Monday, 12 February 2018

ON THE RECORD: Singer-songwriter Jahiti talks about recording Garvey’s “Keep Cool”, empowerment and philosophy

THE STRONG ONE: "Music is necessary for healing and to connect to a higher power," says Jahiti.

WHEN Jahiti was gearing up to re-release his debut album, Fish Bowl, in 2010, he knew he had to include among the new tracks “Keep Cool,” written by Marcus Mosiah Garvey while imprisoned in the United States in the 1920s. Jahiti, a Bronx-by-way-of-Kingston native gave a splendid rendition of the song at Sunday’s second leg of Grounation 2018 at the Institute of Jamaica, during a presentation by Steven Golding, who first told Jahiti about the lyrics written by Garvey, a prolific poet and songwriter in his day. TALLAWAH spoke with the 42-year-old indie artist (who has released three albums to date) about the revered Black icon and his timeless, life-changing messages. 

TALLAWAH: You must consider it a great honour to have recorded a song based on lyrics penned by none other than Marcus Mosiah Garvey. 
Jahiti: I think the best part for me was never knowing that there were songs written by Garvey. He never sang it, but he wrote the words. So I never saw a music sheet. I just came up with some chords on the guitar and we took it from there. 

TALLAWAH: How did you get in contact with Steven Golding? 
Jahiti: I’ve known him for years, from we were kids, but we never actually worked together until we were both in the UNIA. So we reconnected when he was living in New York for a little bit. I would attend UNIA conferences and events, and one day he told me about this song that Garvey wrote. 

TALLAWAH: Who is Jahiti? How do you define yourself as an artist? 
Jahiti: I’m a social scientist who writes lyrics and puts some chords to it on my guitar. So I am not a singer. I use my art and music to let people know they are not alone. We all share together. Music is necessary for healing and to connect to a higher power. 

TALLAWAH: Another song you performed earlier, “Advance,” is also very Garvey-esque in its lyrics and empowerment message. 
Jahiti: That song is the Universal Ethiopian Anthem, written by Ford and Burrell. And it does have a powerful message. What I feel it charges me with is a level of responsibility, telling people to advance to their victory. I feel big inside. 

TALLAWAH: What’s next for you? 
Jahiti: I want to put a pause on performing and head back into the studio to do some recording. I want to get back to that process of writing and recording and then taking the songs somewhere. I’ll probably do more singles instead, because sometimes the album is not really worth it. It soon becomes free. And I’m reading a lot more. I’m in the time of my life now where I want to read books that were written over 100 years ago. What did our ancestors know? What were the building blocks to creating a life? 

TALLAWAH: Deep stuff. Which brings us back to Garvey. What would you say is his true legacy? 
Jahiti: Garvey’s true legacy is just a powerful thing. It doesn’t matter stage of life you’re at, he’s a constant reminder of the human spirit. I’m gonna accomplish something. Be an example. Stand up and fight. That’s what he represented.

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