TAJ WEEKES, U.S. TOUR (JATTA RECORDS)
[DUNKELBUNT]
A NEW DAY; LAYA PROJECT REMIXED
ADDIS ACOUSTIC PROJECT
AFRO ROOTS WORLD MUSIC FESTIVAL
AMADOU & MARIAM
ANTÓNIO ZAMBUJO
APHRODESIA
BALKANBEATS
BANCO DE GAIA
BOBAN I MARKO MARKOVIC ORKESTAR
BOBAN I MARKO MARKOVIC
BOY WITHOUT GOD
C.J. CHENIER
CARLOS GOGO GOMEZ
CHOBAN ELEKTRIK
CHOPTEETH
CHRISTIANE D
CHRISTINE VAINDIRLIS
CLARA PONTY
COPAL
CUCHATA
DAMJAN KRAJACIC
DANIEL CROS
DEBO & FENDIKA
DEL CASTILLO
DR JAYANTHI KUMARESH
EARTHRISE SOUNDSYSTEM
EGYPT NOIR
ELIN FURUBOTN
EMILY SMITH
FANFARE CIOCARLIA VS. BOBAN & MARKO MARKOVIC
FEUFOLLET
FIAF PRESENTS WORLD NOMADS MOROCCO: MUSIC
FOOTSTEPS IN AFRICA
GECKO TURNER
GENTICORUM
GEOFF BERNER
GIANMARIA TESTA
GODS ROBOTS
GUARCO
HUUN HUUR TU
INDIAN OCEAN
IRENE JACOB & FRANCIS JACOB
JANAKA SELEKTA
JANYA
JERRY LEAKE
JOAQUIN DIAZ
JOEL RUBIN
JORGE STRUNZ
JOSEF KOUMBAS
JOYFUL NOISE (I GRADE RECORDS)
JUST A BAND
KAMI THOMPSON
KARTICK & GOTAM
KHALED
KHING ZIN & SHWE SHWE KHAING
KITKA'S CAUCASIAN CONNECTIONS PROJECT PERFORMANCES AND WORKSHOPS
KMANG KMANG
KOTTARASHKY AND THE RAIN DOGS
LA CHERGA
LAC LA BELLE
LAYA PROJECT
LENI STERN
LES TRIABOLIQUES
LISTEN FOR LIFE
LOBI TRAORÉ
LO'JO
LOKESH
MAGNIFICO
MAHALA RAI BANDA
MIDNITE
MOHAMMED ALIDU AND THE BIZUNG FAMILY
MR. SOMETHING SOMETHING
MY NAME IS KHAN
NAWAL
NAZARENES
NO STRANGER HERE (EARTHSYNC)
OCCIDENTAL BROTHERS ON TOUR
OCCIDENTAL GYPSY
OREKA TX
ORQUESTRA CONTEMPORÂNEA DE OLINDA
PABLO SANCHEZ
PEDRO MORAES
RAYA BRASS BAND
SALSA CELTICA
SAMITE
SARA BANLEIGH
SARAH AROESTE
SELAELO SELOTA
SHYE BEN-TZUR
SIA TOLNO
SIBIRI SAMAKE
SISTER FA
SLIDE TO FREEDOM II
SONIA BREX
SOSALA
SWEET ELECTRA
SYSTEMA SOLAR
TAGA SIDIBE
TAJ WEEKES
TARANA
TARUN NAYAR
TE VAKA
TELEPATH
THE MOUNTAIN MUSIC PROJECT
THE NATIVE AMERICA NORTH SHOWCASE
THE SPY FROM CAIRO
TITO GONZALEZ
TOUSSAINT
VARIOUS ARTISTS
VARIOUS ARTISTS
WATCHA CLAN
WHEN HARRY TRIES TO MARRY SOUNDTRACK
WOMEXIMIZER
WOMEXIMIZER
ZDOB SI ZDUB
ZIETI
Taj Weekes, U.S. Tour (Jatta Records)
Anthems of Hope: The Lush and Gritty Grooves of St. Lucia’s Taj Weekes

St. Lucian singer-songwriter Taj Weekes makes music that grooves like waves on a beach: seemingly gentle yet insistently powerful. On stage and on albums like the recent A Waterlogged Soul Kitchen (Jatta Records), Weekes and his band Adowa unite a vibrant diversity of sounds with thoughtful, lush arrangements and a long-honed penchant for telling tales of hardship and hope.

