Qshan Deya, the “volcano trumpet,” is part of a younger generation hearkening back to the roots reggae music of the past. A native of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ Union Island, Qshan’s career has seen him go from his home island to Jamaica and the United States, building a strong presence in the diaspora and around the Caribbean with a base in Brooklyn. Caribbean Journal talked to Qshan about how he came to reggae music, what he’s working on right now and the power of reggae in the Caribbean.
How did you get started in reggae music?
I merged in reggae music from the tender age of nine, from a musically talented family. I started pursuing reggae music after the musical legacy of Bob Marley, the great Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. Growing up listening to their music as a youngster, I always had that urge to listen to reggae music and I continued practice it in local concerts, in queen pageants, until I migrated to the US in 1996, where I professionally started recording in one studio in Brooklyn called the Living Room Studio, where my first single came about entitled “Journey,” which ended up being my debut album title for 2001. It featured artists like Richie Spice, and it was a 12-track compilation.
How did you first get to Jamaica?
I’ve been growing from strength to strength. I even met some of my musical influences – people like Luciano, Bushman, and then I shared the stage with Luciano at Coney Island’s Keyspan Park in 2002, where he called me his “musical son;” we do have that identical baritone similarity. Then I went on to Jamaica, which I visited the very first time on Haile Selassie’s birthday in 2002 – I was brought there by a company called King of Kings. After my migration back to the US after a little vacation, I loved Jamaica, and I realized that there’s no way for you to merge into reggae music unless you go to the root of it. So I started visiting Jamaica, but while being in Brooklyn, I met some great people who were the catalysts that helped me be here today – people like Sharon Gordon and Carlyle McKetty – which is good people that helped me grow from strength to strength.
What are you working on right now?
I’m in the process of doing a new album which will be released in the fall entitled “Love Will Govern Us All.” From that album, I released a track called “Mama,” which is paying tribute to all the mothers in the four corners of the earth, disregarding your color, creed or race. It’s just giving thanks to the mothers, because if there were no mothers, there would be no male, female or anyone in the earth. And that song was released in Jamaica May 5 of this year, and it opened other doors for me.
What do you think is the impact of reggae today?
You find that if you don’t have any big management, or if you’re not signed to a major, you will be hindered in reaching the maximum potential of your ability. I think reggae music is a medium where message is always in that music. Today, we may see a lot of contradiction, because we’re living in a modern world. Reggae has a lot of branches. I myself see reggae as a voice for the sufferers. Reggae music has helped me to know myself – it’s taught me the knowledge of things I’ve never done, which I wouldn’t get in the regular syllabus of the school curriculum. I think reggae is a forum – it’s life – it’s keeping it clean with the message in the music.
What does reggae mean to the Caribbean at large?
For the whole Caribbean, it means these same things as it means to Jamaica. Even though we were exposed to Calypso, Soca – reggae dominated. Because every Caribbean island has a reggae star every other month performing, so that means it’s a bread basket for the Caribbean region. Reggae music even is what puts a lot of politicians into power – they use the music to get people to the ballot box. So reggae now comes as a gimmick, too, because people themselves fall short because of material gain, and they find themselves subjected to things they don’t really want to do because they want a little financial gain to grow stronger. But if people like myself and others can continue to use reggae for the true meaning it was created for, then everyone will be will informed, there will be more freedom fighters. There will be more people seeking more equal rights and justice and more forums to express themselves on any level – where positivity and righteousness is concerned.