previous guest of this column) told me of this gentleman who she met on Facebook and call it coincidence, he was recruiting singers because he was putting together this new tent.”
Jessica took the gentleman’s number and gave it to Nikki.  Said Nikki, “We spoke and it was from there things started to fall into place.”
After speaking to the tent organizer, Nikki penned Shame on You Officer based on a true experience.  She has no regrets over her decision to enter calypso.
“I had a lot of fun not to mention a lot of exposure.  It was one of the best experiences I ever had.  Of course I was disappointed when I didn’t make it through but there’s always another opportunity.  I am confident things will get bigger and better.”
Nikki knows her way around a keyboard and that serves as a welcomed addition to her song writing capabilities.  As I inquired about her first stage performance, Nikki groaned.  She explained, “If you go back and listen to the performance, you will see that I was on a literal high.  That was because of the response I was getting from the audience.  It just fuelled me up and my coworkers were there to support me and it meant so much to me.”
While rehearsing at home, Nikki recalls her children joining in and she laughed as she said, ‘At one point I thought of bringing them in to sing back up!”  Nikki revealed before she took to the stage she gave herself a stern pep talk to calm her nerves but when she got off the stage, she was so full of energy that she barely slept a wink that night. “It was such a beautiful experience,” she smiled.
Moving forward, Nikki is confident she can tackle almost all genres of music but is adamant she will not be seen on the power soca stage (at least not yet anyway) because “that’s just not me.”
Nikki hopes in the near future to put out a twelve track CD with various types of music.  “It is my dream to touch people through my music.” The Blind Welfare Association is willing to assist her to realize that dream.  “To everyone at the Blind Welfare Association, thank you for your support.  I couldn’t have gotten all the way without all of you standing by me.”
She acknowledged that had it not been for veteran calypsonian Jeff “Pelay” Elva and De Revue’s band instructor Gene Leon, she would not be the performer she is today.
As our chat came to a close, Nikki revealed, “I would really like to work with Animator. She really inspires me.  I love her voice and the way she brings herself across.  Obviously I would like to work with Pelay.”

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