This spring and summer (2011) will take Taj Weekes & Adowa on tour across the U.S., including performances at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival (June 17), the Blissfest Folk & Roots Festival (July 8-9), and the River City Music Festival (August 28).

“I don’t sit down and write socially conscious songs. I write songs about where I place my focus,” Weekes explains. “I grew up listening to the power of the music, the lyrical content. That’s what matters.”

Weekes harnesses this power, using his gritty tenor as counterpoint to the lilting pulse of his guitar. He has reflected on the impact of Hurricane Katrina (“Rain Rain”), on the twisted tragedy of Darfur (“Janjaweed”), on the careless destruction of the Gulf oil spill (“Drill”). He knows how to sing with great tenderness (the subdued, poignant “Before the War”) or with wry firmness (“Anthems of Hope”), balancing elegant melodies with rich strings, purring percussion, bluesy harmonica licks, and funky, funky keys. He hints simultaneously at José González, Merle Haggard, Jimmy Scott, Tracy Chapman, Peter Tosh.

Though long hailed by reggae fans, Weekes defies simple genre formulas. His intuitive, intense songwriting ties together the many threads of his Caribbean heritage and honors his unflagging engagement with the world as a musician, philanthropist, and lecturer.

***
Weekes grew up tossing country tunes and jazz standards around the family kitchen with his father and siblings, learning how to speak truth to power from local calypso musicians, and watching his Rastafarian brothers take on a violently critical society. The young Weekes was also a DJ at a local radio station, absorbing and playing everything: classical music, hard rock, reggae.

Classic country and calypso were also big on St. Lucia, and both are about telling stories, a vital part of Weekes’ work. “We’re a storytelling people,” muses Weekes. Early calypso singers, as well as reggae performers, were the town criers of their communities, taking stands on local issues and calling out corrupt politicians. At the same time, country songs poured from the radio, and boot-sporting, cowboy hat-wearing music fans on St. Lucia couldn’t get enough of their real-life tales of heartbreak and faith.

Though deeply connected to the musical life of his island home, Weekes came into his artistic own while spending time in New York City, where he eventually gathered a group of musicians from across the Caribbean diaspora to form Adowa (named for the 19th-century battle when Ethiopians beat back an invading Italian army). Adowa has both serious reggae cred and rock-solid musicianship. Weekes and Adowa have played major jazz, rock, and global music festivals, like a recent headliner gig in front of nearly 30,000 fans at the Austin Reggae Festival, as well as garner critical acclaim from reggae writers and lovers.

Though well loved in reggae circles, Weekes has evolved his own approach to making music that combines genres and vibes, incorporating sounds from vintage Ethiopian funk jazz to roots rock, from Deep South blues to West African percussion. These diverse elements interweave in Weekes’ intuitive, reflective songwriting, often spurred by a single word or story.

As Weekes & Adowa were finishing up A Waterlogged Soul Kitchen, Weekes was reading a newspaper story about the BP oil spill. “’I stopped the session and told the guys I had a new song,” Weekes recalls. “And I starting laying down the guitar for ‘Drill’ on the spot.”  Weekes’ inspiration also struck guitarist Mike Pinera, who’s played with Iron Butterfly and Alice Cooper, who had dropped by the studio. Pinera was so enthused when he heard Weekes’ song that he dashed out of the studio to grab his guitar and upon his return blasted out a heartfelt solo for “Drill.”

Weekes also inspires live. An engaging performer, he learned early from his father that playing music was about talking to listeners one on one. “Since he taught me that,” Weekes notes with a smile, “I have always focused on reaching people, not just playing music.” And moving people extends beyond the stage, to the lectern, college classroom (where Weekes often shares his experience nurturing social responsibility through his art), and the streets of poor neighborhoods across the Caribbean.

Weekes founded his own non-profit, They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO), to provide everything from post-hurricane humanitarian aid to shoes and soccer balls to children in need across his native region. It’s a way of walking the talk of his songs’ messages. “I still play soccer when we’re on the road touring, at rest stops,” Weekes says. “It’s great stress relief, especially for children who face all sorts of problems. Their responsibility is just to play, and we help them do that.”

Named a Goodwill Ambassador by the International Consortium of Caribbean Professionals and recognized by a division of the United Nations, Weekes sees no boundary between his work as a singer-songwriter and as a benefactor and consciousness-raiser. “If the people suffer, no matter where they are—on St. Lucia, in Darfur, in China—we have to say it, ” states Weekes. “We all have to hold each other’s hand and walk the path together.”

<< release: 05/05/11 >>
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