Jamaican Music Music Interviews

Taj Weekes Art Is His Social Conscience: Interview

SS: You have singing since the age of five, by age eleven, you were composing you own calypso songs how and why did you make the transition to reggae?

TW: Calypso is the dominant genre in St. Lucia now and was when I was a child so I naturally followed what was being played on the radio, but when Rastafari came into the picture with all it’s dynamics, I was instantly taken up with the music and lifestyle and then the transition followed.

SS: Who is your biggest musical and philosophical influences influence?

TW: Coming from an island where radio stations are not formatted musically I’ve listened to many genres of music so the influences run from the greats of Rock and Roll to the Blues to Country R&B and Reggae. Not really individuals but the music in general. Philosophically, His Majesty, Dubois, Garvey, Gibran, Rumi dem kinda people

SS: You are from the island of St Lucia where Calypso/so ca is very popular why did chose to do reggae music? 

TW: I didn’t choose to do reggae, reggae chose me.  I never really had the groove for calypso. Even though initially calypso music carried a message, the familiar backbeat in reggae was instantly recognizable to me, I felt its vibration more than I did the other kinds of music

SS: How would you describe your vocal style?

TW: I wouldn‘t.  I sing what I feel; if there is a style in there someone should let me know

SS: Why did you decide to sing music that “stirs thought, provokes discussion and inspires people to think for themselves, free from the constraints of the corporate media” as oppose to just music=2 0which is fun and entraining?

TW: When I sit to write I don’t decide to write songs people would describe as “stirs thought and provoke discussion” I write what I see, what I feel and whatever moves me.  I mean what is the use of art if it doesn’t provoke d discussion or stir thought. I would describe such art as dead. Music certainly doesn’t need another artist singing about rims and women’s body parts.  There’s enough of that already.  We’ve been jumping and waving for what seems like forever, maybe it’s time we sit down and get our thoughts provoked a little.

SS: You are socially conscious artist, your new CD DEIDEM (meaning “All of us) speak to that, are you working on any projects that the public should be aware of ?

TW: We are certainly working on other projects and they are not all musical. We are currently trying to change the diabetes crisis in St. Lucia.  We have the highest rate of diabetes per capita in the world.  We’re also working on a poetry book and we’ve adopted the correctional facility in St. Lucia to provide some kind of interventional therapy for the brothers and sisters who are incarcerated.

SS: Talk about the songs on the new cd DEIDEM, give us some insights into how and why you wrote songs like “Orphans Cry,” “Since Cain,” and “Dark Clouds” Orphans Cry

TW: The situation in Darfur I feel went quietly into the night or at least so it seemed to me. No one was saying or should I say singing anything about it.  Where were the brothers who preached about Africa in all their songs?  Were their televisions sets not working then, are their radios broken? The silence was deafening, so we wrote… “ the devils who ride on horseback love my sleepy eyes….the orphans cry on the outskirts of our lives, they cry, you indifferently deny…one tear too many one tear too many.

Since Cain
We listen and read the propaganda making us believe that there are less than human people living in different parts of the world so we wrote:
“is the god of the east not the god of the west or has he chosen some children and forsaken the rest” Dark Clouds “Spring comes early, Autumns late, Summer’s early old man Wint’ wont wait..
Do I really have to sing this for people to know that the environment is changing, maybe , so we do just to remind them  ‘ dark clouds don’t always bring rain, but smoke is=2 0a sign of fire.”

SS: You have a non-profit organization, The Orphan’s Cry Outreach, could you tell us about the organisation, its aim and what you hope to accomplish through it?

TW: It’s actually They Often Cry O outreach, www.theyoftencryoutreach.org. We’re hoping to give something back to our communities. We delivered 500 soccer balls and 600 uniforms to the children in St. Lucia a couple weeks ago and we are hoping to extend the program to other islands in the Caribbean soon. We are working on various things which we don’t really want to talk about now, however when the time is right we will inform the public about what it is

SS: Calypso is very popular in St Lucia, I interviewed Trinidadian reggae singerJamelody and he told me that, initially, his choice was not well received and local support was slow in coming in his homeland, has that been your experience or have you been accepted as a reggae singer in your home land?

TW: Well, what is most important is that we’ve accepted ourselves which is the most important ingredient to being accepted by the other people, but what we do is not about any particular place.  It is universal, but I do agree with the brother so me times.  The homeland support tends to be slow in coming.

SS: Describe your style of music and what is different about what you bring to music?

