WEDNESDAY, SEP. 26: Kassandra Gabrielle Caines was the stand out performance in an incredible line-up of artists at the John Lennon Double Fantasy Tribute concert on Friday evening and we wanted to find out more about her. The granddaughter of lawyer and trailblazing MP Dame Lois Browne-Evans told us about her new found passion for music, her professional ambitions and the special relationship she had with her grandmother.


 

Talented singer Kassandra Gabrielle Caines has spent most of her life living overseas but her Bermudian roots are extremely important to her.

She left the island at the age of just three for a life in Philadelphia only returning for occasional vacation breaks.

However, her family, not least her grandmother, Dame Lois Browne-Evans, stressed heavily the importance of what it means to be Bermudian and that included an appreciation for the music.

When the late Dame Lois, celebrated lawyer and political figure, visited her granddaughter in Philadelphia, she would play her reggae and soca music to give her a taste of her island home.

Kassandra, whose stage name is Gabrielle K, recently returned to Bermuda for a year to experience it first hand.

Speaking to the Bermuda Sun she said: “My nana would permanently let me know where I came from that’s why I was so determined to come and live here for at least a year — it’s so important for me to know who I am.

“She would listen to reggae and soca music and she would make me listen to it all. My friends from Philadelphia would come over and say ‘what are you listening to?’ and I would be like, ‘this is my culture you’re just going to have to roll with it!’

“She would honestly have us all dancing to it and many of my friends had not even listened to any sort of reggae or soca music before but when they came to my house they knew it would be on all the time.

“I had a very close relationship with my nana — it was very difficult for me coming back for her funeral… that was my girl. I miss her dearly.”

Going by Kassandra’s outstanding performance at Friday evening’s John Lennon tribute concert, it is hard to believe that the 19-year-old has only been singing on stage for a year and has received no vocal training. She performed a rousing rendition of Lennon’s song Loosing You and was given a full standing ovation after organizers invited her to participate.

Kassandra began singing when she was 14-years-old and her first public performance was at Dame Lois’s 76th birthday party. 

Things got more serious last August when she won the Devine Voices Award at the Bermuda Gospel Festival and went on to perform at the Premier’s Concert in November. Then in February this year she was given the opportunity to open for American singer/songwriter Brian McKnight at the Fairmont Southampton Resort. She said her time in Bermuda has opened up opportunities that would have been difficult to get in the US.

“I know a lot of people will say that Bermuda doesn’t have a lot of opportunities but I was here for a year and I have done things that I know I wouldn’t have been able to do in the US because of the fact that it is such a huge playing field there.

“I feel that Bermuda has equipped me well — I wouldn’t want to sit on the opportunities that I have had now. I feel there is so much more I can do.”

Kassandra’s musical roots are in gospel but her influences cross all genres. Among her favourite singers include CeCe Winans, Whitney Houston, Lauryn Hill and Amy Winehouse.

“I admire artists who you can feel when they come on stage,” she explains. “They understand where they are coming from and they just let it all out on stage.

My music is gospel inspired but it had a rock edge to it. I definitely appreciate the roots I have with gospel music but I don’t want to be pigeonholed by it as well. A lot of people say: ‘Gospel? what is she doing singing this?’ But I believe that as humans we are all given these emotions and music is an outlet for that. God gave us all these emotions and we’ve got to get it out some way.”

Kassandra is currently looking into a number of Performing Arts Schools, including the prestigious Juilliard School in New York.

“I’m looking at Music Business and Vocal Performance because I’m interested in learning about the music industry as well. My ultimate ambition honestly — I don’t know if I want to be famous but I know I don’t want to settle for anything less than I can get. If it’s not fame and fortune that’s fine — I just want as many people to hear my voice as possible and make the most of every opportunity I am given.”

Upcoming show: If you missed Kassandra at the Lennon concert you can see her at the TEDx Conference in Bermuda on October 13.