Happy Birthday Jamaica. For all your beauty and flaws, for all your nature and sound systems, for your reminder to the world that a small island can make it's mark internationally - fastest man, signature cuisine and of course - Reggae music to the world! We celebrate your influence and inspiration around the world, and now, in Singapura.
I had the opportunity to travel to Jamaica, invited to perform at Rockers International Anniversary in Kingston, Jamaica alongside Suns of Dub. I arrived together with Singaporean DJ, Jean Reiki, excited to show her all the things I loved about the island. It has been 2 years since I have been back and I wake up every day missing the food, the sounds and most of all the people. As the wheels of the plane touched down on the island, and the whole plane applauded, my heart smiled a thousand smiles.
Our first stop was Kingston Jamaica for the anniversary to celebrate the life and music of Rockers International founder Augustus Pablo. Upon touching down, we headed straight to a "Inna Di Yard" rehearsal led by the legendary Earl Chinna Smith (Bob Marley's Guitarist, appears on over 500 Reggae recordings). What a treat as we sat and watched the Nyabinghi drums beat, and the singers chant. Someone pointed to me and said it was my turn to rehearse with the band - I felt so nervous at first singing for musicians that have played with the best, but as the music started going, the vibe took over and I sang my little Singaporean heart out! After the rehearsal "Chinna" came over and said "Mi like your song Chiney, it fit good with the band". Bless.
We met a lovely dancer named Liji Lee from Korea - in Kingston getting her dancehall dance certificate from Dance JA. The three of us travelled across the island from Kingston to the parish of WestMoreland, where more of the resorts and tourist destinations on the island are. (Special thanks to Michael and Llorenia for the ride over) We stopped in Montego Bay for 1 night to watch a Sizzla Kalonji show and continued to my old stomping grounds of Negril.
We set up a mini studio at the Westender inn and Jean went right to work, sampling sounds, creating a Jamaica inspired mixtape and inspired by the view. Waking up to the ocean instead of emails or construction does wonders for the human psyche.
I hit the parties in Negril from Jungle to Bourbon Beach and re united with the hot boy crew (Big up Ninja, 69 and JJ!). The next day we headed to Roaring river to swim in Limestone caves, ate the sweetest pineapples (known as Sweet Pine) and took evening dips in the ocean, cast pink and orange from the setting sun. This was not a business trip, but a much needed get away for the soul and a good reminder that reality is not measured in GDP, schedules or status. Nature will just be.
I managed to get some recording in at Mad Rebel studios on Negril's WestEnd and met a crew of very talented artists, producers, musicians and sound engineers. After connecting with a multi-instrumental player IRATIO, we got into the recording booth and did a RAW acoustic recording of "Singapura", an old famous song about Singapore. I will be releasing this recording on Singapore's 50th birthday August 9, 2015 #SG50.
It was finally time to say goodbye and head back to 36 hours by plane, back to Singapore. People ofter ask me why I love Jamaica so much. As modern society bulldozes its way to greater progress, stronger economies and higher GDPs - the people in that society grow to be more conscious of class and financial status, spending much of their life's energy in pursuit of material dreams and careful mannerisms of what is or is not allowed by high societal standards. Me...point blank, I'm rude. I express as I feel and where I may feel like an ugly ducklling in the metropolis of city life, I have found a place for this ugly duckling to be among fellow swans. Finally, I identify with the teachings of Rasta; namely the pledge to love to all human beings and living things. I do not believe in violence, because only Jah has the right to destroy and I do not condone the destruction of our environment, humanity or our spiritual consciousness in pursuit of temporary gains.
Certainly there is a balance that has to be struck here and in this lies the beauty - for the privilege of education and upbringing I have been given as a Singaporean and the freedom of expression and pursuit of real life I have discovered as an honorary Jamaican, we have much to learn from one another. For all the differences and separation between two cultures, I use my life and music to explore the similarities and how we might learn from one another to remember Singapore and Jamaica are both, in the end just islands in the sun. One Love.
- Masia One.