Written By Maliika Walker
“Come out the water is safe, no need for testing.
If you come out to late, we lose Investments.”
Taj Weekes, Crisis
Taj Weekes has returned to the music scene with a new album opus reflecting on the events affecting the world today titled, Pause. This album is the first from the artist as a solo artist. Taj Weekes and the band decided to go their separate ways after recording and touring as a band for over fifteen years.
2020 was a year unlike any other in many of our lifetimes. An airborne virus causing a pandemic all over the world. The COVID-19 virus has taken the lives of millions everywhere. In the midst of this reality, a movement amongst the black community, and those supportive of equality of all people, was sparked after the tragic death of George Floyd & Brionna Taylor. Corporations were publishing statements and campaigns supporting people fighting for equality everywhere. We were all living in a new time. So much death, sadness, weariness but Taj Weekes persevered and did not allow a pandemic to deter him from recording an album reflective of the world we are living in today.
The new album Pause was recorded during the COVID-19 pandemic so social distancing measures were involved through the recording. Taj Weekes songwriting continues to be an inspiration on this release, while Ziggy Coltrane handled production. The result is another release from Taj Weekes where you get lost in the lyrics and production as you experience our current world through the eyes of a brilliant artist.
Pause is currently available on all streaming platforms.
A collective group of DJ’s, and social audio tastemakers got the opportunity to interview Taj Weekes on Clubhouse. Here is a summary of their conversation.
DJ Yagga You wrote about COVID-19 on this album. There are two tracks that are very interesting to me, Crisis and Sister Mary. Can you tell us about Sister Mary, because that’s a very interesting track?
Taj Weekes There was good and then there’s Babylon. Babylon is all of oppressive society. And the bigger the society, the more oppressive it is, for the most part and in the entire pandemic. Living in America you watch things crumble. Even though Babylon is falling and they don’t even understand that it is, that that’s kind of where the song came out. I was just sitting and watching so many things crumble and realizing that the people in it are so caught up in the chaos that they didn’t even realize the chaos. When you have money, everything’s for sale. Now when you are blind,, you never see that you’re the monster in the woods, a prophecy.
Helen Morgan: I love the song Crisis for the new album, Pause. When I heard the siren during the pandemic, I wondered who the paramedics were trying to save? Who is a new victim of this pandemic? The world is in a crisis. So I wanted you to speak a little bit more about the song..
Taj Weekes The producer of the album, Coltrane, said we needed to get a song that spoke to what was happening in the world. I went outside to take a draw and I pondered. I live in a fairly quiet neighborhood.
All the songs are intertwined. So sometimes, I wrote some words for another song and brought it into that one and put something else in another, Crisis and False Choice are two songs that I took the words out of because I was thinking, in the midst of all this, people were still trying to rush back to make money. Life wasn’t important enough, and that in and of itself, that kind of thinking was a crisis. Telling the people to come out, it’s safe. Don’t need a mask? No need for testing? We all have to take a pause and realize that whether you think we are in a pandemic, or not pandemic, whatever was happening at that time, was a crisis. And that siren was the sound of crisis.
Junior Rodigan How long did it take to make this album? I mean from concept to the final product.
Taj Weekes: I think about a year and a half, from Bang Bang to Crisis was the last song. The process took a little longer because the album was made on Zoom. The only person I saw in a studio was a backup singer, everything else was made over zoom. So that took a while longer, because it’s more of communication and trying to make an album sound like you’re all in the same room when you didn’t see each other at all.
Junior Rodigan Let’s talk two things about Bang Bang. The sound, especially what the drummer is doing, what was behind that? It’s not your typical roots reggae bounce. What was the process of arranging the song.
Taj Weekes Bang Bang was deliberately the first song. This is my first solo album so I felt everybody thought I was gonna make an acoustic album. So we start off acoustic and then trick you so you realize it wasn’t? I was playing a little joke there. So that was where we would bang bang, but a style of drumming was Coltrane’s idea. He was the one who suggested that I write another verse, because it wasn’t falling into the pattern.. So, the first mix of it doesn’t have Quino on it. I was doing some work for Keanu and AJ Brown. I called him and asked him if he would sing it. He sang it in Mexico and sent it back to me.
Junior Rodigan: Bang Bang is a deep tune. I would like to hear your thoughts about exposure for this type of track in the reggae industry. You have these type of songs from beginning to end. There are obstacles that are created in today’s world where selectors just want to jump from one tune to the other and talk all over it?
Taj Weekes: I didn’t get into music for girls, so I can buy a lot of things. I got into music because I love music. And I got into music because I wanted to be as true to the art form as I possibly can. Someone interviewed me in Paris and said,”You have some amazing lyrics and songs, how come I don’t know you? So I responded, “Now you’re blaming me for your ignorance.” So, the thing is, if you love music, you will find music. You need to find someplace where you get spiritually grounded with somebody you could have that conversation with that music still exists. We just have to go look for it. And we live in a world of fluff. The DJ doesn’t want to play the whole song, it’s on the DJ. Because I think DJ’s don’t realize how important they are.
