Good Vibes Only
The world as we knew it changed completely in the space of a year. And honestly, to say it has been challenging is an understatement. As much as people throw around the message to "stay positive" and to control your mental state there are days when I have felt completely lost and uninspired, as I'm sure many others have as well.
In spite of the massive losses that creatives have taken including little to no live performance opportunities, no Crop Over, declining payment rates from gig opportunities, and a myriad of other challenges both personally and professionally, creatives are still here releasing content, which makes me extremely proud. To the creatives who have had the fortitude to push through, I continue to be inspired by each of you. And to the creatives who are just trying to survive and keep their head above water, I see you.
This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing two Bajan artists who have released content with the purpose of giving their audience hope: Peter Coxx and Ray Vybz. Upon speaking with each of them, they imparted to me the importance of staying positive and remaining true to self no matter how many detours happen along the way. A timely lesson, given the climate of the past year.
In February, Peter Coxx released an album called Original Copy, followed up by a single, Sun Light, on April 3rd. As we spoke I was touched by how openly vulnerable he chose to be as he spoke about the path his life has taken that led to where he is today. He credits his late mother as the motivation for him to continue his path as an artist.
Like many Caribbean creatives, Peter started singing while he was in church. He then went on to be in a boy band, won solo awards at NIFCA, and seemed to be well on his way to the path of an artist. But as life continued to unfold he stepped away from music and was eventually brought back to it after several years by the last wishes of his mother, who asked him to start back singing and playing his guitar. He spoke about going through a series of losses at the time of her passing and, eventually, using his guitar for healing.
Peter is now using his talents to provide healing as well to others. Peter was able to record his album, The Original Copy, thanks to the National Cultural Foundation's Covid-19 Grant Program. The album was written and recorded in three months and features Mole, Sean One, and others. The title "The Original Copy" represents returning to the original version of himself. As he put it:
"I'm Peter Coxx, regardless of how many jobs I've had or what I've done, my core is that I'm a writer and a singer. I love to sing and that makes me happy, that makes me feel fulfilled. Having gone through all the stuff that I've gone through and then having the opportunity to do this album really filled me with a sense of purpose. After I lost my mother, shortly after my cellphone malfunctioned and I lost all of her voice notes, our memories.
The only way for me to hear her now is in my head or if others send me clips they had of her. So this album is significant for me on so many levels. This is also for my daughter, just in case, at least now there is a recording and they have my voice and can say this is where my dad was at in 2020-2021. All of these 14 songs came from a real place and I hope they help somebody."
When I asked him what advice he would give to younger artists Peter's response was:
"Don't ever give up, and don't ever stop going after your dream. There were so many times that I paused, and life got in the way. But if you look at the people in life who are most successful, regardless of what field they choose to be in, it's the people who never gave up.
As an artist, it also makes sense to learn an instrument so that you can have an easier time communicating with other musicians. As a matter of fact, try to be familiar with different facets of the music business whether that's production, graphics, just educate yourself and learn how to protect yourself and your music as well."
The Original Copy is available on all major platforms.
On April 16th Ray Vybz released a live version of his original track "Blessed Good Morning" with his band, The High Synergy Band. It was filmed by Vonley Smith of VWS Studios and produced by Green Shanti Productions. Blessed Good Morning is certainly a lesson in trusting your intuition until the right moment presents itself.
I've had the pleasure of working with Ray Vybz and The High Synergy Band a few times over the past year, as a guest artiste for the "Catch De Vybz Show" he produced in 2020 at Round House thanks to the NCF's Covid Grant, NYE at The Hilton, and most recently for the High Synergy Band's Valentine's Day Special. Ray and the band have certainly been capitalizing on their time.
Ray, a former Barbados Community College Music student, has experience navigating the music circuit, he was in a few bands/collectives before creating his own. The High Synergy Band comprises Juanita "Juanz" Clarke on Drums, Jazz Gittens on Keys, Allan Lewis on Bass, and Ray Vybz as the Guitarist/Lead Vocalist.
From the time the intro starts, the track just feels GOOD! Blessed Good Morning is certainly a pick me up but it was a while in the making. When I asked Ray about the process behind the track he said:
"I wrote Blessed Good Morning in 2016. Honestly, a few years ago I performed it live and people really liked the song, at that time it was just me and Allan. For some reason I just felt like it wasn't ready, I didn't have the resources to make it happen in the way that I had envisioned. I kept tweaking it and just was waiting for the right moment. For the Catch De Vybz Show last year, we did an arrangement of the track with the band because I wanted to do as much original content as possible for the show.
Romar "Thirty-Two" Parris, co-owner of Green Shanti Productions, came to me after the performance and said, "let's do this!" I always wanted to do a live studio recording of the track. So all of a sudden I had the studio, I had the band. We asked some other musicians to join the core High Synergy Band to create the sound we wanted and they said yes. I reached out to Vonley Smith to record the video and that's how we got started putting everything together.
What advice would you give to younger artists looking on at your journey with the band?
"First and foremost stay focused and figure out where you're really looking to go. Keep your head on and never compromise yourself. Align yourself with the right people and build the right circle, the right energy around you, it feels better when you come together and accomplish something. You need people around you who want the best for you. Always be willing to learn and be open to criticism. Take all your experiences and always try to be better than your last performance."
I hope that these artists' music and their journeys inspire you and serve as a timely reminder that delayed does not mean denied. At points where it seems like nothing makes sense keep looking for your opportunities, trust yourself, and press on, even if it's slowly.
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