Some songs on Souljah Fyah’s latest reggae album The Long Walk were inspired by feeling “collectively worried” about the state of the world.
Lead singer/songwriter Waymatea Ellis — who performs with her band on Saturday, March 11, at the Elk’s Lodge in Red Deer — said Donald Trump’s presidency “wasn’t on anyone’s radar” while she was recording in Jamaica in mid-2015. “It was still seen as a joke.”
Nobody’s laughing now that Trump is U.S. president — but many people are scared.
The Edmonton-based singer feels it speaks to how divided America is that half of its citizens had absolutely no clue the other half were so frustrated by the political process they were set to elect the reality TV star/business mogul into the top job in the Free World.
Since the election results are a done deal, Ellis feels it’s unhelpful that many people are continuing to mock Trump.
She believes this makes his supporters — even ones that privately harbour reservations about his presidency — refuse to acknowledge their misgivings, lest they, too, be smeared.
Ellis would love to bring the two solitudes together: “We need to all come together as people. We need to create one community by sharing in some joyful noise.” And what better way than listening to reggae?
Roots reggae was born in Jamaica in the 1960s, incorporating feelings of frustration about social injustice. It was strongly influenced by traditional American jazz and rhythm and blues. While sometimes mistaken for sunny dancehall music, reggae usually includes some political commentary, said Ellis.
The singer, who was raised by a father from Trinidad and a mother from New Brunswick, recalled not really fitting in while growing up in Edmonton — but still having a lot of friends.
Her family encouraged her early musical interest. And Ellis is glad she formed Souljah Fyah in her home city some 15 years ago, instead of relocating the group to Toronto, where there’s more of an audience for the music.
“I used to teach school in some smaller centres,” she explained. “And a lot of those kids had never been exposed to this culture” — until her band played for them.
For more information about the show, please visit centralmusicfest.com.