Meet Mel – a Dominican Artist Heading to the Top

If you would take the time to listen to Melinda Ulysses’s music you would find that her voice – full of soul and passion, wraps around your body like an adoring lover.  Her melodies evoke waves of emotions that awash without warning and linger like licks of fiery flames that refuse to go out.  It’s effortless. Effortless, yet so powerful. By taking a novel spin on a 40-year-old genre born and bred in Dominica – Cadence and pairing that with strong French influence; fierce determination; hours of focused practice; and much investment, she is now a validated international performing artist going by the stage name Mel. 

In a little over a decade, Mel has come from what seems like nowhere to establish herself as one of Dominica’s most successful artists.  In the span of her career, she has shared the stage with the likes of Queen Ifrica, Tony Rebel and Christopher Martin, among others.  And has performed at some of the biggest shows in Dominica including Jazz and Creole and the World Creole Music Festival. Outside of her homeland, she has graced stages in Suriname, St. Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Reunion Island and France.  

Today, Mel, also the lead singer of Ti Orkest – two-time Cadance-lypso Champions, is signed to French Label Dreamtracks,and has been since 2017.  But, like every over-night success, it took years of consistent effort and navigating countless setbacks and disappointment to get to where she is today.  For eight years, music was a part-time job that she patiently invested in while teaching primary school.  Along the way in 2013, she participated in the National Queen Pageant which, by all accounts, increased her popularity on the island.  Shortly after, she moved on to become a singer for cruise lines which she would continue for another four years, all while working on her solo career. 

In 2016, with the release of her solo Touch Me her music career busted wide open. The catchy tune is a mix of Zouk and Kizomba and it is very difficult not to sing along; the remix featuring JmaX is equally addictive. Surely enough, this song is often referred to as her claim to fame and with over millions of views on YouTube, it isn’t difficult to see why. 

Through collaborations with artists from the region, seizing opportunities, more investment and relentless determination, Mel’s life has completely transformed. Not only is she a singer but she is also a songwriter, musician – with mastery over the piano and guitar, and does quite a bit of modelling during her downtime.  My conversation with her started with her definition of herself as an artist. 

This interview has been edited and condensed

Vynliz: Do you consider yourself as a Cadence-lypso artist? 

Mel:  Not really.  I can sing the genre – it’s the genre that my band – Ti Orkest is most known for.  I cannot say that I am disconnected, but as my identity as an artist, no; I don’t see myself as a Cadence-lypso artist. 

Vynliz: What does the future of Cadence-lypso look like to you? 

Mel: In relation to my band – quite bright. We are very talented individuals and the band right now is actually doing studio work on our next few singles, which are Cadence-lypso fusions. We want to keep the genre alive, but we also want to identify with the other types of music that we enjoy listening to and playing. There are also a few events on island seemingly making the effort to keep the genre afloat. So, all that contributes to a slow, but sure future for Cadence-lypso.

Vynliz: What do you feel when you think of what you have accomplished?

Mel:  My accomplishments are noteworthy. Especially since I did most of the work at the start of my career almost on my own. There are always people along the way of your journey that play a part in taking you further.  But most of the time it felt like I was fighting a huge battle, unarmed and unprotected, against a giant opponent. However, seeing where I am today, I’m happy that I did not quit and gave up.  

Vynliz:What were some of the most difficult periods in your musical career?

Mel: Some of the most trying times was at the start. I was living off of a small teacher’s salary, paying a mortgage, paying my bills and still helping my mom financially with my brother who suffers from a heart disease.  Some way, somehow, I found money and time to go to the studio to get songs out of my head. I was practically unknown in the music world and a lot of times I’d get treated unfairly by the studio engineers after paying for studio time; and even by the promoters and organisers of the shows where I performed. Being female, as well, I had a war with my mom every time I stepped out to go to a studio, whether it was new one or one that I had been frequenting, because most times I’d go alone. It was risky, but I knew how to follow my intuition and God protected me along the way. 

Vynliz: What would you say has been most fulfilling experiences?

Mel: The most rewarding times of my career are right now. I get to travel the world to share my art and passion. I have millions of views on my official videos. My social media fan bases are growing rapidly, and I am no longer the one to control or monitor them. I am being offered multiple, well-paying gigs, where my stage and hospitality riders are well catered to.  Endorsements are finally what they should be, both in the terms and conditions and in the financial benefits. The music that I release is protected and properly monetised. Most of all, I have a label and team behind everything about my artistic life. It’s a little harder than I thought sometimes, but I had been mentally preparing for it for a while. My privacy is almost none existent, due to a growing number of fans but it’s all good. It comes with the territory. I have a remarkable team who believed in me from the start and still allow me a say in most things that other artists are not privileged to have. 

Vynliz: What do you think can be done to help upcoming artists to jumpstart their career?  

Mel:I’m not sure what can be done to help upcoming artists. I don’t see what is being done by the people with the power to “help”. As in – give selflessly for country and for culture. It is one of the reasons why I had to leave and learn to adapt and cater to others, and maybe why I am still not accepted in my own land. Come what may, I don’t regret my choices. Artists need to start by helping themselves; reading up on copyright and what it means, for example.  Sadly, not many people want to help. I guess they feel that they’ve gotten to where they are now, without much help themselves; not sure if I can blame them

Vynliz:  Can you describe what your life is like right now? How would you describe this stage of your career?

Mel: It is wonderful. I feel accepted for the second time in my life. The first was when I became an entertainer on cruise vessels.  I don’t have to carry where I am from, who my parents are, my political affiliation, my religious views, my sexual orientation and the colour of my skin on my shoulders when I appear in front of a crowd. And it has a lot to do with the fact that my crowds these days come to sing along with me. It’s a sacred feeling to be unable to hear yourself sing because the people are in the thousands and singing so loudly. There are certain things that I am only now understanding as well, but it is simply because I am no longer doing everything on my own. I’m at a point in my career that I only used to hear and read about. 

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