Fabian: man of figures, drama, music
Education: Canadian Institute of Chartered Business Valuators; University of London; University of the West Indies, Cave Hill Campus; Barbados Community College; Combermere School.
Qualifications: Chartered Business Valuators (Candidate) [Ongoing]; Master of Science in financial sector management; Associate degree in finance and investments; Bachelor of Science in banking finance.
Occupation: finance/retail/sales and marketing consultant, and professional musician, songwriter and artist.
If one picked up a book written by Fabian Bartlett and turned to the back to read the short summary about the author, what would it say?
Enthusiastic and completely committed to any cause he represents, Fabian Bartlett is an example of how anyone can be successful, in spite of trying circumstances. From humble beginnings, he has worked hard in areas of academia, sports and the arts, and defied the odds to establish himself as a talented singer, songwriter and musician, and a well-rounded business professional.
Which four words best describe you?
Driven, enthusiastic, passionate, diverse.
What drives you and keeps you motivated?
Deep-rooted belief in God, burning passions for the various things I was/am involved in, and knowledge of my ability/potential to execute given tasks.
I perhaps enjoy a dare a bit too much. I am madly motivated when told “it can’t be done”, or that “I don’t have the capacity to . . .”, or “that’s a crazy decision”.
Having completed secondary school, you entered UWI, Cave Hill, to pursue studies in banking and finance. Why the crossover to this area, given your background of technical and science subjects?
This is purely because of one reason: my first job at Scotiabank. After Combermere, I started working at Scotia, in an effort to generate some funding to help further my studies.
I wanted to be an architect, hence the tech and science subjects at secondary school. However, after some encouragement from Scotia supervisor Suzanne Stuart and manager Harriet Harewood, I decided to study banking and finance. I’ll be honest and say that to this day I don’t think those two know how heavily they influenced my decision; but I’m quite happy they did.
Having completed your Bachelor’s in banking and finance, you enrolled in an Associate degree programme in finance and investment at BCC. Some people would see this as a backwards step. Why the need to study this area, and why BCC?
This is actually a superb question. I developed a love for investments, but there was not an investment programme at UWI, or any other tertiary institution in Barbados. BCC later developed the programme, and after reviewing the modules, and having a discussion with the main facilitator Mr Luther Jones, I decided to enrol, and use the programme as a stepping stone to further my education at the graduate level.
Yes, many persons thought this was a backward decision, and that I was wasting my time. Fuelled by comments, and personal passion and drive, I went on to not only complete the programme, but win an award of excellence after having a 3.90 GPA –– and ultimately a scholarship to assist in funding my graduate studies.
Between 2008 and 2011 you served as a consultant in three companies: First Executive Recruitment Services, Skyviews Caribbean Ltd (Grenada/Barbados) and Sagicor Life Incorporated. Were these consultancies all finance-related?
Definitely not. Thankfully, I have been exposed to many areas of business. With Executive Recruitment Services it was mainly a human resources-based role, where I assisted in identifying suitable business executives for large corporations literally all across the world.
Skyviews is the premier map-publishing company in the Caribbean, and I travelled to Caribbean countries negotiating with government officials, schools, churches and many businesses for advertising space and a bigger presence on each of the country’s maps. Sagicor was more finance-related, and I operated mainly in Model Office, where we tested various applications and financial products.
If you had to choose an animal that best represented you, which would it be, and why?
No doubt, a lion. The tenacity, resilience, leadership capacity and hunting abilities are all aspects of a lion I believe are reflected in me.
If you were to become a superhero, what would your name be and what powers would you have?
As it relates to powers, I would perhaps choose to be telepathic. The mind and our thoughts ultimately control the way we behave. If I were a superhero, I would have immense control, if I could infiltrate a person’s mind. I’m struggling on the name –– but it would probably be something cheesey.
If you were given $1 million and could not use it in any way to benefit you or your immediate family, what would you do with it?
I would split it among a few things –– first the arts. The more we invest in the cultural industry, the greater benefits we can derive; and as an artist, I would want to see greater infrastructure. One million dollars, or part thereof, wouldn’t be enough, but I would want to commit some funding to a dedicated building where music, dance and theatre come alive.
I feel the very same about sports, particularly volleyball, and would perhaps invest in an indoor court.
