Barbados, which produced world chart-topping singing sensation Rihanna, has another up and coming International singing star in the entertainment galaxy.
23 year old singer/songwriter and aspiring lawyer Shontelle (real name Shontelle Layne) is currently burning up the US Billboard hot dance club charts with two 2008 singles, “T Shirt” and “Battle Cry”.
Shontelle’s rise to stardom started in her native Barbados, where from an early age she was part of a musical family, singing and playing the piano. However it was while studying entertainment law at the University of the West Indies (UWI) that she started writing songs for some Caribbean big-name artistes.
Ironically, it is “Roll“, a rhythmic women’s anthem she penned four years ago for Barbadian soca Queen Allyson Hinds, that today anchors Shontelle’s just-released debut album, “Shontelligence”
“Shontelligence” merely defines the knowledge that I have acquired throughout my life, the knowledge yet to be absorbed and ultimately the product of all my experiences which I then translate into my music,” she says of the new CD.
The album, distributed by the world renowned Universal/Motown label, is a collaboration between American music producers Evan Rogers and Carl Sturken, the same duo that discovered Rihanna as a teenager in Barbados.
In fact, it was while in Barbados, searching for the writer of “Roll” to license it for International release, that Rogers and Sturken met Shontelle and discovered she was not only a writer, but a singer and a looker.
“We couldn’t believe that she was such a great singer and so young and beautiful and hadn’t been discovered yet,” remarked Rogers.
Rogers and Sturken signed up Shontelle immediately. Then they spent the next six months creating her first album, co-writing with her and involving other A-list producers like Sean Paul and Marc Jordan (who also worked for Rihanna). The next step was to introduce her to music mogul Steve Rifkind of SRC Records, who fast-tracked the debut album.
On the album she seeks to create a unique sound, meshing the musical backdrop of her Caribbean heritage with soul and hip-hop, much like the formula developed for Rihanna.
Rihanna, now 20, and Shontelle share more than the music spotlight. While in high school in Barbados they were both part of a youth volunteer military cadet corps. During a school cadet camp the older Shontelle served as drill sergeant over then newcomer Rihanna.
“She was a good cadet,” recalls Shontelle, “though there was one occasion when I had to make her drop and give me ten push-ups. We laugh about it now. I think she’s forgiven me.”
Little did either of the teens know at the time that they would meet again while following the same dream of becoming international music stars.
Author: Brett Callaghan