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Koen Duncan 'shines high'

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by Upstream Staff Reporter

There are too many people hurting for me to just sing another nice reggae song. Koen Duncan 

 koen photo for page
 Koen Duncan


The maxim ‘good things come to those who wait' certainly holds true for fans of Koen Duncan. Their four year wait is over as the 25-year-old Trinidad-based Gospel music minister gets ready to release his second album titled Shine High.

When UpstreamMagazine.com spoke to Koen he had just wrapped up yet another gruelling rehearsal for the big launch on Friday May 8 at Upper Room Entertainment Centre in South Trinidad. This venue is idyllic as it's considered ‘the place to be' if you're young or young-at-heart and in search of a good, clean (alcohol free, smoke free) hangout with Gospel music pumping in the background. Once a month the Centre hosts Explosive Expressions, a semi open-mike session for upcoming poets, musicians, singers and other acts to showcase their talent.  This Friday the headliner is no other than Koen and his Shine High album launch.

Koen Duncan, for those who aren't familiar, is one of the more recognised Gospel artistes to come out of the Twin Island Republic.  Originally from Pleasantville, Koen grew up in Church and got saved at age 12. That's also when he started playing the saxophone and eventually found his singing ministry calling at age 16. He was the youngest member of the Gospel group Broadway Boys International and was the vocalist behind the group's smash hit "Whole Armour," before leaving to launch his solo career. His gift has certainly ‘made room' for him as he has toured several Caribbean territories including Jamaica, St Kitts, Grenada, St Vincent and Barbados and has been invited to minister at major rallies including the TD Jakes Youth Rally and the 2007 Youth Summit by Dr. Myles Munroe. His bold lyrics and contemporary style mainly drawn from the reggae/dancehall genre has earned him widespread appeal with today's youth. Koen has won awards for his first solo album "Bring Down" in 2005 including Best New Artiste, Album of the Year, Dancehall Album of the Year and Song of the Year from the Urban Gospel Alliance Awards which was held in Texas in 2006.

He's been married exactly one year and five months (yep, the brother is counting) to Crystal. Some might recall his 'straight out of the movies' proposal to his sweetheart while he was performing on stage at Zion, another Christian club in North Trinidad. In hindsight he admits with a chuckle, "I not sure if that was so wise" but he was grateful she said yes. (We are too Koen considering it was all over Facebook!) The Duncans attend the First Church of the Open Bible, San Fernando.

Here's more about the man, his ministry and the album SHINE HIGH.

Q. Koen, when you started your solo career, did you have any idea that you would step into this level of recognition?
A. I had no idea. I just asked God to have His way with my life. The rest is His doing.

Q. Getting down to business. Tell me a little about Shine High. How many tracks and what are your favourite songs on the album?
A.  The name came from Matthew 5:14 which speaks about us being the light of the world. That really spoke to me; it ministered to me. I was praying and I did a song on it and I really got the conviction to name the album Shine High. It's 14 tracks. I don't want to sound super-spiritual but it was all God. I did a lot of the tracks for the album, and after they were finished, then I did Shine High and when I decided to name the album Shine High I realised all the other songs were pointing in that direction. Then I really understood what God was doing. The album was produced by me. It was my first album project. We have a touch of jazz, reggae, dancehall and hip-hop. So it's a blend. There is soca in there too.

Q. What is the main message?
A. The message I want people to get from Shine High is really about lifestyle. This Christian walk is really about lifestyle. That and spreading the Gospel.

Q. Koen, why another album now? Some may say that that's unwise; we're in a global recession.
A. Recession or not we have our part to play in spreading the Gospel. The majority of the songs I get come from God. For me to not put this out there would mean ignoring the voice of the Lord.

Q. You are known for your bold lyrics. There's a trend now where some Gospel music is starting to sound more 'conscious' as opposed to overtly Gospel. Everybody seems to have jumped on the positive bandwagon talking about 'Father' and 'prayer' and ‘blessings' but you can't really tell who is who anymore. How do you feel about this trend?
A. It's actually God why you asked this question. That has a lot to do with the name of the album. A lot of us trying to fit in but we are not here to fit in. If it is that we are here to bring transformation and change to the world, then fitting in is not what we're supposed to be about. So it's really God why you asked that question. With light there is definition. If we are fitting in, how are we shining a light? How are we bringing about a difference? I don't want people to be offended but at the same time people need to understand why we are here. There are too many people hurting for me to just sing another nice reggae song.

Q. Koen, more often than not when you are introduced many of your female fans scream. I mean scream! What do you make of that and how do you handle the attention, especially from the sisters?
A. (Pause) Alright. The attention, I direct it to God from the time I reach on the stage. If I find the crowd is really [psyched] up. That is the perfect time to break out into worship. I believe in taking the people from where they are to where God can use you to minister to them.

Q. I know that your dad died two years ago from kidney failure. People were praying, I think there was a benefit concert of sorts. When he died, did that experience rattle your faith a bit?
A. It actually brought me closer to God. It was tough for me. I actually didn't make it known to many people but it was tough for me. My dad was one of the persons who supported me from the get-go so it was really tough, but the whole experience strengthened my faith.

Q. Tell me one thing that people may not know about you?
A. Hmm. I've never cooked a decent meal. My mom real spoil me and my wife is continuing the process so... (Big laugh.)

Q. What's in the works for Koen Duncan? What can your fans expect say six months after the big launch?
A. Next I'm launching my record label. That's the next move. I'm launching a video for Shine High also.


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