Interviews News 19 July 2016
Author: Marisa Lee

Shakka returns to his Dominican roots in the final part of “Homelands”

Author Marisa Lee
19 July 2016

In this final part of the HOMELANDS road trip series we travel with singer/songwriter Shakka as he discovers Dominica. The HOMELANDS project involves artists going back to their roots to re-discover themselves, and produce new music as part of the journey. Find out how the experience went below, and watch his journey here.

Read the previous episodes with Saskilla and Diztortion.

What did you do when it was confirmed you were going to Dominica?

“I called all of my cousins, aunties, nephews and uncles, even though I didn’t fully know if I had enough time to see them all.”

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What was your first impression?

“My first impression was immersed in flashbacks. The colours of the airport, the smell and humidity of the atmosphere. I genuinely expected to hear my mum hurrying me to somewhere in patois.

Where did you go from the airport?

“The first spot we hit was the market by the sea in Portsmouth. I surprised my uncle: he knew I was coming, but he just didn’t know when. We poured rum into a full coconut, and made a toast to our reunion.”

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What was your first day like?

“My first day was overwhelming. Calling people to organise meeting points when I didn’t know where people lived. Also trying to navigate in a place where google maps don’t serve much assistance – no postcodes, minimal road names. Just landmarks and the hope that people know them. After a while though, I became one with the rhythm.

You weren’t wasting any time, so what was next?

“J’Ouvert. 4am with people dancing to a constant drum beat, chocolate smeared everywhere. Nothing but the very few street lights and our voices to guide us. Like we were trying to communicate to our ancestors. In the afternoon, we drove across the island to Grand Bay, visiting Asa Banton – Dominican artist and Bouyon pioneer – talking to him about his ‘Strictly Local’ ethos the importance of being himself with vernacular, clothing style and subject matter. The following days included meeting the original indigenous inhabitants of the Island: the Kalinago people; learning of their history and the history of mankind, their struggle, and how they live in Dominica today.”

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What about the HOMELANDS collaboration?

“This was new – I had never collaborated with an outfit who specialised in Bouyon. Neither had I made music in the country of my parents birth. I don’t know if it were the stew chicken I had before we started, or the buzz of carnival still in my system. After 5 minutes, making the song felt like clockwork.”

Did you get a chance to learn a little about Dominican culture?

“I was reminded about how our people can be quite loud and misleadingly confrontational haha. The pace is a lot more relaxed than London. But the appreciation for agriculture and the product of farming and living off the land is great.”

What was the last day like?

“A part of me wanted to get back in the studio ASAP. The other part wanted more time with the Island. I felt like she had more to tell me.

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