Music is a huge part of your life, playing a significant role in many of your accomplishments. When did you start on piano, and how did you get involved with the gospel reggae band KDB?
I started playing the piano from Combermere days, and was involved in music in both school and church from quite young. I used to hang out at Abundant Life Assembly quite often, and the original members of KDB were all members of Abundant Life. They embraced me, welcomed me in as one of their own, and soon enough I got involved in the band.
How did singing and songwriting get into the equation, and what motivated you to enter the Pic-O-De-Crop calypso competition?
I was always into singing and songwriting, but more so at church and at school. I would have been involved with several groups, chorales, choirs . . . and would have written or made a musical contribution through the years. However, I always had a burning passion for social commentary.
I admired how calypsonians could relay in song issues that were relevant. I knew at some point I had to do it too. Wayne Poonka Willock attended the same church I did back then, and he not only encouraged me, but produced my very first social commentary called Sweet Kaiso.
The song went on to place third in the Barbados Workers’ Union Calypso Competition in 2007. That’s where it all began.
Having taken a two-year break, you have returned to the calypso arena with a bang. Your song Freundel Speaks is receiving good rotation and high reviews online. What led to the break, and how did you know now was the time to return?
My former employers are the auditors of the National Cultural Foundation (NCF), and therefore it was a conflict of interest for me to compete in any NCF-produced competition. After wrestling with the circumstance for two years, my love for commentary won the battle, and I respectfully made the choice to move on in my career.
With your Fruendel Speaks on a Sweet Soca riddim, with beautiful backups, strong hook and lyrics, is your other song Sing Wah De People Wan Hear with its sweet band chorus. Tell us about your approach to your songs this year.
It’s important to remain relevant, and I am very conscious that music must be current. My commentaries are purposely designed that the younger demographic can be attracted, while still maintaining the essence of what those rooted in commentary want to hear.
Chris Allman is a genius, and he and I have developed a great working relationship through the years. He understands me well, and, thankfully, we are able to represent my ideas in song, sound and musicality.
Your stage name is Fabee. Is that just a play on Fabian, or does it have another meaning?
My mum and immediate family used to call me Fabee from very young; but the name really took off from church. I spent a bit of time with young people from Abundant Life Assembly, and someone (I really can’t remember who) started calling me Faby-Baby, which for years, particularly in the gospel arena, I was known as.
When I started singing calypso, I dropped the Baby, and changed the spelling.
You were once a model who graced the stages of BMEX, Barbados Fashion Week and Caribbean Fashion Week. You also won Best Talent at Mr Barbados World in 2007. How has modelling and pageantry contributed to your development, and do you think you would ever return?
Time management, discipline, self-confidence, self-respect, respect for others, meeting deadlines –– all these characteristics, and more, were developed and honed through modelling and pageantry. It was great exposure to the stage, culture and decorum. My contribution now to that industry is as a mentor and judge.
It would be remiss of me not to mention Stephanie Chase, who truly taught me the rudiments of modelling and pageantry.
You were the proud recipient of two Silvers and one Gold at NIFCA for your drama and acting. Would you be re-entering NIFCA in the near future? And, is it possible we may see you
in a local film?
I did a piece a few years ago called I Am Somebody with the St Leonard’s Boys’ Choir for NIFCA, which won a Bronze award. NIFCA is a great avenue for expression, and I will be involved
again at some point.
I was asked to play a leading role in the popular Barbadian movie Payday, but had to decline because of a hectic travel schedule.
Who has contributed to your success?
First and foremost, God Almighty. I have had a strong Christian upbringing, and am superthankful for God’s blessings throughout the years.
My mum Carmen Walcott and sister Shernelle Bartlett have loved me at moments when I thought I was unlovable. And the late Dorien Pile, former principal of Combermere School, as well as Corene Brathwaite, my first volleyball coach, believed in me, and in my potential. They saw things in me which I at the time I did not see in myself.
What’s next for Fabian –– or should that be Fabee?
Being judged. Headliners Calypso Tent faces the judges on June 30 at 8 p.m. at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre. I am looking forward immensely to being back on stage in that environment.
Wear your orange, and come out in your numbers and support!
(If you are a young Barbadian professional or know of any worthy of being highlighted for their amazing contribution, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org)