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Classical musician releases reggae album

Published:Sunday | October 20, 2019 | 1:25 AMDave Rodney - Sunday Gleaner Writer

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.

Switching lanes

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.