Bono meets Bob Marley in reggae singer
Move over, Bono.
Taj Weekes does relief work on St. Lucia, where he was born, to reduce poverty and promote awareness of children’s issues. In November, he was named a United Nations Goodwill Ambassador to the Caribbean. He recently helped bring an optometrist and a general practitioner to St. Lucia to provide medical care for the poor.
And, oh yes, he sings. Weekes combines classic roots reggae and grassroots politics in his second album, "Deidem," which was released in May to favorable reviews. He performs tonight, Wednesday, 9 p.m. at the Star Bar.
Songs on the album discuss global and humanitarian issues such as global warming, the effects of Hurricane Katrina, and the crisis in Darfur. The topics are insightful and serious, fans say, but the grooves, melodies and rhythms are familiar to reggae.
Weekes wrote "Deidem," which Weekes says means "all of us," after the death of both of his parents in 2006. "The record didn’t start off how it is now," he explained in a telephone interview. "I went through a period of mourning."
Weekes decided to scratch the songs he had written about his own grief, songs with titles such as "From Clay To Dust," and work on 12 new tracks that drew from global politics for inspiration.
"It was always about giving something back," Weekes said. "Even though two people died for me, people are dying every day." The singer said that one of the goals of his music is to help society "take a holistic approach and not an individualistic approach to the world."
Weekes is the youngest of 10 children. He remembers lining up with his brothers and sisters to sing for his parents, and his dad singing back to them as if they were the Von Trapps in "The Sound of Music." Weekes started his song-writing career at the age of 10 writing down the lyrics from songs he heard on LPs. Sometimes he would tinker with the words in a song and make them his own creation. "From the time I started writing," he said, "I did my own thing."
Before leaving the Caribbean to pursue music, Weekes started a band with a few of his brothers and toured the Caribbean islands. That’s when he met some of the musical influences that compelled him to sing political reggae. "These people I consider town criers," he said. ‘Reggae is what you call the poor man’s cry. It’s music you can sit and listen to. It’s listening music."
Weekes performs with two backup singers and six other musicians. The band is on a six-week tour across the country spreading the word about their music.
"There’s such a void in the market for the kind of music Taj sings," Weekes’ manager, Shirley Menard, offered. "Taj sticks to what’s real and what’s true."
Weekes released the album on his own independent label, Jatta Records.
"You have to do it on your own terms in your own way," Menard said. "He couldn’t make this kind of music any other way."
Danny Hill, the manager of Star Bar, said he has been playing Weekes’ albums all week in his car. "We’re kind of becoming known for bringing this kind of music to town," he said. "I’m excited."
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