Published on: December 13, 2014
Nicknames can be peculiar, little things. A childhood endearment that sticks past its prime... A personality trait that paints an unwanted picture...
So, what do you call a Trini-Canadian DJ who dishes as flavourfully as he spins, infusing a humanitarian spice into his music, his food and his life?
Join us, in a deliciously simple space as Cheyenne Baptiste coaxes and caresses our appetites, for DI eats...
Daylight turns to moonlight, and I'm at my best
Praising the way it all works, gazing upon the rest
The cool before the warm, the calm after the storm
I wish to stay forever, letting this be my food
But I'm caught up in a whirlwind and my ever changing moods...
- Ever Changing Mood, The Style Council.
Campus radio in Toronto. It's not quite where it started, but where it probably all started to come together...
C: My dad was from Maraval, was in Harlem with the Black Panther Movement, and my mom – originally from Barataria, was exploring the Virgin Islands/Tortola. They met in Canada, then raised me in Montreal, Edmonton and Toronto. I was back and forth between Canada and Trinidad since pre-school, and exposed to the Grand Stand... All Stars... Kitch! Even soul, funk and the heavy metal of the 80s. So, I was always starting...
Starting to discover my musical preferences – from the parang, parang, parang of my childhood Christmases to the beat boxing and rap of my hip hop years. Discovering jazz, funk, lounge, underground house, underground hip hip and this broken beat, new kind of jazz. Then world music, garage music, naked music, any good music!
And here, I've started again because, the thing is, I always wanted make a difference, especially with children. I studied psychology, volunteered, worked with Youth at Risk. At the same time, I was also interested in Communications and Marketing. So I jumped into that, too. But then the advertising industry crashed in Canada, so here I am: starting, again.
Very superstitious, writing's on the wall
Very superstitious, ladder's bout to fall...
- Superstition, Stevie Wonder.
DI: We've cozied up inside Cheyenne's dining nook, Big Fat Llama in hand, as a plump melongene smiles from the counter top. Sliced almost delicately, the pride he takes in his ingredients – and even more so, local ingredients – is apparent. The eggplant, he explains, will be slow roasted in the oven and fried gently before dusting with Parmesan to serve on multi-grain bread.
He shares casually that his mom was the cook. His dad could, too, but his mom fed the family. And infused him with all of the energy and understanding and hard work that goes into it. As well as the fun. Until, to Cheyenne, it became art. From the service and ambience of an enjoyable dining experience to the dependability of a Naparima Girls cookbook recipe. But, right now, the art is in the layers... He's adding steadily as his mind meanders with us. And then he flicks a few grains of salt over his shoulder.
C: This was meant to be a one-week visit. But, I was unemployed! And really willing to work anywhere. So the trip became a transition.
The transitioning part was challenging but I think it was one of the best decisions that I’ve made because being on my own is kind of humbling. There isn't really a huge difference between the people in Trinidad – their behaviours, the attitudes – and the rest of the places I’m from, you know. But what I’ve discovered is that people are not so perfect.
Society has changed everywhere but if you have a true Trini friend, that is a real friend. So I've been able to make friends and I've been able to work... With Abovegroup, TEDx, Anya Ayoung Chee, Meiling, Fanatic Kitchen and, now PSI Caribbean trying to make a difference in young peoples' lives. And it's been a really good experience!
Sometimes I miss the anonymity but I enjoy the simplicity, and finding happiness through simplicity. Just being content. Not at all mediocre, but just enjoying nature and taking some time to smell the grass... That's important.
You need to pick your afro, daddy
Because it's flat on one side...
- Afro Interlude, Erykah Badu
DI: But then he starts to clean. With a method and a logic and an explanation related to ethnic fatigue psychology and clutter. But we haven't tackled the kingfish and risotto yet. And neither has he. The rice for the risotto needs to be sauteed – layers, again, ladle by ladle, little by little – to get texture. Between acts, as it were, we browse the neatly lined shelves, filled with Cheyenne's eclectic assortment. He admits that a lot of it is still in Canada and that he doesn't entertain much, preferring to absorb more of his Caribbean roots at a languid, leisurely culinary pace, enhanced by the mood set by his impressive collection of music.
C: There are jazz festivals that are really just about really good jazz. In Montreal. Even in Edmonton with Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder. But there are also music festivals, like Tobago Jazz. More of an everything in one. You get Erykah Badu and Chaka Khan and amazing energy levels! Jazz purists might say, “That's not jazz!” Which is cool.
I used to be a hip hop purist – that was all you'd hear in my apartment. Then I was introduced to the rave scene and these underground parties... Campbells parties: random directions on a Campbell's soup can. But sometimes they played this really soulful house – reminiscent of the stuff we grew up with – and I realized that it was stuff that I could really get into it, not knowing that a lot of the major cities have their own style of house music. And that there are so many genres to discover, so many incredible musicians out there.
Which, eventually, led me to discover Gilles Peterson, who is undoubtedly one of my biggest influences: pirate DJ out of London, avid record collector and one of the creators of acid jazz... He's like the Oprah of music – seeing the talent, before anyone else in Jamiroquai, Brand New Heavies, Jill Scott...
You discover. You grow. You learn.
Tonight we fly
And how I try
To find that space
And crawl inside...
- Alone, Orange Sky.
DI: Everything about this meal is a gentle, mindful process. The folding of the avocado into the risotto. The kingfish tenderly seasoned and seared in olive oil. The bread caressed with garlic for taste. Sprinkled with parmesan, it's an entirely different type of Sunday lime...
C: I dream here. I dream in colour. Of raising a family and giving them the experience that my parents gave me. That’s my dream, of one day eventually carrying on my generation. My skills. I’d like to say to them, 'This is my home, my sanctuary. That is my record collection. This is my studio.'
But I definitely want to pursue my career a bit and keep the culture alive. My end story would be to be able to tell my kids, or just anybody interested, to do what they enjoy doing. That’s basically it. There are so many opportunities now and creativity is great for competition.
So, do what you enjoy doing. You know?
Just get in there, buddy!
Listen to our Sunday Playlist here.
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