TW: We play what I call “classic roots reggae, and what  is different about what I bring to the music is me, my perspective.  I believe every artist brings a unique twist to the art form they’ve chosen. What gets boring is when we stop realizing the balance between being artistic and being commercial.

SS: Tell me about your brother’s influence on you in terms of you being a Rasta?

TW: My brother MPLA’s influence was one of pure love. He taught me to love myself and to always follow the voice inside my head. He taught me to live off the vibration and to let it guide my way. He taught me that we were inherently Rasta because Rasta is righteousness and that we were born in righteousness not in SIN.

SS: What does being a Rasta mean to you?

TW:It means that I’ve accepted the I and I philosophy where I the physical and I the spiritual are one. It means that I have comprehended the Divinity of man and the Humanity of God. It most certainly means that I have accepted the new name of Chris t

SS: One of the problems with reggae artist is management; you have a manager tell how has this helped you in your career?

TW: By providing the much needed guidance in legal and business dealings.

SS: Tell me about your European Sony distribution deal how as that helped your career?
TW: It gets the product out there, and creates more visibility

SS: What is, or has been the biggest obstacle you have faced as an artist?

TW: The public’s misconception that good reggae music can only come from one geographical location.

SS: What kind of music you grew up listening and how did that influence the creative process in your music?

TW: We listened to everything and I quite sure it did, though I cannot pinpoint to you the manner in which I am quite sure it had its effect.

SS: Tell me how moving to Canada and New York impacted your music career?

TW: Music didn’t become a career until I moved to Canada.  It was something that I had dabbled in before but it was not until I realized the possibilities in North America that it became a career

SS: As an artist what goals would like to accomplish?

TW: The only goal I would like to accomplish as an artist is to be true to the art form and whatever follows follows.

SS: After the death of your parents, the period of “wallowing in my grief,” did it teach anything about yourself as a person and an artist?

TW: As a person and an artist when you witness the death of the people who brought you into this world I think you realize your own mortality and that is when you tend to wallow in your grief, but the strangest thing about all this is that also realized that death in and of itself is redemptive.

SS: The name of your band is Adowa; in Rasta iconography the battle of Adowa is imprtanant, could explain the importance and significance of the name Adowa?

TW: The Italians came blazing with guns and ammunition and the humble Ethiopians beat them back with sticks and stones and the Ark of the Covenant.  A defining moment in the history of Ethiopia the world and Rastafari, leaving Ethiopia unconquered to fulfill the ancient prophecy of the Rise of His Imperial Majesty.

SS: For audience who do not know your music who is Taj Weekes, what is he all about and why should they listen to your music? 

TW: Taj Weekes is a reggae musician from St. Lucia who follows the oral tradition on truth and storytelling through his lyrics. Simply put.

SS:  Many young artists enter the music business with dreams of stardom and they end disappointed, how are you preparing yourself to meet the challenges you will face?

TW: The question has as I sense it the connotation that I will have to face the challenge of being unsuccessful where success in and of itself20is a relative term.  I’ve prepared myself to be a musician true to the art that I have chosen and to see it to wherever it may lead.  I play music; I don’t play stardom or failure.

SS: Your album ‘”Deidem” was in contention to be nominate for the reggae Grammy this year, how did you fell as young artist  and di it tell you anything about your music?

TW: Maybe before I truly overstood the manner in which the Grammy operated I would have been excited but no it didn’t really matter and there was no enlightenment to me about my music when I found out.

SS: When Taj isn’t composing music what do you do for recreation and relaxation?

TW: Play soccer and I read

SS: Do you think your style is unique, if so what is different about what you bring to the music industry?

TW: If I didn’t think my style was unique then I would be wasting my own time and also that of the public’s.  I approach the music lyrically from a National Public Radio point of view free from commercial manipulation and from a “wake the town and tell the people” point of view.

SS: Yesterday when I called you were at soccer match do you play or follow soccer?

TW: I play and follow, heavily.

SS: Would you like to do musical collab oration with any other artists, if so who and which genre?

TW: I am open to any collaboration that does justice to “collaborating” and in doesn’t matter with whom or what genre

SS: You are a reggae artist but what other genre of music would you consider your favorite?

TW: Reggae is my favorite but I listen to any genre as long as there is something in there  that moves me.

SS: As an artist what goals would like to accomplish?

TW: One goal, to be the best that I can be

Stan Evan Smith
Music-Editor-West.Indian.Weekly. (NYC)                                                           
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About the author

Glen Benjamin

I strongly believe there are 3 sides to every story. Telling each side is the challenge.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that - Martin Luther King