You don’t need to be an avid fan of soca music in order to be familiar with Ezra ‘D’Funmachine’ Augustin.
With his exuberant personality and ability to captivate an audience, Ezra has gone from simply being one of Gros-Islet’s regular residents to becoming one of Saint Lucian’s most notable soca artistes.
Born and raised in Gros-Islet, he attended Saint Mary’s College and the Division of Arts, Science and General Studies at Sir Arthur Lewis Community College. As expected, he was not reticent about sharing his experiences as a soca star.
“Red Unlimited, my carnival band was celebrating their tenth anniversary and as one of the more hype-section leaders, we wanted to do something to commemorate the occasion,” said Ezra. “Thygeson Penn, a producer and director at Studio 758, had thisidea to do a song. We wanted to do something to portray what Red is all about and make sure it was ideal for the road. We were also known for being ‘stoosh’ which, of course, is not true, so that’s where the “No Stoosh” thing came about. When everything came together, ‘Bacchanal Rampage’ was born.
“It was my first time ever in a studio. We wrote and recorded the song the same day, with the help of Orlando ‘HyperD’ Phillip and Elnathan ‘Wiggles’ Cyrille. The song surpassed my expectations and before I knew it, I was performing at my first event in 2014. For Soca Monarch preliminaries, there was a bit of a controversy regarding the registration. The rules were strict back then but Thadeus Antoine stuck with me and I went all the way to the finals and won.”
Although he was delighted with his successful start, Ezra was not content to become a one-off phenomenon. He wanted to prove that he had staying power and was ready to take on the challenge.
“I believe that after winning Soca Monarch I had somewhat of a responsibility to deliver… to show people that it wasn’t a fluke and that I could still produce good music but not necessarily to win right away. That was basically what propelled me to continue on in the soca industry.”
Ezra went on to describe what it was like after his first win and how he set about laying the groundwork for a successful career in soca.
“The first key thing for me was feedback. Taking real feedback from experienced producers and the fans — everybody. Wherever I could get constructive criticism and feedback, I took it and it helped me develop in my craft. My main producer, Thygeson Penn, was my inspiration. I’ve also worked with other producers and that’s helped me greatly. I listen to other genres of music; dancehall and reggae, and from time to time I get inspiration from that as well. The people of Saint Lucia are also a major inspiration for me. If I put something out there and it doesn’t connect with them, then I’m quick to go back to the drawing board and see what they move towards and how it fits in with my identity. If there’s one thing I believe in, it’s identity… but they play a big role in my development even now.”
As with most career paths, that of a soca artiste doesn’t come without its trials and tribulations, and Ezra has faced quite a few.
“I’d say distribution. In terms of the song expanding, getting out of Saint Lucia, that was a problem. You need good connections, and with a huge event like Caribana, where you’ll find people from all over, distribution is important. If they’re listening to Bacchanal Rampage, you won’t know. Some people in Canada listen to it because there’s a Saint Lucian network there but what about the others? What about the Trinis, Bajans and Jamaicans? They don’t know about it and the main reason is distribution.”
Generally, problems can be solved, and for Ezra social media has proven to be one of his solutions. “In terms of overcoming that problem, there’s YouTube, other social media and regional/international DJs as well. But I’ve also faced challenges with my performances as well. It’s one thing to record a song and have it sound good, but delivery is a totally different thing. And like I’ve said before, I’ve grown a lot through feedback and crowd participation. I’m the kind of person that if I don’t see a reaction to my music when I get off stage, I’m not satisfied, and I have to ask myself questions: Why? Is it my energy level? The music? And then build off of that.”
When speaking about the people that inspire him, Ezra said, “I’ve been passionate about music for quite some time and there are many persons whom I can identify with. Performance wise, Bounty Killer; his energy, his drive, his passion when he’s on stage. In terms of lyrical content and consistency, I’d say Vybz Kartel. I’ll also mention Yardie, who I’m a big fan of — his personality, creativity and the manner in which he puts his lyrics, the play on words and so on.”
Inspiration for his music comes from quite a few people, but Ezra narrows it down to those who have helped him directly with the development of his craft. “Superman HD helped me with understanding the industry and he was there for me at my first performance. I’d also say Penn because he’s a producer/artiste who’s helped me in various ways. He told me that no matter what happens on that stage, I had to stay focused and be confident, and people will accept you.”
Recalling, his first moment on stage at Cooler Fete 2014, Ezra
said, “We had to do a sound check before the event and people were a little surprised
at how well I did after the fact. The night of Cooler Fete was more
nerve-wracking because now you have a packed crowd to perform for.”
Over the years, Ezra has matured a great deal in terms of his personality and his musical ability. While he’s never been a shy person and has always been one for bacchanal, experience and the responsibilities that come with being a celebrated Soca artiste have made him more focused and circumspect as a performer.
“As an individual I’ve matured over the years. In terms of my presence and how Saint Lucians see me, I’m considered to be one of the more well-known artistes on the island. So that’s a sign of development. My level of social responsibility has also grown. People, the youth in particular, look up to me so I have to be more careful in the way I do things compared to when I first started.”
Ezra’s dynamic personality and artistic skills, coupled with his engaging social media presence have won him endorsements from Climax and the Saint Lucia National Lottery. Digicel and Chairman’s Reserve are also partnering with him for future engagements.
Meanwhile, Ezra remains focused on developing his craft and enhancing his musical talent even further, including his current song X (Wine On Another Man) which happens to be one of his biggest songs to date. For all his achievements thus far, he gives thanks to God and his family and friends, and hopes to continue being an example to others. We wish him all the best.