Amidst my current thesis, time seems to pass me by as it stands still. Most of the time, the people in my life are anomalies to my aspirations. They laugh, love, and live while I wonder if I’m actually living; if my life is on ice until graduation, as the only permanence in my life is publication. Each time I poke my head out or click around online reinforces the reality that feels and fashion are a matter of fiction. Truth has too hard. No one wants to be tasked by trial or tribulation.
Reggae has always tendered my truth. It sounds a faith not blind, but fruitful. In that way, the genre is distinct. It declares kinship and catharsis which lack the pretensions of glossy, gaudy glamour. The reggae vibes revere roots, which is why wherein Bob Marley is so iconized as humble and reflective; unlike comparably vain contemporaries whom serenade materialist, megalomaniac manifestos. For me, a prime principle of reggae is its distinction of the internal and the individual; how it proposes the possibility of looking within without looking against or looking away from others. It also acknowledged the need, the right to assert autonomy even if one chose to abide anti-violence.
Since my roots were cultivated in the Caribbean, I’m no stranger to reggae. Its fluid, formative medleys defined most of my childhood. Friends and family would play Bob Marley, Barrington Levy, Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Glen Washington, Shabba Ranks, amongst many others: all of whom related principles of perseverance and peace despite the distinctions of their artistry. Notably, like other genres, reggae has been called out for mainstreamed anti-LGBTQA+ sentiments [that seem to have peaked and progressed from the early eighties following the influx of homophobic and traditionalist, eurocentric televangelism being broadcast]. I never really thought much about this when I was younger, but I began to hear this as I matured with a critical ear. If reggae artists truly believe in the infallibility of an almighty peace, whether that be through a Rastafarian concept of Zion or Jah, then there is a false logic in propagating bigotry given that people may be naturalized to embody an array of ambition, attraction, and love. That’s not to knock the genre altogether, however it must be addressed how colonialism has convoluted the popularized narratives enforced by particular figures. Addressing that will not only abolish ignorance, but additionally strengthen and harmonize the genre’s true intent. And, I think islanders may be able to speak to that intent of nautical nirvana adrift amidst tempestuous tides.
Kelissa ponders paradise, not politics on her latest album: Spellbound. Although, I think that her overall message can be politicized as emancipatory and existentialist. She imparts insight into capitalism and the material world as recalcitrant, which is why it is fruitless to avow audiences or appearances. There is a personable, peaceful frame through which we can view Kelissa. “You are enchanting like the stars in the night,” she sings in the opening titular track. “And, my sky you’re lighting like a firefly” which affirms her as a smitten songstress from jump. ‘Best Kept Secret’ conveys a conscious rather than calculated intent of consumerism where love is prided, yet more impactful than intimate. Being jilted in life is hardly surprising, but artists like Kelissa evidence that it may be innovative. Her sadness is sublimated into strength and insight as she reflects, “You told me I was your treasure, but treasure just don’t last forever.” Accompanied with the ‘Give Your All’ interlude—“Take a leap, you fall, and get up again. Never try, never know you’re capable.”—affords listeners empowerment through enlightenment.
My favourite track, ‘Topsy Turvy,’ reinforces optimism through a brisk beat with an underlaid unhurried rhythm. Kelissa purports that paradise awaits those whom not only persevere, but individualize from mainstreamed monotony and malignance. Freedom can be clumsy and chaotic, but it cultivates confidence and catharsis—which isn’t a matter of immediacy as her ‘Slow Down’ interlude follows to articulate a natural, elemental ambiance. ‘Take Your Time’ goes on to prompt us to purge ourselves of pretensions wherein Kelissa insists to be interpersonal, one not need be impulsive. The concluding ‘How Many More’ builds upon this as she ruminates against the grain of romanticism and rationalism wherein truth and dissent are denied in the superficial scheme of social order. “Is it worth the price that we pay to live the life we do?” she wonders. “How many more will have to fall? How long will we ignore the ones who call?”
Spellbound reveres the spirit of reggae as not just a site of intent and intuition, but how humility in tandem with hubris is the harbinger of happiness. In divorcing herself from recidivism, revisionism, and romanticism, Kelissa marries trial and error with trials and tribulations. Her relative rhythms are forthright because she is unreliant upon dumbstruck, starstruck signifiers or collaged carnality which consequently shifts perspectives from pride and prowess.