Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Reggaeing Involves Sacrifice – Jah Device

Jah Device
The automated security door of Access Bank Plc, Bukuru, opened. I stepped in and made straight to the counter. I took my position behind a line of waiting customers. Suddenly a guy approached from behind. On his head was a huge mass of dreadlocks, encased in a supple woolen cap that is typical of Rastas. I knew, there and then, that I was standing next to Jay Town’s most visible reggae star of all time. He is one who definitely has a concert odyssey, in view of his verve.

Every day I listen to local radio, I hear names of ambitious young men and women hoping to make an impression in music. Many often fail to cross the river, lacking the ability to swim in the tricky waters of music-making. I dismissed Jah Device as one of those who would surely drown. He however proved me wrong. I got to know that when I watched him perform on the Nigerian Television Authority, NTA. He performed with an amazing vim, skangking and whipping the air with his huge ropes of hair. Since then, he has continued to register his imminence in my heart and the consciousness of all Nigerians.

I told him I was his fan, he responded with a show of appreciation and rhymed with me when I noted that playing reggae music involves courage and sacrifice. He did not only agree with my position but went on to narrate his own experience that led him to recognize this reality. According to the reggae singer, he is an accountant by training and a reggae music maker by practice. He says a career in accounting is a toast, given the sparkling life it guarantees those who engage in it. The sacrifice he made involved shelving this aside to pave a way for a career in reggae music. Putting his certificates in the closet is a huge opportunity cost of playing reggae music. “To do that, you need to be courageous”, he said.

“Grow your dreadlocks, don’t be afraid of the world!” are words of late Jamaican reggae icon and the first superstar from the Third World. Marley made this suggestion in his song, Rastaman Live Up from the Confrontation album. It was a respond to the way people look at you when you allow those locks to sprout. That was even in the highly liberal Western society. Thus growing dreadlocks in a conservative African setting will, no doubt, involve a greater amount of courage and sacrifice.  This is what Jah Device has had to build in his mindset in order to follow his dream.

Jay Town’s loudest reggae voice talked of how his decision was vindicated by surprises he has seen in his life. While reggae artists are found at one end of the social gamut, clergy men are found at the other extreme –they are far apart. Against this odd, however, Jah Device’s wife descends from a lineage of clergies. Not just that, she is the only lass from such a family. Despite this, her parents conceded her to a dreadlock-carrying reggae man.

Against the deviant stereotype of reggae artists, he was able to catch the attention of the Nigerian Presidency, leading to an invitation that saw him performed before the President, Goodluck Jonathan, on May 29th, 2011. To consummate the deal, he had to visit Aso Rock a couple of times … his hair locks hanging loose –dreadlocks in a state House, a “Rasta” in a state house.

Jah Device did not fail to recall the ironic conflict between reggae gospel artists and other artists who find it difficult to reconcile reggae and generic gospel music.

Against all these hurdles, the man said he has moved. It is, he says, an indication that he has not taken the wrong decision.