Mishka rocks the boat
June 4, 2010
You might guess that someone who was raised on a 40-foot sailboat didn’t have much access to musical education. But you’d be wrong.
Or maybe Mishka is an exception.
The soulful roots-reggae singer/songwriter was born in Bermuda and spent most of his childhood and adolescence sailing the high seas of the Atlantic Ocean. "That’s my whole upbringing until I was about 15 or 16," he says. "[My parents] are nonconformists. They didn’t like living in a box and doing the nine-to-five."
Despite their eccentric views on child rearing, his parents weren’t completely detached from popular culture. They did enjoy the musical offerings of the times, immersing themselves in the likes of Jimmy Cliff, Paul Simon, Bob Dylan and The Beatles.
They also exposed their children to classical works such as Mozart, Beethoven and Bach. "We listened to a very, very broad range of music that’s probably one of the biggest inspirations for being a musician being exposed to so much music as a child and having so much uninterrupted time to listen to music," says Mishka.
Indeed, living on a sailboat wasn’t conducive to much else. "The entertainment was music and music alone," he says.
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Mishka was singing and making up songs from before he can remember. By age seven, he had picked up a guitar and was putting chords to his own lyrics.
He started writing songs and playing guitar seriously as a teenager. "That’s when I decided, I really love this and I’m going to put my heart into it in a conscious way," he says.
By his early 20s, he was back on dry land albeit on an island in the Caribbean and starting to perform. He signed a contract with a London-based record company and crossed the pond to record his first album in 1999.
Somewhere between his first and second albums, actor Matthew McConaughey discovered Mishka’s music while vacationing in Jamaica. The actor was intrigued. Mishka remained on his radar and, four-and-a-half years later, McConaughey managed to track him down and propose a partnership.
Mishka not being a Hollywood follower didn’t know who McConaughey was, but he was open to working together. McConaughey was in the process of creating a record label, j.k livin, as a branch of his production company and he offered Mishka the first artist contract.
Mishka released his third album, "Above the Bones," on the j.k. livin label in 2009. "Matthew put some of his limelight on it and tried to expose it more to the world," he says.
That year, Mishka was named iTunes’ "Best New Artist." He continued to churn out new music and this March, he released his latest album, "Talk About," which debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes reggae chart. Mishka is currently touring in support of that album and on Thursday, June 10, he’ll perform at The Star Bar in Park City.
Patrons can expect to experience Mishka’s socially conscious lyrics, which cover a wide range of topics, from politics to environmental and spiritual issues. He says he writes about "anything that evokes a feeling of consciousness and awareness."
His message centers on equality and justice for all human beings. "That’s the foundation for a peaceful world. It’s a very big and broad thing to talk about, but it’s the fundamental reason why we do what we do," he says.
In accordance with his social views, Mishka was recently named the face of a new eco-friendly apparel line made by surf-culture clothing company O’Neill. "Through the type of music I’m doing and my lifestyle, they thought it would be a good match," he says. "I think companies have to learn to grow in that direction if they’re going to survive. And indeed if human beings are going to survive, we all have to start thinking along the lines of using what we’ve got instead of taking more from the Earth."
When he’s not writing songs, touring the world, or touting eco-friendly lifestyles, Mishka devotes much of his time to windsurfing, which he competed in on a professional level before focusing solely on his music.
His performance in Park City will feature a backing band made up of four other musicians. "Reggae is the foundation of what we do, but it’s a lively show," he says. "We move around and get people to kick up their heels and have a good time."
The show starts at 9 p.m. for ages 21 and over. Tickets are $10 in advance at http://www.smithtix.com or $10 at the door. The Star Bar is located at 268 Main Street. For details, visit http://www.myspace.com/starbarpc or http://www.mishka.com.