In this festive and holy Christmas season, the Sunday Guardian sought out the quiet-spoken and reflective Fr John Pereira, abbot of Mount St Benedict Monastery in St Augustine, for the last
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JaMelody - Living his dream
Like many other successful artistes, Michael “JaMelody” Williams got his first encounter with music and singing at church. He loved the choir, he told the T&T Guardian.
“It was really at church I realised I had a voice,” he said.
His love for singing would land him the opportunity of performing at his final year graduation at Point Cumana RC School.
But it wasn’t until secondary school, Mucurapo Senior Comprehensive, that his passion really started to bloom.
He recalled: “I was invited by a friend at school to listen to this R&B group, who called themselves Brothers With Voices, sing in hall. When I got there, the group was singing the cover version of Elvis Presley’s In The Still of the Night, recorded by Boyz II Men. They sounded good but I felt there was something missing. When I finally put my finger on the problem, I realised they were not blending well…they all sang in the same key,” said Williams.
His time in the church choir taught him a lot about harmonising so Williams advised the group on how best to sing the song. That bit of friendly advice would land him a permanent place in the group.
Brothers With Voices began to perform at every event hosted by the school and soon enough they were getting gigs outside of school. They sang at funerals, weddings, graduations and community events and they performed on the popular 80s and mid-90s talent show Party Time which was filmed at the, now defunct, Upper Level Club in West Mall.
The guys developed a strong relationship which lasted until after they left school. Brothers With Voices performed alongside more established acts like R&B soca groups H2O Phlo and New Creation but poor management and lack of financial support eventually forced the members to drift apart as they looked for more steady ways of earning a buck.
For a while this also put Williams on pause as he tried to find himself. It was at this time he was introduced to his wife Nera by a mutual friend. When Nera heard him sing, she felt he should not be wasting his talent.
“I had known of the group, they used to practice near my home but I never really paid attention to Micky,” Nera said. “I always found that there wasn’t a strong foundation in T&T for the R&B music they were doing at the time. I knew that even with all the talent they had, they would have remained stagnant.”
Nera is a Rastafarian and when she and Williams got together she was able to convince him to switch to reggae music, which she felt was already popular and had more global appeal.
The birth of JaMelody
In 2002, Michael Williams became JaMelody and released Never Let You Down, written by his wife who still writes some of his music. The song was recorded in Jamaica at Jet Star Records Studio.
At the time, he was managed by Zakri Esau from Green House Family Production, and the son of fashion designer Meiling.
Never Let You Down was a big hit which won Williams a lot of recognition.
Esau then decided to approach iconic Jamaican producer Robert “Bobby Digital” Dixon who produced for reggae giants like Morgan Heritage, Sizzla, Anthony B and Richie Spice. The two flew back to Jamaica and, as fate would have it, they met with the mega producer who was blown away by Williams’ voice.
“I remember him being really surprised that I was a Trinidadian because I sounded so much like them (Jamaican),” said Williams.
Instantly Dixon began working with Williams. He released a compilation CD of artistes which also featured Williams with his second smash hit Be Prepared (Jah, Jah is coming near).
The song gained so much momentum that after the compilation release, Williams received a personal call from the CEO of VP records, Vincent “Randy” Chin, who said he wanted to sign him.
“It was a dream come true because I always told myself that I would one day be performing on a big stage with notable artistes,” said Williams.
Williams has had many accomplishments, like sharing the stage with his favourite artistes Jah Cure, Luciano and Beres Hammond but he regards his signing to VP records as the move that catapulted his career.
‘Music is a mission for me’
Williams’ music has taken him to places like Germany, Norway, Amsterdam, Australia, Holland, Canada, Atlanta, San Francisco and of course, the Caribbean.
Asked what sort of feedback he received when he performed internationally, Williams said: “Music is a mission for me. I always perform from my heart so I give people 100 per cent of what I have to offer. I understand the different cultures and when I visit these places I leave a touch of who I am and my music which is influenced by my Caribbean roots and my beliefs.”
He said there were times he felt more love when he performed overseas than at home.
“There is support, but I think a lot more can be done to support local artistes. We should not wait until our artistes make it big outside then to claim them,” said the 33-year-old.
Williams has recorded over 60 songs and his music, which is quite uplifting, touches on love, social issues and spirituality. With inspiration coming from his wife and fans, Williams said he was currently finishing his soon-to-be-released album.
Williams was one of the highlights of the Redemption concert at the Hasely Crawford Stadium on Saturday night. The event, put on by Tropix Entertainment, was one of the biggest reggae concerts to be staged this year. The show featured reggae stars Beres Hammond, Duane Stephenson, Gyptian and Sanchez.
Williams is keen on giving back and has provided youths in his hometown, Carenage, with the opportunity to explore their talent.
“In my house there is a studio I have dedicated to the young people who want to sing. They come in and they listen to music and sometimes they even sing or write songs,” he said.
“I think I need to pave a way for them because had I not been in the position I am in today, I am not sure where exactly what I would be doing,” said Williams who studied technical drawing.
He said he was happy he found his way and someone listened to his voice because many young people want to do something other than academics and no one listens to them.
Williams is working toward owning his own record label and starting a fashion line.
“I just want to ‘buss’ (bring out) artistes man. A lot of talent just wasting out there, and if I could help then that’s what I want to do.”
He left these words of advice to the youths: “Do not doubt yourself. You can do all things, once you put your mind to it. Just have faith and love Jah man and everything will be alright.”