Rastaman. Businessman. Preacher man. Island man. Poetry man. Reggae recording artist Taj Weekes plays many roles, but chief among them is the role of storyteller.
Photo & text courtesy of Taj Weekes' website.
The singer/songwriter tells tales of poverty, oppression, hopelessness and rejection, counterweighing them each with a message of Rastafari faith and spirituality. On his aptly-titled debut CD, Hope and Doubt, Taj sings about life’s tug of war the way only a man of experience can.
Born the youngest of ten children, Taj grew up on the Caribbean island of St Lucia. He became aware of the disparity between the well-heeled tourists and the striving locals early on. Religion and music were the two main salvations for the Weekes family, St. Lucians of Ethiopian descent, and the songs they learned at church often followed them home. "It was like a Caribbean Von Trapp family. Someone was always singing in some corner of the house or entertaining the rest of us, " explains Weekes. While church music played a big role in Taj’s life, so did the sounds that emanated from his stereo—everything from The Mighty Sparrow to Paul Simon to Nat King Cole. Taj himself began singing by age five and started composing his own calypso music by the time he was eleven years old.
When his role model and older brother Desmond, nicknamed MPLA, discovered Rastafari, Taj quickly had his own spiritual awakening. Yet, by his late teens, Taj found the island’s 238 square miles too stifling and grew weary of its rigid dichotomies. He headed for the vast, opportunity-filled North American mainland to pursue a music career—first to Toronto and then to New York, where he found a home.
Taj found a group of incredible musicians keyboardist, Bunny Cunningham, bassist, Radss Desiree', guitarist, Shelton Garner, drummer, Conrad Seraphin, and Ari Matsumoto. He called the band Adowa, in tribute to his Ethiopian grandfather and to an 1896 battle in which Ethiopian Emperor Menelik II thwarted off Italian invaders, a milestone in Rastafari history. He has been cultivating a following in New York City ever since, singing his stories at venues such as: Irving Plaza, Reggae Woodstock, Apollo Theatre, Bronx River Festival, Lion's Den, African Street Festival, Caribbean American Festival, Wetlands, Jamaica Arts Festival, Tramps, Rock & Roll Cafe', Nell's, Le Bar Bat, and SOB's to name a few.