Cocono Bwai Prince of Brukdong,
February 15, 2018
It’s the 2017 KREM TV Awards, and a young, dynamic Belizean artist with a passion for his culture and his music has just garnered three major awards: The Brukdong Artist of the Year, The Wilfred Peters Award, and The Song of the Year, Border to Border. Singer, songwriter, and recording artist, Cocono Bwai, is realizing his dream … to be a positive influence and cultural advocate of his Creole culture, and to pick up the mantle from the pioneers that have gone before him and breathe new life into the Brukdong music genre for a new generation of fans. Although he looks out towards his future as an artist and performer with anticipation and confidence, Cocono Bwai often looks back on how his decision to pursue his musical career literally changed the course of his life.
Born Cecil Anthony Jenkins, Jr. in November 1996, his neighborhood environment was volatile to say the least, and conducive to young men turning to violence. So much so, that in the summer between his 2nd and 3rd year of high school, his longtime childhood friend was killed due to gun related violence. His friend’s death devastated him, and he wanted to retaliate and take revenge on the person who he heard had killed his friend. It was then that the first of two very influential voices spoke into his life. The first, his grandmother’s, spoke to him and encouraged him to stay positive and finish his education, reminding him that revenge wouldn’t bring his friend back.
The second voice was that of a caring and attentive art teacher from Trinidad who saw something in Cecil and encouraged him to enter the Belize National Song Competition as a high school junior at Wesley College back in 2014. The teacher had written a song called Pocono Boy, with which Cecil entered the competition, performed it … and won! His success showed him that he could, indeed, achieve anything he put his mind and heart toward. Pocono Boy became the inspiration for his artistic name, Cocono Bwai … and a career was born.
Cocono Bwai backed that debut performance up the following year by entering the competition as a senior with the song Belize Renewed, and won again, making history in the National Song Competition as the first artist to win back to back years as a junior and a senior. Belize Renewed also won song of the year.
In early 2016, Cocono Bwai linked up with Junie Mar, the 3-time Producer of the Year at that time. Both artist and producer shared a passion for Brukdong music, and decided to work together to bring this rich musical genre back into the limelight. The response to their collaboration was immediate, and their first song, Dengue Fever, was a hit as soon as it dropped!
In August of last year, with his career momentum building, Cocono Bwai got to work on his album, Prince of Brukdong, featuring his well-received hit, Border to Border. The 2-time defending champion of the National Song Competition entered last year’s contest, which was held at Memorial Park on a Saturday night. Twenty-one songs entered the competition that night, and when it was all said and done, Cocono Bwai retained his title for a record third time with his song, Border to Border, and is looking forward to defending his title later this year as he goes for the four-peat!
Later in September, Cocono Bwai gave another dynamic performance at SoundFest 2016 backed by the group Super Furia; and it was a tour de force Brukdong production, encouraging everyone in attendance that Brukdong was, indeed, back!
Moving forward, Cocono Bwai wants to build both his brand as an artist, and an awareness and appreciation for his beloved Brukdong music throughout the Caribbean and across the United States. His passion is to have people know what he’s really about, and to be known for his culture and style of music. Cocono Bwai is an artist who honors the legacy of those who came before him, like the late Wilfred Peters and Leela Vernon, the king and queen of Brukdong; and to this day appreciates the guidance and mentorship of world renowned artists like Lord Rhaburn, whose body of work as a calypso, soca, reggae and brukdong musician is the stuff of legend.
As his career and sphere of influence continues to grow, Cocono Bwai is looking forward to getting more exposure and committing everything he has to his craft. As the only artist that is really pushing and advancing Brukdong music today, he very much looks forward to promoting other young artists coming up in the future in order to pass down his love and passion for his Creole culture through education, music and culture so that the next generation will readily recognize their cultural identity and value.