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"Yuh no fi stray from you vision": Chronixx on His Music, Mission and Inspiration
Reggae singer Chronixx one of the rebel poster bwoi for the Reggae revival, renaissance or revolution, depending on who is describing it, took over the lectern at the University of the West Indies, Mona. The talk lived up to his music as Chronixx delivered a witty, thoughtful and thought-provoking session that was more reasoning than lecture. He delivered his journey into music, his constant drive to effect change through music and his thoughts on the music industry.
The Neville Hall Lecture Theatre was filled to sardine-esque proportions with attendees sitting in the aisles and crowding at the doorway. Chronixx’s talk was the third installment (on Thursday, March 19) of the 2015 Reggae Talks series coordinated by Professor Carolyn Cooper, as a part of the Department of Literatures in English event, March is Literature Month.
“Even someone like me of vintage stock, born long before the 1980s is aware of Chronixx,” laughed Dr. Michael Bucknor, head of the Department, in his brief welcome. Bucknor pointed out that the Reggae Talks series were an important element of the enrichment of the education process at the UWI, and so commended Chronixx for participating in it. Interestingly, Chronixx would displayed a casual disregard for institutions of learning while celebrating the value of knowledge
“I feel like a preacher up ya so,” Chronixx declared when he took to the podium, bringing the first bout of laughter. He and exuding an easy, confident air which went over well with the audience.
“My musical story is my life story,” he declared, and so delved into his biography. The story he unveiled in many ways highlighted that his seeming meteoric rise, was actually a long time in coming.
Chronixx explained that he had a performance rich childhood, though often if was only to and with his siblings, to the neighbours or even his mothers garden, with an empty beer bottle as a make-shift microphone.
“Sometimes a just to mi madda flowers dem, you know. Sing and push out di beer bottle and say ‘your turn’,” the Reggae singer said.
Interestingly, Chronixx revealed that although he sang at home, until the 11th grade, just prior to graduation, he avoided performance in school. The opposite was true in church where he performed regularly, eventually going on his first island tour to church crusades, as his pastor sought to save him from falling prey to the devil.
Yet, Chronixx explained that he soon found the effects of his singing unsettling, and was a part of his reason for departing from church.
“Mi notice every time mi sing a church, I close my eyes and when me open dem, people deh pon di grung.”
Even so, he remarks that is was after one of these performances that the strength of his musical gift was pointed out to him. Chronixx explained that following a performance, a woman came up to him and described him as having a “good soul as a musician” which resonated with him.
By the time he got to high school (St. Catherine High), he had already begun to shadow fellow congregant and musician Germaine Edwards as he sought to know more about creating music.
“Mi start take set on Germain (Edwards). Me a watch him; everything him do,” Chronixx explained. “I wanted to learn the feeling of making music,” he said.
He would eventually also pursue this into the classroom, choosing to do music after deciding that his attempt at doing information technology was a bout of madness.
“Mi decide fi do music only to learn that music harder than computers,” Chronixx said with a laugh. It was clear however that learning the technical elements of music had paid some dividends.
By the time he reached sixth-form however, his relationship with school had grown more distant. By then he had started growing his hair, which led to a minor conflict with school authorities. Eventually, his principal advised him that he couldn’t continue to attend school looking like that, so he stopped. Almost
His attendance at school became sporadic and he spent far more time in studio with Teflon (Romaine Arnett), the two of them by then having budding careers as producers. Teflon would later advise him to sing his own music rather than attempt to court other artists.
He revealed however, that the pursuit of ‘stardom’ was one of the most daunting aspect. “I never like the showmanship of music and that was the poisonous part,” Chronixx said. “Everything about being in the studio is pure.”
Yet, when he found him self at the metaphorical and literal crossroads having to decide between going to Edna Manley to study visual arts or focusing on music, he chose the latter, moving away from his home in Spanish Town and out to eastern St. Andrew, and the artists he met, learned and communed with validated and shaped his growth as a musician.
“Is one a di first time me feel say dis is me. Me cyan do dis fi di res a mi life,” he said.
Chronixx explained that during this time, while he and fellow artists such as Kabaka Pyramid were making in-roads on the streets, they were getting no traction in media. This experience helped to shape his view of traditional media, its relevance and growing irrelevance.
“The media is separate from what is happening,” Chronixx said. “Twitter is not like OnStage weh come pon Saturday alone. Twitter is all week programming.”
He advised emerging artists that it was important not to attempt to bypass “the people” nor assume an over reliance on the media. Even so, he explained that the media remains relevant as space of validation, as people’s perspective shifts when they see you on television.
Chronixx also made several salient points about the music industry.
“The industry set hurdles and you can jump dem until you don’t mind jumping dem, but me don’t like hurdles,” he declared. “I have the opportunity to decide what is a challenge and what is not,” Chronixx said, explaining that he chooses to play by his own rules.
“You nuh fi stray from yuh vision,” he said, later pointing out that many artists begin singing about love and life and even positive elements of poverty and violence but rejection from audiences and the industry eventually pushes them toward other topics.
“Mi cyan sing di ting what me want to sing or di tings weh oonu like, weh mek oon move as soon as yuh hear dem,” he declared, noting that inspiration is always positive.
“I trust the magic within music and I trust the perfection of inspiration,” he said.
Chronixx also revealed that he has been greatly inspired by Hip Hop, which he described as one of Reggae’s sons. He noted that from Ska, through to Reggae, Dancehall and Hip Hop, the music forms bore the same striving for liberation and come from the same African diasporic ethos and a desire for freedom.
He also highlighted that at the core of his music is an urge to create and inspire change.
“Is works you a do,” he said. “Everything fi ave a message.”
Interestingly, an important part of the message he shared was the country’s need to take music more seriously and increase its support for the sector. He laid that call at the UWI’s feet, and when asked to perform declined as he noted that the the lecture hall was not a space for performance and that the University should invest in a proper performance venue.
He also advised the audience that for the occasion reasoning was more important than singing.
“Singing don’t tell you who I am,” Chronixx said. “It only tell you what I want to say.”
And though it may have resulted in some disappointment to the eager audience, it was a fitting end for the young man who was clearly unafraid of trodding in the path of the “lone rass” even if it meant treading on a few feelings.