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On Reggae and Truth - Duane Stephenson
The soulful reggae crooner Duane Stephenson provided a fantastic end to the evening, at the recently held Soul Sessions: The Heart of the Art, at Redbones the Blues Cafe in Kingston. Stephenson came to the stage following an interview and performance by Stephanie and an interview with producer Mikey Bennett.
He opened with the haunting ‘Ghetto Pain’ a song which highlights the piercing quality of Stephenson’s unique vocals from his debut album From August Town. Stephenson spoke his experiences ranging from his days of being the paid vocals for would-be Don Juans in high school through to his time with Little People.
Stephenson revealed that though he was not likely to be caught performing at a school concert, he did accept payment from other boys to sing to their girlfriends over the phone, effectively becoming their musical Cyrano de Bergerac.
His interview, conducted by Fabian Thomas and Shawna-Kae Burns, revealed a witty and slightly self-deprecating sense of humour which speaks to a quiet assurance. When Thomas remarked on his unique vocals, Stephenson laughingly replied,
“That’s probably because I sound like an old baptist minister.” It was a fitting response, as Stephenson’s vocals can easily lead one to religion.
The reggae singer revealed that he had a great commitment to giving back to the society, noting that philanthropy isn’t simply about rich people giving a lot, but is also about giving what little you can.
“No one invites me to a party, but I’ve been to every prison in the region,” he remarked, explaining that he usually stays away from hype.
As he related pieces of his own experiences, it was evident that he was used to making do, and this underscored his willingness to give back.
Stephenson’s performance included ‘From August Town’, ‘Black Gold’, and ‘Fire in Me’. He laughingly admitted that he was far more comfortable penning ‘roots’ music than romantic ones.
“Maybe I’ve had far too many bad relationships,” he said with a laugh.
Stephenson pointed out that one of the key things about reggae, particularly roots reggae is that it makes people uncomfortable.
“A lot of what Jamaicans have to say is not easy to listen to,” he remarked, noting that when the news makes them uncomfortable they can simply change the channel and reggae often focuses on the issues they are attempting to escape.
“It’s the truth and the truth can scare people,” he said.
Stephenson went on to explain that truth lies at the core of his writing.
“I just write down what I see on the news,” he said. “Maybe one day I’ll get called a great writer for writing down the news.”
It was an interesting and intimate opportunity to gain insight into the three writers and creators.
Soul Sessions is produced by Havatio music, and was staged on Wednesday, February 11, 2015 at 8:30 pm.