There was also payola, and we played my friend’s song. DJ’s tell the people what to listen to, you will want to carry the message and the sound of the day. So when we talk about Black Lives Matter, and this moving forward, and you are reflected in the music you play, you are just part of the system are keeping us back more than anything else. I know tons of musicians,who make music to uplift people and show them the way.
Maliika Walker: I recently read that you recorded three albums. Can you talk about the themes of the next two albums that are coming. Is this album a trilogy?
Taj Weekes I never thought trilogy until now. The third album is more of a personal album, it’s a softer of the three. It’s kind of broken down semi acoustic but yet there’s a field coming in the second album is a spillover of the first album you know, it’s just doing the work with a different set of people. But the messages are intertwined. The third album is more personal in that there’s a song that says looking at my reflection, “What am I, what I am, though I roll with the changes my loneliness remains”. And it goes on to say that, “I promise to be the best that I can be. I promise to be true to you, true to me”.,so a little more personal. The second album is a little more rebellious. I think that’s, that’s we’ve chosen some some names I’m playing with names for the second album, which is between Islam and the hill. And the third album, I’m still playing with it, but there were seven songs on the second album and nine songs on the third. I think each of them should get 10. I used to think we needed to put 16 songs on an album. That’s some trend, but now I think if you can have ten solid songs with no fillers.
Junior Rodigan: Was Bunny Wailer early works as a solo artist, a big influence on you?.
Taj Weekes Black Heart Man, I thought it was the greatest album in 1976.
Junior Rodigan: Yes I hear it because a couple of songs we heard could be right next to blackout arrangements..
Taj Weekes And I know you’re talking about Memoir as one of them. Black Heart Man came out in 1976. Rastaman Vibration came out uniting Peter Tosh caught the end of it with Legalize It, but I thought Black Heart Man was the best three out of these three brothers in 1976. I listen to Black Heart Man pledge because there were layers and black man that was not in the other albums and the harmonies and everything was on point. So, that’s why we brought in female harmonies, we brought in male harmonies, and I think the male harmonies on Memoir for me can stand next to any male harmonies anyplace anytime.
Junior Rodigan: There’s a lot of American soul from that era. A lot of blues.
Taj Weekes: Glad you’re glad to catch that. Yeah, it is. Nailed it when it comes to that part. What this man as frightened as you probably was when I put it out to me got the first view. I was really up because I realized we had done something that was wonderful. i think this album is a very special album. A
DJ Yagga: Crisis also has a fine young mix. I’m wondering, why does this make us different? Can you elaborate on that?
Taj Weekes Some things are important in that we needed to say twice. So we did Crisis for the final mix. Because when we were recording it I was thinking of the fine Young Cannibals. So we call the define young mix because it has that kind of, that kind of swing to it. See you clearly agreed to come on the water safety test. This is a sign of a crisis. Next way, the same tests lose investments. No need to come out too late is a sign of Crisis.
Maliika Walker: I read your lyrics, like they are books. I then listen to the music and get the full picture of the work you are releasing. I feel you are an excellent writer who consistently releases music that is reflective the world’s current challenges.
Taj Weekes Thank you for that, we do the same thing with our graphic designer. Every time we wanted to make an album cover, we would send the lyrics, and it’s something I used to do. When the band and I just came together, the agreement was that I was going to write the lyrics. We would sit together and I would come with the chords.. Most of the time, I was just honing ideas, and then I’ll go and finish it off. But before we started moving towards recording, I would tell everybody, like in the second album, I was just doing everything at home, and then bringing it to the band, I would tell him what the lyrics of the song said. And tell him what it is I was trying to convey. So the music would match that. They’re saying something that’s not always very pleasant, but at the same time, it has to be said.
I think when I was 14 years old, I got a chance to work as a DJ in a radio station in San Lucia. Myself and five other kids’ jobs was to play music. I would get there early, and I would pull the album jackets out. And I would always read the lyrics. Because while I was on the radio, I had the show with my brothers and brothers in the loop band together. And it was my job to write down words, so I was always meticulous with the words and tried to make sure in my writing that they convey the message the same way. Now, if you may notice, in the early albums, there’s more that’s being said. Because Salman Rushdie once said, when he started writing, he tried to dazzle people with all the words he knew. But after that, he realized he needed to use as few words as possible, to convey the message. So I think we’re becoming better songwriters, because we’re finding quicker ways to get to the point. So yeah, the lyrics are important.
Check out Taj Weekes at his website and all social media platforms.