Written by Maliika Walker
Once in awhile we all come in contact with phenomenons that have the ability to affect positive change in the communities in which we live. That most recent feeling for me came when I heard the music of Taj Weekes for the first time. His music drew me to remember why I fell in love with reggae music in the first place. I love reggae music because it carries a life force that has the power to change lives. Taj Weekes & Adowa is one such phenomenon. Taj Weekes and Adowa share their gift to the world through their music and passion for helping others (human and animal rights).
Taj Weekes was born on beautiful island of St. Lucia and is the youngest of 10 children. He was introduced to music at an early age. He, along with his siblings, used to perform for their parents in the living room of their home. Their father would end the night by performing a song for the family. He started singing in church by age five and composing his own calypso music by age eleven. Taj and his brothers started a singing group modeled after the Jackson Five when he was nine years old. Once the Rastafari movement made its way to St. Lucia, he and his brothers gravitated to the Rastafari way of life. At the age of 13 he had his own radio program in St. Lucia. He would review albums by the likes of The Beatles, Mighty Sparrow, and Jimmy Hendrix. It was then that he realized that he focused his attention to song lyrics. So much so that his job with the group with his brothers was to write down and keep a record of the group’s lyrics.
He eventually journeyed to the United States to launch his music career. Taj Weekes formed the band Adowa when he started his journey into reggae music. Taj Weekes great grandparents were Ethiopian so the name Adowa was in tribute to them. The name Adowa is very significant to Ethiopians and those that are of the Rastafari way of life because of The Battle of Adowa, which took place in 1896. Mussolini tried to take control of Ethiopia but Emperor Menelik and his army fought off the onslaught with sticks, stones, and the Ark of the Covenant. Taj Weekes and Adowa released four albums between 2005 and 2013, their debut album, Hope and Doubt (2005), Diedem (2008), Waterlogged Soul Kitchen (2010), and Pariah in Transit (live album, 2013). These albums were considered among the top albums of the year they were released.
His new album Love, Herb, and Reggae is an album which includes songs that take a stand against homophobia, gun violence, and remaining silent amongst evil but he does not come across as preachy. Whenever I play a Taj Weekes album I never skip songs because I believe every song is a crucial message designed for us to hear. Taj eloquently expresses himself about the issues we are facing today in each song and recently, he shared why he titled the album Love, Herb, and Reggae;
“The album is called Love, Herb, and Reggae because I was tired of hearing Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll. I felt Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll was a little disruptive. I felt it was time to make it a little easier so Sex became Love, Drugs became Herb and Rock and Roll became Reggae. When I say love, I mean a non-judgment all form of love because who are we to judge anyway.”
The album is a striking work of art from the first note to the last but I wanted to highlight a few tracks.
The album introduces itself to the listener with the revolutionary tune, Let Your Voice. I was pushed to think about all the times I wish I would have spoken up instead of remaining silent. Whether it be the Black Lives Matter movement, global warming, or a woman’s right to choose; a social media post is not a substitute to actually make your voice be heard. Taj Weekes shared the following about Let Your Voice;
“Our silence has made us complicit with whatever wrong is happening in the world. I think we need to let our voice be as loud as our silence on human rights, gay rights, environmental rights, animal rights, all rights. Unless we make our voices heard, evil will always triumph.”
Giant Beast is another highlight for me. The song talks about Babylon falling. Babylon surrounds all of us. When I see examples of bigotry, corruption, hunger, and injustice I think Babylon must fall. This song declares that “one day the giant beast will be standing broken.”
Taj Weekes touches on the issue within reggae music, the image of the genre being homophobic, on the daring lead single Here I Stand. Some of the lyrics include;
“She loves a woman not a man. Should he pretend to love a woman, yet intend to love another in the end?”
