The social ills so easily disregarded or stitched into the fabric of everyday life in the Caribbean is where reggae artist Taj Weekes draws inspiration from. On his upcoming fourth album “Love Herb and Reggae,” scheduled for release in February 2015, he attempts to shatter long held stereotypes about Rastafarians, like himself, using his voice and lyrics with a strong message.
On the album’s first single–“Here I Stand”–the native St. Lucian uses his talents to endorse same sex relationships. It’s a radical stance given some famous reggae artists strictly oppose that lifestyle and proudly sing their disapproval. While on tour, Weekes was accused of being that homophobic Rasta by an interviewer at the South by SouthWest Music Festival. Weekes says the idea that “everybody with locs” shares the same views is what prompted him to release the uptempo bass-infused tune as the album’s debut song.
“People tend to generalize, I don’t think every Rasta is homophobic or against gay lifestyles. They’re probably afraid to say they aren’t because the islands they live in may accuse them of being gay. I don’t care if people call me gay. In this stage of my life I have to live in my truth,” expresses Weekes.
The reggae artist/poet is using his reluctant LGBT advocacy to enlighten listeners about the “Love Herb and Reggae” album’s meaning and message.
“The ‘Love’ portion of the album is the first single. It leaps off the album by inviting everyone in, no matter who their sexual partner is,” explains Weekes. ” ‘Herb’ is not used in the sense of sensationalizing of marijuana. It’s being used as a sense of healthy lifestyle. Rasta uses all kinds of herbs–parsley, dandelion, thistle. And ‘Reggae’ is to go back to being a town crier’s kind of voice.”
Weekes says jazz influences is what sets “Love Herb and Reggae” apart from his other albums with his Adowa band, named after an Ethiopian town, but sticks to the roots of reggae.
“We’re stretching it a little bit, but still sticking to the root–we have not ended the bass or quickened it,” assures Weekes.
The Rasta is also enlarging his philanthropic pursuits to combat teacher-to-student disciplinary violence through his They Often Cry Outreach foundation. The foundation, started in 2007, aims to preserve the health and stability of children in St. Lucia.
Last year, Weekes was recognized by UNICEF for his social awareness campaigns addressing high rates of diabetes and domestic violence in the Caribbean and named Champion of Children. Weekes views the honor as a call to action.
“If I’m the champion of children I need to address inequality where I see it.”