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Screen + Sound + Stage
November 20, 2015

Reggae Fusion Speak: Diana King

Text by Ranjabati Das

“There’s nothing like being authentic. Nothing like not fearing or caring about what society may think about you.”

Greatest challenge… Being an introverted, phobic, yet successful artist. Can you imagine having the fear of crowds, public speaking and germs (and doing what I do)…like, what was God thinking?

The best part about being a singer-songwriter… Performing songs that are real and personal to me and witnessing how they relate and connect with others. It touches my heart every time. Shy Guy alone has saved lives. When you know these things about your music, you are humbled and you realise and are made aware of what music can really do.

Harshest criticism… That my type of voice and style would never make it in Jamaica or anywhere else.

Success to you is… Happiness. Which for me means peace of mind and feeling good about the things I do or am a part of.

Role model… People I meet daily. From the homeless to the royal, anyone can teach and inspire. And I am always ready like a sponge.

What about India excites you the most? Are there any Indian musicians that you admire or want to collaborate with?
I am half Indian, from my mother’s side. This is my third visit, and I have been on a journey ever since my first. I have just been curious and dying to come back…. I am open to working with any artist I get good vibes from.

The fastest you have written a song… Shy Guy. Ten minutes.

Is there some kind of a process that you follow while writing a song?
No, I would hope for a quiet space but inspiration comes at me like some kind of madness. It’s unpredictable and so I go with the flow whenever and wherever it happens and make do with the situation I may be in.

You’re the first Jamaican artist to come out. What was the experience like?
It’s been unexpectedly awesome! I’ve lost a lot but I have gained more. When you make a decision such as this, you have to first accept mentally the worse things that can happen, even though it is impossible to know how it will feel. So, I stayed with the positive feedback and ignored the rest. I feel a freedom that only truth can bring. There’s nothing like being authentic. Nothing like not fearing or caring about what society may think about you. That’s a burden I dream we all will shed. To be ourselves and allow others the same right. We weren’t all meant to be the same. I realised that one must live one’s life in total honestly…even if you do not shout it out like I did and only admit the truth to yourself.

In the mid ’90s, you re-introduced reggae fusion to India through massive hits like Shy Guy…. Cut to 2015, and both The Wailers and you have been down for shows in the last month…. Do you think that there’s now a market and a bigger fan following for reggae out here?
Yes, of course. I have learnt that there is always a market for any type of music. It just has to reach the people.

Do you think the original ethos of roots reggae – of finding freedom from Babylonian oppression in Zion – has become diluted with time?
Nothing stays the same. Things evolve. Art is about the artists’ reality or interest. If one is into roots reggae, it can always be found especially at this time in history when so much is available online.

Favourite venue… There’s something special and unique about all the venues and audiences everywhere I have performed. I can tell you that my least favourite, one I would not do again, was a club in Dubai. There was one entrance, no ventilation and everyone was smoking. I smoke too, but this was ridiculous! No amount of water-drinking on stage could save me and by the end of the show, I had no voice left. If I had a performance the next day, I would have had to cancel it.

Upcoming projects… I prefer to live in the now so currently I am enjoying my personal time in India for the whole month, looking forward to performing for my fans at the Raasta lounges in Delhi and Gurgaon and Cafe Lilliput in Goa. I’m open and ready for the inspiration that I know I will receive and which may enlighten me and possibly morph into music.

Diana King performed at Raasta Hauz Khas, Delhi and Raasta Cyber Hub, Gurgaon on the 13th and 14th of November, and can be seen at Cafe Lilliput in Goa on the 21st of the month.

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