Wish upon Sammi Starr

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September 04, 2015

Music has been a part of Sammie "Sammi Starr" Poitier's life for as long as he can remember -- from his early days performing in church -- to laying claim to the title of being the first Bahamian to perform on Miami's Best of the Best concert stage, to winning the inaugural Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival's Music Masters song competition, earning a $20,000 grand prize and a promotional partnership with Sony Music Entertainment, he seems to have done it all. In between those years he's dropped a number of singles -- "Good to Know You", "I'll Never Leave" and "Pick Me" being some of the biggest of his career. Of the threesome, "Good to Know You" his first single to hit the airwaves was the song that made Sammi Starr a household name.
While he's done many things musically most people would find it difficult to believe, but Sammi Starr has never done a music video or ever released a single or album for sale. And it's not because he doesn't think he could do it, but he simply didn't stop to do it.
But in the not too distant future, Sammi Starr fans will be in for a treat when he unleashes his first full-length album, which he's currently working on, as well as music videos, having finished treatment for three music videos so far.
"I'm finally getting all that stuff done," said the man who considers the music art form to be a "release".
"When I'm able to go into the studio and record a song, sit down and listen to my voice on a record, when I'm able to sit down behind a piano and play the piano, it gives me a release where I actually leave myself, stand on the outside of myself and look at myself and see and say this is who you are. It's comforting, and causes me to accept where I am, and gives me the motivation to move forward with whatever goal it is I have in life. It's my aphrodisiac and also my catalyst," he says.
Before he became known as Sammi Starr, he was actually Sammie Poitier. He grew up in North Andros, and was pretty much a church boy, under his minister parents, Oswald and Sebrena Poitier and minister grandmother, Reverend Prudence Rolle, deceased, founder of Mt. Freedom Baptist Church in Lowe Sound, Andros -- the church he grew up in. It was in that church that he was introduced to music and where he drummed for the youth choir and sang.

Credit to his father

Sammi Starr attributes his start in music to his father, who was a musician in his own right in his hey day in the late 70s and 80s with the "Gospel Music Train" group. The song "Communication" was probably their biggest hit. He says as a youth he heard music all the time in their home -- whether his dad was playing gospel records, or playing one of the many instruments he played.

"When I was about four years old he got a drum set for me... that was the first instrument I ever got and it just went uphill from there."

Sammi Starr also plays keyboard.

In high school he started putting pen to paper and writing his version of what he considers songs. And it was at age 16 that he realized that he really had a voice. But of course, he lived on Andros. He graduated high school, and did what was expected of him, and that was to obtain a college education and become a doctor, lawyer, accountant. He aspired to become a lawyer, then minister and prime minister. He enrolled in the College of The Bahamas (COB) studying law and criminal justice. But it was also while at COB that the freshman's music world exploded when he was exposed to cable and music videos on BET and MTV. His interest in music was further sparked when he saw Ginuwine's "Pony" music video.

"He was dancing and I saw that the ladies loved the song and the dancing and it sparked my interest," he recalled.

He started looking for studios. He wanted to play keyboards, possibly record a song and learn how to make tracks. He was after the whole studio life experience.

Sammi Starr came across Milky Way Studios (now defunct) owned by Gregg White where he spoke to Angelo Martin with whom he had something in common -- Martin's family was from Andros. He invited the youngster into the studio that
eventually closed. Martin and Sam Gray purchased White's equipment and opened Funk Epidemic Recording Studio on Carmichael Road. That was the beginning of "the thing" that would create Sammi Starr as he started to record his own material.

Sammi Starr was in a camp that included other teenaged artists that included the likes of Rik Carey, lead singer from the Grammy-award winning Baha Men and MDeez. They called themselves the Funk Epidemic Crew and would write and record songs on CDs and take them to radio stations to try to get them played. They didn't get any airtime.

"The deejays would tell us you have to fix this, fix that. But all of us just persevered," recalled Sammi Starr.

He said he hit a lull in the process and his mother told him that music didn't seem to be working for him. She told him to go to school. He enrolled in Pfeiffer University in North Carolina, from which he earned a Bachelor's degree in finance and marketing.

While in North Carolina he dabbled in music of course, and sought out studios. He even entered a "You Got Talent" competition and won. That earned him the opportunity to meet award-winning record producers with whom he got the chance to work, and he said that flipped the switch for him. Unfortunately, eventually he had to return home and land a job. He started working in corporate but his interest in music did not wane, so he kept at it.

Breakthrough
"When I came back home it was around the time that culture music was extremely popular." He recorded "Good to Know You" to that culture sound. It's probably one of the most popular songs Sammi Starr has to date. Initially he was encouraged to not release the song, which he was told was "pretty boring". But he took it to a radio station with no expectations considering what he'd already been through with not getting any airtime.

"I took the song to Reality, and I didn't expect anything much because I was used to the process. But one evening I was listening to the radio and I heard him playing the song. I was in complete shock. I pulled to the side of the road and turned the radio all the way up. The only thing I didn't do was stop all the cars and say that's me on the radio."

People started requesting the song, and wondering as to who he was. He didn't even have his Sammi Starr moniker yet. He was working on his Starrboy Inc. production company that had people nicknaming him Star Boy. They eventually put Sammi Starr together. He felt it was a catchy stage name and went with it.

The first time he performed as Sammi Starr publicly was at Terneille "TaDa" Burrows' album release event in 2007. From there he continued making music and working with different artists and entertainers, and started getting calls from promoters.

In the last three to four years he's had about four singles that were pretty major, but not as major as the songs that made him a household name like "Please Stay", a mid-tempo R&B song which some people may not know is his song because it has a rapper in the beginning of it; another pop/reggae song called "Not Over You" that was released internationally; and another song called "Show Me the Way Remix", another pop/reggae song.

Sammi Starr at this point says his music is pop based if forced to pick a genre, but he's done music across the board, to reggae tracks and the R&B pop track. Because of his message and vibe he considers himself a Bahamian pop artist more than anything else. He's also a member of the Bahamas Rat Pack Group with MDeez, D-Mac and Sosa Man, four artists representing four genres of music in a pushback to the discussion in the entertainment community that it's not Bahamian if it's not rake n' scrape.

"We came together to show that no matter what genre you represent in music that we can still work together simply because we're all Bahamian artists trying to work towards one goal," he said.

The Rat Pack Group also engages in civic work in the community, and as a group has performed at Miami's Best of the Best.
Sammi Starr is preparing for Bahamas Junkanoo Carnival 2016. Two of the songs that he plans to enter into the competition will be featured on his upcoming full-length album. He's also working to help up and coming artists develop and manoeuver through the industry easier.

"For everything we went through as artists, I really think if we could make it a little easier for younger entertainers that are coming up to not have to struggle as much as we did," he said. "I think we're obligated to doing that."

And while music is big in his life, his family -- wife Racine, and daughters Marlee and Kimay are even more important.

"I'm big on family... I'm a huge family man -- people know my family more than they know me, because I post stuff about them more than I post about myself," he said.

Click here to read more at The Nassau Guardian

News date : 09/04/2015    Category : About Bahamians, Music, Nassau Guardian Stories

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