The Jamaica Gleaner - 2019
Typically, musicians tend to stay in their lane. So an artiste who is branded a dancehall icon won’t typically be on an excursion into jazz, and vice versa. However, New York-based Jamaican artiste, known as desmond (with a lower case ‘d’), is a standout exception. From a classical background with a doctorate in conducting, he has recently changed gear, and his energies are now directed towards reggae and dancehall music.
His first single, Rise Up, from his newest project dropped last week, and the album comes early in the new year. desmond, who now resides in the Bronx, was born in Kingston, and music is unapologetically embedded in his DNA. He recently spent time in Jamaica, where he has been collaborating with some of the best producers and musicians on the island to assist with the delivery of a powerful project. He enlisted the creative support of Dean Fraser, Koriq Clarke, Mikey Bennett with additional collaboration on the New York side with Sidney Mills (Steel Pulse) and James Gately.
“I am excited about my new album, which is a sizzling hybrid of roots reggae, dancehall and R&B music. I’ve been a full-time student for a long time and I see this album as a release of musical creativity built up over many years,” desmond told The Sunday Gleaner.
The set is titled Happiness is Priceless, and the theme is money.
“Money is a universal symbol and an absolute necessity, and everyone can relate to it, both rich and poor. The lack of it, or the abundance of it, will shape the choices we make in life,” desmond explained.
The artiste says that he switched lanes so as to develop another aspect of his talents. His musical journey started at the Rollington Town Seventh-day Adventist Church in Kingston, where his adopted parents exposed him to classical and gospel music. He immediately loved and embraced both genres, and when he moved on to Kingston College for high school, he stayed with the acclaimed KC Choir throughout his teenage years, wearing various caps as choir member, soloist and assistant choir master.
He later enriched a number of Jamaican choirs with his musical gifts, among them Gospel Proclaimers, the Diocesan Festival Choir, the National Chorale of Jamaica and Jamaica Vocal Ensemble, for which he was founder and artistic director. desmond also played lead roles in the LTM National Pantomime and he was the first administrator in publishing and copyrights at the Jamaica Association of Composers, Authors & Publishers Ltd.
Fast-forward to 2019, and desmond has been studying and working with various choirs in the New York area. After completing his PhD in conducting at the University of Southern Mississippi, he decided to take off a few months to finish up his reggae album.
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Reggae performer desmond the songwriter has taken his music all around the world. From Europe and the Caribbean all the way to U.S. locations such as New Orleans and Fort Worth, the singer has made a habit of having his music accepted wherever he goes.
On this EP, the singer gets a chance to show what he can do vocally, and its a pretty amazing thing. The opening title cut is one where he gets to show his love of the Reggae art form, and also shows his personal philosophy about keeping your chin up when things look at their bleakest.
Speaking of having deep personal strength, the singer exudes that phrase on the self-evident Makes Me Stronger, and the set finishes off with the excellent No One. With music this strong, Ive got a feeling that 2019 could very well be desmond he songwriter's year!
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So whose down with a Reggae singer who is classically trained? What you are about to hear is different in every sense of the word. desmond the songwriter is truly his own man behind the microphone. Based in New Orleans, his voice is almost operatic, almost caberet and all heart.
The best single on his current EP is called "No One," as it combines this voice of his with traditionally rootsy Reggae, like back-in-the-day Trojan Reggae. When I first heard this I wasn't totally sure I liked it...I didn't know what to make of it...then I decided in short order that I loved it.
desmond the songwriter is a seasoned performer having toured the US, Europe and the Caribbean extensively, and it is without question he takes pride in himself and his music. If the ten tracks soon to be released are like the three on his EP, you can be sure you will be getting some seriously feel-good music.
The Jamaica Gleaner
Jamaican to perform on 'Apollo Live'
Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter
With the aim of promoting Jamaica worldwide, United States-based artiste desmond the songwriter said he tried to represent the country to the best of his ability when he participated in the Apollo Live reality series that will be aired later this year.
Some time ago, desmond the songwriter said he auditioned for the show when it went to Atlanta and he was invited to be part of it. This was way better than his previous attempt where he got to the top of the line to enter the auditorium right in time to hear that auditions had ended.
Nonetheless, he said he was pleased with his three-day experience on the show that will be aired on November 25 on BET/Centric. He said he was the only Caribbean person on the show, and only one other act performed an original song.
"I met a lot of important people. I worked with a really good band. To go in an environment like that and people seem to like my music, it was very encouraging," he told The Gleaner.
"It was a good experience and it was a good opportunity to get my music played to this packed house of people. It boosts my confidence to step out more than I have in the past year or so."
desmond teh songwriter does mostly reggae, ska and soul, but has started to sing funk because that is what his band is comfortable playing.
Reggae was the genre he chose for 'Apollo Live'.
"I feel more obligated to wave the flag more than when I was in Jamaica. I used to sing alternative music but since I have been here, I think it is important to do what I am doing," said desmond the songwriter, who migrated to the US eight years ago.
In addition to singing reggae during his performances, desmond the songwriter says he also represents Jamaica by wearing the national colours on the show. During the events, he also claims to promote the food, music, athletics and friendliness of Jamaicans.
As he waits for the show to be aired, desmond teh songwriter says he is still heavily promoting his Losers Never Win EP. He says he has sold about 2,000 physical copies and several online. Ultimately, however, he would like to get someone to represent him and eventually perform at concerts in Europe.
But that is not the only thing on his plate, as he is currently completing a Doctor of Musical Arts in conducting at the University of Southern Mississippi.
Soundout Song Reviews
"Very nice opening with the drum beat, sax and piano. Singer has an interesting voice, very distinctive. I like the harmonies, as well. The lyrics are nice, too, inspirational without being too cheesy. I'd like to see this one get some radio play. (review of Losers Never Win)"
"i told him that i want to be a winner" lyrics offering such a great theme here,tells how positive mind make all happen.the male voice was perfect for the track.the piano and other music was good. (review of Losers Never Win)
"This sounded so soothing. the vocals sure helped in that feeling, and also the music. i think this was a professional sounding song and everything here was helpful in that, the background vocals and everything. Loved this. (review of Makes Me Stronger)"
"Very beautiful intro! The trumpet is really impressive and the piano is played very well! Nice tunes! Really amazing! I like the percussion pretty much! The singer sounds very good! The background singer sound great! Very great track! It is well arranged and progressed! It has nice transitions and breaks! Very nice bridges! I love it! (review of Makes Me Stronger)"
"Great intro! Lovely tunes! :D The singer has a great voice! The womens' voices are beautiful and are a great addition to the man's voice!! The saxophone is very amazing! Nice solo! Really nice! The piano is good! The drums are good, too! :) The song sounds really relaxing and it is nice listening to it! Great song! (review of No One)"