Taj Weekes' music is more than just entertainment. The roots reggae artist's music stirs thought, provokes discussion and inspires people to think for themselves, free from the constraints of the corporate media. On his beautiful new album DE I DEM, released on his own independent label, Jatta Records, Weekes sings assuredly and soulfully for the voiceless and the oppressed, taking his music to a new level of commitment and universal appeal.
Born and raised on the island of St. Lucia, Weekes grew up the youngest of ten children in a family where music was always present. The radio was a source of untold treasures, playing everything from rock, country, R&B, soul, jazz and more, and Weekes grew up blissfully unaware of category or genre - to him, great music was (and is) great music no matter what the style. By age five, Taj was singing in church and by eleven he was composing his own calypso music. His older brother's immersion in Rastafari provided Taj with a spiritual awakening and a context for his burgeoning worldview.
In his late teens, Taj left home for North America to fulfill his musical ambitions. After a stint in Toronto, Weekes came to New York and formed Taj Weekes & Adowa. In 2005, they released their first album, Hope & Doubt, winning extensive radio play, rave reviews in the press and provided Taj with a platform to begin touring from, through which he began building extensive followings in New England and on the West Coast.
After completing touring behind Hope & Doubt, Weekes began to write for his next album. During that time, within the span of a year, both of his parents died and the new songs were reflecting the sorrow of the time. "I was wallowing in my grief," Weekes explains, "and I wrote a song called â€˜Clay Dust To Dust,' which was incredibly depressing. But it was then I realized that it's not about me. Sure, I lost two people, but there are millions of people dying every day. So right then I scrapped all the songs I had and wrote 12 new ones. I wrote about the world instead of myself."
Working quickly and with the confidence that came from his recording and performing experience, Weekes has now emerged with DEIDEM (meaning "All Of Us") a meditation on confronting the fragmentation of the world and the search to give everyone a voice in it. Weekes exclaims, "Whether it's Darfur, the Middle East, global warmingâ€¦there's something going on in every part of the world and we're trying to bring it all together on one album. No one is talking to each other; the album is designed to create conversation where people can come together."
Tracks like "Orphans Cry," with its lilting and classic reggae feel, depicts the suffering and isolation of lost children, making it vivid and real, no longer an abstraction on the television set or newspaper. "Since Cain," with its Biblical reference to the first act of violence, laments the endless cycle of brutality while asking what it will take for it to end ("Is there anyone with sense to put an end to this violence/I kill you, you kill me we got an empty country/and so the cycle goes around/it goes up and comes down/and soon your smile becomes a frown/when karma visits your town"). "Dark Clouds" warns with an almost Biblical sense of foreboding of the cost of the degradation of the environment: "Spring comes early/autumn's late/unwelcome winter procrastinates/see the seas have taken over the land/there's a fleet of ships resting on the sand/dark clouds don't always bring rain/but smoke is a sign of fire." The music matches the lyrics in intensity, painting an aural portrait of a world that is burning.
With a distribution deal in Europe through Sony/Afrikool and touring in the works, Taj will be making his impact felt beginning in 2008. And from every corner of the planet via the Internet, people are responding to the authenticity of Taj Weekes' spirit, heart and commitment to a world where people can communicate with one another to solve issues non-violently. (Taj's commitment to such a world is backed up his non-profit organization, They Often Cry Outreach, dedicated to improve the lives of disadvantaged children around the world, via music, soccer programs and more.)
For those that have been disadvantaged, abandoned or just alienated by a power structure that values profit over people and fear over hope, Taj Weekes and his new album DE I DEM speaks for them in its refusal to forget those left out of the new "global economy" and in his continued belief in what is possible through authentic music and real communication.