This song deals with an issue that has plagued reggae for some time and Taj Weekes faces the issue head on. The song was inspired by an incident that happened at the SXSW fest a few years ago. Apparently one journalist did not want to interview him because she assumed he was homophobic due to him being a reggae musician. This woman did not speak with him, just prejudged him. Taj spoke about the incident with his son, who challenged him to do something about it. Taj then wrote a song sharing his thoughts on adults having the right to love fellow adults, no matter if they share the same genitalia. Taj, a happily married man with children, has been dealing with negative feedback from some on the song but he has expressed that he does not have the right to judge others. He just wants people to love.
Taj Weekes lyrics usually captures my focus from the first word to the last. Once I start listening to an artist’s music I immediately began wondering about that artist’s process for writing songs. How do the songs come to him? Taj Weekes shared the following thoughts on songwriting at BRIC last year:
“I think the songs are already written because there is a level of consciousness that one brings to the process. These words were there before I came so I am not reinventing the wheel. I believe we must tap into what’s inside because the words are floating around us. Most of my songs come to me at around 2:00AM, when I’m sleeping. I believe in inspiration (internal) and outspiration (outside influences). For me the two come together and the song is written.”
Bullet from a Gun talks about the effects of gun violence. Whenever the news reports on someone being murdered, you often see the victim’s family grieving, and then the rest of the report is about the person who shot the victim. Bullet from a Gun expresses the sorrow a loved one feels when losing someone via a Bullet from a Gun. I truly believe bullets from guns are a plague in our society and it will take all of us to overcome this plague from continuing to take lives. The lyrics below clearly describe the effects of gun violence in our communities:
“A million birthdays will be missed, for a bullet from a gun. A million smiles and cherished kisses from a daughter or a son.”
On Mediocrity, Taj declares that, “he will not make peace with mediocrity.” How often have we gotten comfortable with our lives, even though we may not have reached the goal we set? Circumstances can change that may draw us to be complacent. When I hear Taj Weekes sing that “he will not make peace with mediocrity”, I reflect on the times where I may have done exactly that, and disguised this decision as “I think this is good enough. I may not be at my goal yet but this will be just fine”. That is the gift of music that keeps on giving.
We all can hear the same lyrics and walk away with different interpretations. A friend of mine felt Taj was speaking about how people today seem to be fine with a mediocre showing of action, and that posting something on social media in support of a cause is enough to fight an issue.
She feels the song is an extension of the track Let Your Voice, declaring that mediocre actions towards fighting for our rights will no longer be sufficient.
Taj Weekes is not only a gifted artist but a man that believes in helping others. He is the UNICEF Ambassador for children in St. Lucia and is very active with his non-profit organization, They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO). TOCO’s mission statement is that the organization is dedicated to improving the lives of Caribbean youth through sports, health and enrichment Program. Taj Weekes also released the followed statement regarding TOCO:
“When poverty, violence and disease are discussed, no one thinks about the Caribbean. It’s just a place to vacation and sit in the sun. People don’t know that St. Lucia has one of the highest rates of diabetes per capita in the world. They look at the bare feet of the children playing soccer in the street and don’t realize it’s because they have no shoes. It’s my mission to expand awareness and aid for these issues which equally affect the Caribbean, especially for the children and youth.”
Love, Herb, and Reggae is a must have for any lover of music and it will inspire you to enact positive change on yourself and/or others. The album is filled with songs that will make you think about your silence, Babylon falling, gun violence, and revolution. Give the album a listen and check out Taj Weekes & Adowa live when they come to your area. You will experience reggae music that will fill you up with nothing but positive vibes and revolution.
“Let your vibes be high and your message mighty.” Taj Weekes
“Love, Herb & Reggae,” the much anticipated 5th album from Taj Weekes & Adowa debuted at #29 on the Billboard Reggae Charts one week after its release. The album, distributed by VPAL Music, has received critical acclaim, garnering praise and reviews from across the globe. Dubbed “a current-day roots reggae masterpiece” by New York Music Daily, “Love, Herb & Reggae” addresses a wide range of issues from activism, gun violence, laws regarding marijuana and human rights. The first single, “Here I Stand”, is universally considered to be an “anti-homophobia anthem”.