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Skinny Fabulous’ dancehall love affair - Vincentian artiste says career started with lyrics penned on local rhythms

Published:Monday | December 30, 2019 | 12:27 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
Skinny Fabulous (left) says he modelled his early career off dancehall heavyweight Bounty Killer.
Skinny Fabulous (left) says he modelled his early career off dancehall heavyweight Bounty Killer.

“It was my first real genre that I fell in love with,” Skinny Fabulous told The Gleaner. The Vincentian singer-songwriter said his interest in music was sparked by dancehall, and, in an attempt to start a career as a recording artiste, he penned lyrics to rhythms from the Jamaican genre.

Skinny Fabulous, born Gamal Doyle, said: “I have a genuine appreciation for dancehall music, for artistes like Bounty Killer and so many others, and after I came to study at The University of the West Indies’ (UWI) Mona campus, the interest metamorphosed.”

The Happy artiste absorbed every type of education he could while studying media and communications at UWI – it meant learning the culture, the attitude and the entire way of life of Jamaicans. Skinny Fabulous says back in the day, he modelled his career off Bounty Killer.

After graduation in 2010, he returned to the land of his birth, but there was a calling to fuse dancehall with the genre that was more popular there. He developed a signature style that was, like dancehall, aggressive, some lyrics laced with social commentary. He is a five-time Soca Monarch winner for St Vincent and the Grenadines and holds the 2019 Road March title for the hit collaboration with Bunji Garlin and Machel Montano, Famalay. Other popular tracks, Head Bad, Mash Up and Behaving the Worst, are at the top of the Caribbean’s soca playlist.

“When I come to Jamaica to perform, it almost allows me to express the love and respect I have for the dancehall,” he said.

“Back home, in St Vincent, it is not the norm for me to include dancehall in my set, but it is something I would do in any performance because the respect for dancehall is so tall. I can say, if I do a dancehall track at any point in time, it is received very well by the people.”

Carnival seasons

According to Skinny Fabulous, road marches are his playground, as they act as a platform where he can let loose. But seeing him deliver his high-energy sets, few would know that he struggles with asthma.

He said: “It has been worse; now I have control of it. Two puffs of the [asthma] pump before I go on a stage and two puffs after,” especially in the busy carnival seasons.

Skinny Fabulous does not get a break between carnival celebrations in Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica – it has become a routine and easier to prepare.

“Fortunately, Jamaica Carnival falls right after Trinidad’s, so I am normally already in soca mode. I enjoy coming to Jamaica to play on the road, I think it is one of the better carnivals – a growing, real destination carnival – so I am looking forward to it, every day I do. And I’m impressed with the way it has grown exponentially over the past five years,” he said.