By Jen Cheshire
Just when most people are getting to the age when retirement is on the horizon this is not the case for Donald Marshall and Dervin Dawes. The duo who form D’Nations (formerly Determination) are looking to take their musical career to the next level.
Donald and Dervin grew up in the Olympic Garden and Cockburn Pen neighborhoods in Kingston, Jamaica. Their musical journey started back in 1979 when they would hang out together after school, Dervin attended Haile Selassie High School and Donald attended Denham Town High School, now known as Edna Manly School of Visual and Performing Arts. In 1979/1980 the duo met up with Ansel Cridland of the Meditations and the group, who were already established in the industry, took them under their wing and taught them a lot. Ansel introduced them to Anthony Hill (Ringo Paul) who was a singer with the same vision for reggae music. On July 26th, 1979 Donald Marshall, Dervin Dawes, and Anthony Hill officially formed and named the group “Determination”. The Meditations, Ansel Cridland, Danny Clark and Winston Watson (the original lineup) continued to tutor them in vocals and harmonization until they developed a more cohesive sound, with two musicians, Donald Dennis (guitar and Keyboards) and Nathan Notice (lead guitar and bass), backing the group.
Producer Bunny Hylton was impressed by the vocals and harmonies of Determination and recorded two songs with them, “I’m Not Proposing” and “See Me In The Park”. They then released their first single “Just Say No” on Bunny Hylton’s King Jam label. Determination formed their own Play Music label and started working on their first album, “Come Let Us Join Hands”, with the legendary Firehouse Crew providing riddims. Initially, they released several singles from this album but the track that brought them to the forefront was “Level De Vibes”. They knew when working on the album that this track was special.
In 1984 Determination linked up with dub poet Oku Onuora and worked with him on his debut album “Pressure Drop” which was recorded in the Tuff Gong studio at 56 Hope Road, this led to them touring Jamaica with him on his “Pressure Drop” promotional tour. At the time they were still working on their own album but the tour opened many doors for them.
In 1989 Bunny Hylton suggested they change the name of the group as there were several groups and bands with the same or similar name, so D’Nations was born.
After working on it for several years, D’Nations’ first album “Come Let Us Join Hands” was released in 2012. This was the only album that featured Anthony Hill on lead vocals, although he had gone his own way before the album was released. This album was followed by “Agony” in 2014 produced by Erik Gripenholm from Sweden, co-produced by Viktorious, Donald Marshall and Dervin Dawes. Several remixes of their tracks were released over the years using various producers from all over the world.
The next break in the career of D’Nations came when they were linked with French-based record company Idlers Corner Records owned by Marshall Neeko.
With Marshall, they released several remixes and some new singles and finally in 2015 their third album “Hardcore Reggae” produced by Donald Marshall and Dervin Dawes and co-produced by Marshall Neeko, DJ Kullar, Doctors B, and Simon Ozenne.
Since 2015 Donald and Dervin have been working on their latest album “Music Is The Voice” which was released in late 2018. This album is a treat for the lovers of “old school” reggae, reggae with a message, with the old school reggae sound. Dervin Dawes has a very distinctive voice and alongside the harmonies of Donald Marshall, it will take you back to the early days of reggae. It opens with “Big Chat”, a song about putting your money where your mouth is. This is a big song to start the album. There is a track about gossiping and judging, a track about going to jail for possession of ganja, a track about the suffering of children around the world, a track about saying no to drugs, one warning motorists to take care and watch for pedestrians and a track telling us to be nice to each other, along with other socially conscious songs. Overall this album covers many subjects that we have come to associate with reggae music. The album is made up of some of their previous songs remixed, some versions and a wicked dub version of “Big Chat” which has become a favorite of many of the roots reggae loving DJs and sound systems.
D’Nations is now looking to perform these songs, and more, to live audiences around the world, so if any of the promoters reading this would like to add some “old school” reggae to your show or festival, consider D’Nations for your lineup. Donald Marshall and Dervin Dawes are not retiring yet.