Fri | Jan 24, 2020

UK artiste Jesta takes on JA - And makes no joke about it

Published:Wednesday | September 26, 2018 | 12:00 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer
D'Angel and Jesta
D'Angel and Jesta

On the other side of the Atlantic, reggae, dub and dancehall have long been recognised as the foundation to the scenes that created underground rave, drum and bass and another genre known as grime in the United Kingdom.

With that recognition, a few London-based artistes are combining Jamaican roots with European base, to make an entirely new sound. This is the route taken by 35-year-old Eric Davis, who goes by the moniker Jesta.

Born in Morant Bay, St Thomas, Jesta and his family migrated to London when he was just 14 years old. Unlike many reggae/dancehall artistes who start their musical journey in their early teens, he is only just now jumping on the musical train.

"Music is a part of where I come from, and is automatically a part of me. But more or less, I have always been good with words and using poetry to express myself," said Jesta.

The word 'jester', which means a person who habitually plays the fool, was chosen because of his lighthearted behaviour. But he is quite the opposite when it comes to his carrer.

He has been travelling back and forth to research the dancehall genre, in hopes of becoming integrated - and has released a few tracks as the result. In Bowling Ball, a song released in late 2017, Jesta tells the story of his life. Without a music video, he has compiled images of a trip to his hometown in St Thomas for a promo video.

"I did not want to come home solely to shoot a video and record on local rhythms -which is a popular trend of international names - but was focused on getting the genuine feedback. And once you can survive in the shark tank, it shows that you can survive anywhere else," he said.

Jesta is of the notion that to break certain boundaries requires collaboration. "It is important to go to the birthplace of the genre as the credibility of any dancehall artiste starts in Jamaica," he said.

He says that the UK reggae-dancehall scene is currently undergoing a revival. In 2016, the genre has been sampled by British electronic music groups such as Clean Bandit that collaborated with Sean Paul for the hit single Rockabye, and Aluna George that featured Popcaan in I'm In Control. The singles sparked a new sound highlighting Caribbean accents over pop compositions and motivated underground artistes.

"There have also been many big breakout artistes from the UK, including Gappy Ranks, and recently Stefflon Don -although the scene was quiet for a while because persons wanted to rap, and not just do dancehall and reggae - this as a result of the collaborations," he said. "That generation of sound reaches out to another era, one that hangs on to ideologies and words and it influences youth in a big way."

The dance-rap artiste noted that while it is good for the cultural exposure, there exists other platforms that need to be capitalised on to capture the local audience. The road Jesta has planned to take is to create an additional energy under the dance-raps genre, which also incorporates dance challenges for his fans.

"Our music is not to be taken as Patois over a rap rhythm - it is meant to be a language for body and mind."

Jesta says he has been following the careers of female recording artistes in Jamaica, and is particularly fond of D'Angel's determination, lyrical style and diverse music collection. The two have joined forces to introduce this "new sound" that Jesta speaks of on a single titled Romantick.

According to D'Angel, his love of music is obvious - the music he makes clearly has a host of influences, and the concept of the single is intriguing.

"This collaboration definitely flipped the script; it includes all the traditional acts of two persons in love, but shows the hard-core side of the female," D'Angel explained.

She added, "Nowadays, an artiste can never know what persons will call the 'world song,' and for that reason I am taking a chance with Jesta's sound."