The Other Caribbean – Vive Les Caraibes


Vol. 27 #3, 2008

Interview by: Brian Dring

Reggae for a post 9/11 world – that’s the phrase that comes to mind when describing the album DEIDEMfrom Saint Lucian band Taj Weekes and Adowa (Jatta). Many of the themes that you could expect from a classic reggae sound are here but there is an immediacy in the singer’s hoarse alto and world-weary lyrics to such tunes as “Propaganda War” and “Louisiana” that reflects the shadow that recent events have cast on the world’s subconscious mind. “Angry Language” and “Orphans Cry” offer two more reminders of the lack of hope for some of the world’s children who grow up deprived of the normal follies and diversions of childhood, learning instead angry thoughts and words from a brutally stark world.

So focused in fact is this album on the state of the world that only one song, “Hollow Display,” deals with a personal issue, in this case the first-person account of a guy putting on a brave front after losing his girl… yet sung in the same tone as the others. Many cuts are deeply empathic, yet the lyrics offer a stark and sober view of the world almost to the point of resignation. “For Today” alone seems to offer any kind of hope for a better day… and even that won’t come until after the inevitable latter days that are already here. With almost all songs written in a minor key, this is not exactly upbeat material but perhaps that’s the point — to offer a reflection of the world at large. This outspoken artist continues to stubbornly forge his own unique message and sound.

Q & A with Taj Weekes

Q:  What is the reggae scene like in Saint Lucia and how is the music received by the public there relative to other styles like soca?

A:  There’s no real reggae scene in St. Lucia. There is a music scene but it’s more concentrated on calypso and soca. There are isolated individuals playing reggae music, struggling to make it happen in an independent way but no consolidated effort. There once was a push by a group called Conscious Zion Train to promote local reggae artists throughout the island, but that lasted for a bit and was swallowed up by the corporate structure and then it all went crash.

Q:  How did you start your career and what kinds of local venues did you begin playing in?

A:  My brothers and I had a singing group when we were children… that’s how I started off. It wasn’t a career then, it was all for fun. We played the local town hall and parish centers on the island, a school gig… whatever came up. There weren’t as many venues then as there are now.

Q:  Do you feel there are certain challenges for non-Jamaican artists to overcome on the international reggae scene?

A:  There are definitely challenges for non-Jamaican artists and what I think is the greatest challenge is the perception that great reggae can only come from one geographical location. I think it is rather simple minded to think that way. Reggae is the only Caribbean-based genre where this attitude exists. It does not exist in calypso. The public has accepted calypso and soca music from non-Trinidadians and the djs have incorporated these non-Trinidadian artists into their rotation. Look at Arrow and Allison Hinds, Rupie and Kevin Lyttle. For some reason however people cling to that myth about reggae even though the myth has been shattered many times over. Midnite, Nasio Fontaine, Alpha Blondy, Taj Weekes, David Kirton, Lucky Dube, Tiken Jah Fakoly… the list goes on. These are non-Jamaicans making what I think is incredible reggae music.

Q:  Which reggae artists or vocalists inspired you to play reggae?

A:  The Wailers definitely inspired me to play reggae. I remember the first time hearing the song “Natty Dread.” I was blown away. I listened to everything that came across on the radio because we could not afford to really buy albums. When we could afford albums we listened to Pluto and Dennis Brown and the other singers of the day… I was always more inspired by the lyrics than the singing.

Q:  Has your voice ever been compared to Nasio Fontaine?

A:  My voice has been compared to many singers and Nasio is one of them. I think any artist on the rise will always be compared to established artists because it gives them a frame of reference and creates a picture for the listeners and readers.

Q:  What are the touring plans for the band to support this recent album?

A:  The band is off on a multi-city tour to promote De-I-dem, starting off June 13 and ending Auugust 10. Some of our stops include the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, Taos Solar Festival, International Bay Festival, etc…. 38 stops, 35 cities.