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Self-made talent

entwesusrideIt’s 11 p.m. on a Saturday night.

Three friends settle into a plush leather couche at Seven on 7, anxious for the night’s entertainment to start.

They all knew of Wesu Wallace, and one of them even went to school with him during his stint at the Alexandra Secondary school. Ready to hear what he had to offer, they sat among the small, but vocal crowd.

From the opening strains of the first song to his last jam, the trop found it hard to be disappointed by the singer’s sultry voice, which enveloped the Dover, Christ Church “Resto-Lounge.” It was some of the best home-grown “baby making music” they had ever heard.

Expertly moving between covers and originals, Wesu made sure all eyes were on him as he crooned with his signature light, lilting tone. From time to time, he would hand over the spotlight to lyricists Keoma Rhy Minister Mallett and Justin Sunrokk King for some freestyling fun.

A few drinks and lots of laughs later, there was no doubt about two things: it was a great night out and Wesu Wallace was one very talented singer.

But in an late morning sit-down with Barbados TODAY a few days later, the Zimbabwean-born revealed there was a time when he sucked at singing.

“I had no musical talent at school… I had no ability at all,” he stated candidly.

“Everything you hear now is training. It is me focusing and making sure I had something to offer, because I could not sing… but I wanted to.”

Wesu took the teacher-fed propaganda that you could be “anything you wanted to be” to heart, and decided he would work hard. Also, ever the teenage boy, Wesu was also looking for a safe way to attract girls.

“I wanted attention from girls, so singing that the best way to do that without fighting,” he recalled with a coy smile.

However, the attention he would receive was not the one he was looking for. Wesu bravely admitted he had been booed off stages, rejected by the Richard Stoute Teen Talent competition and annoyed his sister with his singing.

But a thick skin would ensure he continued to work at what he wanted. Reading a book on vocal chords and speech patterns from cover to cover, he took the new knowledge and applied it. Wesu would also record himself singing and work on shortcomings.

As he became better, the emerging artist started to craft his play around with his musical style, settling on R&B instead of the alternative and rock music he began with. The more Wesu learned, the more he became serious about his craft.

“When I was about 18, I stopped thinking about girls and really wanted to be in the industry, so my motivation changed and I started to associate myself with musicians and incorporated everything I saw and heard into what I am now,” he explained.

The multitalented artist also taught himself how to play the guitar, which earned him session gigs and part-time work with the now defunct 4DPeople.

A move to the United Kingdom in 2001 with his then wife would be met with a big validation of his musical talent. He was one of the finalists in Pop Idol 2 (a show similar to American Idol).

Sadly, that exposure did little for his career. During the four years he spent in the UK, Wesu did not have a music-related career, save for a stint as a vocal trainer.

But like any other experience in life, Wesu saw the time as a learning opportunity.

“I wouldn’t suggest that someone packs up all their stuff and go in search of “it”, because it is not easy over there to make money from music… I have seen people who are good looking and talented, and are still working as waiters,” he advised.

In 2008, he decided to live in Barbados full time, and live out a dream of bringing out an album. Wesu spent 15 hours a day trying to bring the self-produced album to life. Even after a beat-down from two other men left him with limited ability to play the guitar, he worked on his lemonade-making skills, and taught himself to play the piano.

“I started July to teach himself and by December I was able to play at three tunes. Even now I can’t play the guitar for more than a few minutes without being in excruciating pain,” Wesu revealed.

After many hours of effort and pain, This is My Party was released in February 2012. The 14-track labour of love took four years to complete because the perfectionist (and proclaimed narcissist) wanted it to be on par with other work.

While it has received positive reviews, Wesu asserted he did not do the album for the critics.

“I didn’t do the album for the reception, I did it for myself. I was a dream that I had from the time I was young.”

With regular gigs at the Crane, Hilton and Bougainvillea along with Red Saturdays at Seven on 7, Wesu would like to spend his time and talent working with other artists on the island.

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