_ Off the wire
On April 9th, award winning singer/songwriter/guitarist Taj Weekes and his band Adowa will release their fourth CD “Pariah in Transit” on Weekes’ Jatta Records. The album’s 10 tracks represent some of their finest performances over the past two years throughout North America and at St. Lucia’s world-renowned jazz festival in May 2011. “Pariah in Transit” will be distributed by Megawave, based in Ann Arbor Michigan, which specializes in jazz, world, reggae, gospel, and piano blues releases.
While (commercial) radio airwaves are notoriously unwelcoming towards artists with consciousness-raising messages, Taj Weekes & Adowa’s rapidly expanding fan base, extending from Eastern Europe across North America and throughout the Caribbean stems from the critical praise their three previously released albums have received and, especially, audiences’ roaring approval of their enthralling live concerts.
“Pariah In Transit’s” curious title reflects Taj Weekes & Adowa’s position in the overall reggae narrative, “on the outskirts trying to get in but not really being allowed to. We weren’t born in Jamaica, reggae’s birthplace, which is one of the greatest adversities we face,” explained Taj, a Rastafarian who hails from St. Lucia. Adowa, so named for the first Italian-Ethiopian War that secured Ethiopian sovereignty on March 1, 1896, represents a broad swathe of the Caribbean archipelago with Radss Desiree (Dominica) on bass; Adoni Xavier (Trinidad) guitar, vocals; John Hewitt (Barbados) keyboards, vocals and Cornel Marshall (Jamaica) drums, vocals. “People don’t listen to jazz or rock from just one place so why should we be looking to one geographic location for great reggae music?” Taj asks.
Serving as a vibrant reminder for listeners who have already experienced Taj Weekes & Adowa’s concerts and an unforgettable introduction for those who haven’t, “Pariah In Transit” offers inspired renditions of songs spanning their three albums including “Life”, Taj’s survival story of good conquering evil, from their 2005 debut “Hope & Doubt”; the biblically referenced powerful anti-war anthem “Since Cain”, from “Deidem”, honored as the Best Reggae Album at the Just Plain Folks Music Awards in 2008 and “Rain Rain” from 2010’s “A Waterlogged Soul Kitchen”, a homage to Hurricane Katrina survivors that ranked among many critics best-of lists for that year.
Music fans irrespective of their geographic location will embrace Taj Weekes & Adowa’s treatment of wide-ranging topical issues, from the media’s “Propaganda War” to the ongoing crisis in the Middle East addressed in “Jordan”, each set to burnished reggae rhythms anchored in dub heavy basslines and accented by an array of eclectic musical elements, making “Pariah In Transit” one of the year’s most appealing and significant reggae releases. “As artists, our sole job is to bring to light things that people may not think about too much whether it’s what happened in New Orleans or the earthquakes in Haiti or Japan. Corporate media tells us about everything that doesn’t concern us. So my responsibility is to let people know what is happening, like a town crier, and maybe we can respond accordingly.”
Taj’s activism isn’t confined to his song lyrics. His philanthropic efforts throughout the Caribbean on behalf of his organization TOCO (They Cry Often Outreach) have earned him Goodwill Ambassador status by The International Consortium of Caribbean Professionals (ICCP) as well as the St. Lucia House Foundation’s Distinguished Humanitarian Award.