Taj Weekes is preparing to release a brand new album titled Pause, his first solo effort without the band Adowa. The Saint Lucian-born singer is without a doubt one of the most gifted songwriters in modern music with an unmistakable voice and trademark sound that has made him one of the most beloved artists in reggae today. He is also an “unwavering, energetic humanitarian,’ who founded his children’s charity, They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) through which he implements and executes various programs designed to enrich the lives of Caribbean children.
By Midnight Raver
Taj Weekes has six acclaimed albums of “musically adventurous” reggae that imbues his songs with a pragmatic, non-judgmental optimism that is not merely unusual in reggae, but also quite unique. His critically acclaimed albums Deidem and Pariah In Transit are included on Midnight Ravers Top 50 Reggae Albums of the 2000s. His enduring message of “Let Your Vibes Be High And Your Message Mighty” conveys the optimism and conscious spirit that his music represents.
When I sat down with Taj Weekes to discuss his forthcoming album he talked about why he decided to release a solo project after so much success recording with his band Adowa.
“I’m actually recording three albums all at once. COVID had me home, you know, so I just started writing and it just continued. The first album is done and we are working on the second and third albums. It’s been difficult during COVID because we do so much through Zoom with a few studio sessions. So it makes it very difficult. It came about because I was able to be part of this thing. There were 197 musicians, one from each country in the world, and we did a song together. So I met people from all over the world so I reached out to them and we started building on things.
Isolation. Isolation you know. It made me want to do something new and something different. So left alone all this time with a guitar in my hands. Because that’s what I do. I write songs. So I’m working with some brothers in Amsterdam, people that I’ve heard about, people that I’ve spoken to. The brother doing the production work on the first album is a brother called Ziggy Coltrane. He used to be signed to Columbia back in the day. He’s an incredible musician and an incredible producer. He really takes the lead on the first album.
You know when you been with people [the band] for so long, you start doubting yourself as a musician as to whether or not you can actually do it by yourself. I’m very proud of this album.”
The first single from Pause is a track titled “Crisis” which speaks directly to the current COVID crisis and the uncertainty that we all face as the pandemic continues to spread throughout the world. This is history-making subject matter and who better than Taj Weekes to put into words that which we all feel. “Fly open too soon, Here comes the next rush, (uncertainty looms a novel virus), It’s alright to come out slowly, It’s alright to bend the curve, (and will history see you clearly, for your greed and not your verve)”
“The first album I called Pause because I took a pause during this period. So the album is a reflection of what happened from the first day they called COVID to the last song I wrote. I get a little more personal on the second album and then the third album is probably the most introspective and personal because it’s talking about the time I spent at home by myself with a woman for 365 days every day and the ways I can go about being a better person.
Through the pandemic Taj Weekes has also stayed busy by engaging the world through his charitable organization TOCO.
“We sent down [to the Caribbean] thousands of pounds of food. We also sent 200 computers because we wanted to help with virtual learning. We are about to send another 10,000 pounds of food in the next three weeks. We just try to do whatever it is we can do between taking care of the animals, we do dental clinics every six months as well to get dental health together for the underprivileged. We do a t-shirt project which is a domestic abuse project where we have people write on t-shirts the form of abuse they are going through and we hang it in a public space and we have counselors on the periphery so if you need counseling there are professionals who can help you.”
Taj’s main focus at the moment is putting out an album that he feels best represents where he is right now as an artist and creative spirit.
“Even though I feel secure as a songwriter, there is always a little trepidation when you are stepping out on your own. Because people will look and say ‘you have a perfectly good band, why didn’t you make all the albums with them?’ And I am expecting that. So when you are expecting that you have to make sure that what you bring is solid enough that they will say ‘yeah the band is solid, but this is wonderful.’ But I’m really truly excited about this album. Lyrically, it says what it needs to say. I once heard Salman Rushdie say when he wrote his first book that he tried to dazzle people with everything he knew. But he learned down the line to use as few words as possible to convey the message. So I think on this album there are no wasted words.”
CLICK HERE to read our 2013 interview with Taj Weekes.