What's your full name?
Jeanine Säsha Ruiz
What are you now known for?
I believe I am known for being one of the few in-demand female musicians in Trinbago. (that sounds so cocky lol) I’m also known for arranging for live performances with many bands. In the Soca industry, I started with Nadia Batson and her all female band, SASS. Then Rikki Jai and the Jaimastarz, and now Nailah Blackman, being the keyboardist, musical arranger and band manager (Sokah The Band).
Do you have an artiste name and if so how did you get it?
Since I started my own company J9perspective, people began referring to me as J9. “J9” was one of my preferred nicknames from High School that was based on the spelling of my first name.
What is your Nationality?
What is the first performance you could remember and how old were you?
Hm! The first performance I could remember…
I was about 14 years old when my school mates and I (the band name slips my mind) were delightfully included in the line up for a Jazz event. I remember just after we played Michel Camilo’s “Caribe” introduction, the crowd made an applause that reassured me this is something I can get used to. The same group of us also led the school’s Parang band, Los Niños Del Este. The band kept us busy Christmas time and presented performances at the airport, at the Parliament and other great spaces. As one of the leaders, it started to teach me a lot of what I practice today.
Who is your biggest musical and non-musical inspiration?
My biggest musical inspiration is Hiromi Uehara. A Japanese pianist and composer. Absolutely extraordinary at her craft! It always amazes me how petite Hiromi may seem, but her music speaks of brilliance. As well as her performance highlights her undefeated physical and technical abilities behind a piano. My biggest non musical inspiration is Captain Sandy Yawn. I truly admire her strength as a female captain. Not only overcoming the stereotype in her industry but her great leadership skills. The way she carries about herself; setting an example for everyone and having her crew’s best interest and being undeniably amazing at her job.
Besides what you’re known for, just how musical are you? What else can you do really well?
I’ve never had an 8-4 and so, all these years I’ve been exploring myself musically. I love to compose and score to movie scenes, games and creating themes for my favourite comic book characters. I also produce for artistes of different genres (R&B, Latin, Soca etc). Being a studio musician, I’ve been happily a part of Soca productions. I really love to teach Music both public and private. People don’t know but I absolutely adore playing the cuatro, even more than the piano. Outside of music…I enjoy drawing and experimenting with art.
Are you married, taken, or single living your best life?
Definitely single and living my best life.
What is your most memorable performance to date?
I have a lot of incredible performances with different bands, but one that would always stay close with me is with the band Hyjnx. This is where I met some of my closest friends to date. The jazz fusion band performed at Tobago Jazz Festival 2013. Even though I’ve played on big stages with other bands at the time, this one meant a lot because this was our own band. It felt great to accomplish something like that. The entire experience was memorable: going on the ship together, choosing rooms, playing for 10s of thousands of people and receiving an encore! There was a bond between bands back at the hotel. Performers like Kes the Band, Arturo Tappin’s band who some of the members later became Machel Montano’s band and Hyjnx sat enjoying each other’s company post-show helping ourselves to the breakfast laid out at some ungodly hour. That experience ensured me that this is something I really want to do. After a great show, there’s a ‘high’ from the energy received from the audience that you know you’re doing something right.
Where do you see yourself in five years?
I see myself unregretfully having 4 scoops of chocolate ice cream by an amazing workstation somewhere around the world, composing the soundtrack for a Playstation game with my best friend, doggo. I’m definitely working on getting more into composing for film and games.
Who do you think is the most under-rated artiste in the Caribbean?
Man, there are so many. I won’t be able to name just one. But I will say… a lot of artistes and bands of different genres are off radar in the Caribbean because they’re not in the Soca world. When in fact, they’re so good, they can easily fit in with billboard names.
Can you cook? If yes, what's your best dish? If you can't cook, what's the dish you love to order?
Unfortunately, I can’t cook…yet! But I do plan on learning from my mum eventually! I do make really magical popcorn! I have a love for everything corn, so I must say…my go-to meal would always be corn soup. The dumplings, the coconut flavored soup…so much yes. I can never ‘not get’ corn soup if I see it randomly.
What genre besides Soca can we find in your personal music playlist?
Oh you can definitely find soundtracks. Film/Game soundtracks takes me on an incredible journey since I’ve known myself. I also have a serious love for Latin music. If it’s one genre that gets me to dance for hours, it’s Latin.
Life of the party or do you prefer to lay back and go with the flow?
I’m totally laid back. Instead of a party, I’m quicker to take off onto an unknown adventure and see where it takes me.
Not that I can think of honestly. Good with any creepy crawly creatures, love the dark, I’m an only child so I’m happy alone.
What is the next project the public can expect from you?
Personally, I love to experiment with different genres, create with no boundaries and collaborate with artistes and musicians. So I’m definitely going to be releasing singles.
Right now we’re preparing for Nailah Blackman’s concert Sokah Origins December 7th. Ijó is also preparing for our own concert right after, December 13th.
Any other rising stars in the Caribbean we should keep an eye out for?
I’d say to check out the underground scene in the Caribbean. The pop, the lofi, jazz, heavy metal, classical and even the Caribbean-inspired ‘fusion’ music based on our mix of races and traditions. We may not hear them on radio, but they’re pretty amazing! People have been on tours and winning music awards all over the world and we don’t even realise it.
If you had the chance to make one wish a reality, what would you wish for?
Honestly? I’d wish that there was stability for creatives in the Caribbean. The Caribbean is in excess of creatives (dancers, musicians, artists, actors, film makers and more) with no real industry to make a living. The fact remains, if you want to thrive as a creative, you’ve got to leave home and find somewhere that can allow you to be you, wholly. It sounds extreme, but it is fact. So many others have said it back then and I’d say the same today.
Ideally, no one wants to leave home, but the lack of a stable industry forces you to look elsewhere to make a life for yourself. Or else…get an 8-4.
Any last words for the people of Europe?
I was pleasantly surprised to see the enjoyment of Soca Festivals in Europe not only by Caribbean rooted persons but by everyone! I definitely encourage the festivals and I will add, bands are a part of that full Soca experience. That energy produced on stage gives the artiste drive and in extension the audience.
photo credit: Andrea De Silva