“Khamelien”, pronounced, (ke-me-le-an), like the reptile, grew up on the beautiful island of Trinidad. Born Damien Dominique Reid, “Khamelien” and his family struggled to make ends meet after his father left them with little more than a roof over their heads and moved to Canada. His family knew that no matter how bad things got, they always had each other and their friends and neighbors. The people of his small town would simply find ways to help someone in need. “When someone needed something and someone else had it, they gave it to them. That’s just the way it was” recalls Damien. “That’s how people showed love for one another”.
Searching for a way to fit in to the diverse culture of the island, a young Damien studied the many musical rhythms that surrounded him. He learned to use these sounds to entertain himself and his family. While other kids his age were just hanging around and often got in trouble, he would take any opportunity he could to sing. He remembers singing in his church choir at the age of 7. Even though he was the youngest member of the choir, he was also one of the best singers. While everyone praised his talent, he was just happy being part of a group. He recalls how he would rush off after church to meet his friends and how they would spend hours singing the songs that were popular at the time. He learned to use music as a way to be accepted. Despite not having much money, he realized there was plenty to be happy about. He had family, and friends, and he had music.
Priding himself on always being able to adapt to any situation, especially musically, his friends quickly started calling him “chameleon”. He later changed the spelling, using “Kh” in keeping with Rastafarian tradition and ending it with “ien” as in Damien, his birth name.
Mired in poverty, “Khamelien’s” mother looked for a way out and a better life for her children, so she packed up their few personal belongings and headed to Brooklyn, New York. Although they had little in hand they brought plenty in their hearts. “Khamelien”, then a teenager, says that as he was leaving Trinidad, his friends all told him he should pursue his musical talents when he arrived in the states. These words of encouragement are what drive him today. Although he was uncertain of what lied ahead, he knew that he always had a song to sing and those songs contained a big part of him, his homeland. And so the journey along with a dream began for the youngster from Trinidad.
Upon arriving in New York, he spent a lot of time trying to hone his musical talents. He began writing his own songs and could often be found on the local street corners of Brooklyn and in Ozone park Queens, New York, singing and rapping with the local crowd. His style was unique. His songs were more R&B with some Ragamuffin (A form of Reggae) and a little street rap mixed in. This combined with a Caribbean accent made him stand out. His smooth and sweet voice started to get a lot of attention. He recalls how the people he hung around with would wait for him to show up; often so that they could impress a friend who had never heard him sing. He continued to work on his music and often entered music competitions. It was at one of these competitions that he was noticed by music producer, Dadu Pasquette, who brought him into the studio and helped him produce his first demo CD. This is when “Khamelien” began to think that maybe his dream could come true. This experience along with a later opportunity to work in a recording studio completed the picture for “Khamelien”. He now knew what he needed to do in order to become a complete artist. He needed to focus on the three key elements; the ability to write good songs, the ability to sing those songs, and the ability to record those songs. He was sure he could do all three.
It wasn’t until after 9/11, that he left New York and headed to Orlando Florida. There, “khamelien” began to work on his delivery and performance skills. He incorporated a “happy”, “easy” style he remembers feeling in Trinidad, with the “edginess” he acquired in New York. His first big break came when he landed a gig as the headliner at a popular Universal Studios night club. It’s there that claims to have developed what he calls “A party room” style that he describes “as a place where people have to find ways to fit in”. It’s the music that allows this to happen, he says. “It’s the sense that we belong that makes us feel good “. “It feels good to fit in”… Maybe we’re all Chameleons?