A portrait of Taj Weekes could begin in any of a hundred ways. Musician, songwriter, poet, humanitarian, Rastaman, businessman, parent– all are important roles for him, all are related, and all are instructive about who he really is. But let’s begin in the island of his birth.
Yes, St. Lucia can truthfully and gladly proclaim Weekes as a native son. Proud as he is of his origins, however, St. Lucia could not contain him long. As he tells it, “My mind always wandered beyond the borders of the 238 square mile island. What I was seeking seemed to be somewhere out there.
And what did he want to achieve that could not have been possible in St. Lucia? It had to do with his passion for the arts, and it took him quite a distance. He has lived in Toronto, New York and Boston, and has even spent time in Hong Kong and Marrakech. Clearly, Weekes is a citizen of the world.
In that broader world, the name Taj Weekes primarily signifies music, Reggae music, critically acclaimed reggae, as a matter of fact. With his band, Adowa, he has recorded three studio albums (Hope & Doubt, Deidem, and A Waterlogged Soul Kitchen) and just-released a live album (Pariah in Transit). Adowa has been touring extensively for the past seven years, performing Weekes’ own melodic and powerful songs.
As a lyricist he is oblique enough to be interesting and direct enough to be satisfying. Although roots reggae prides itself on its “reality” lyrics, meaning an unflinching approach to the socially important issues of daily life, Weekes cuts deeper and more precisely than his peers. His themes aren’t expressed through the genre’s usual abstractions and feeble pleas. Rather, they come almost directly from the headlines and what should be headlines; they tell of an atrocity, of a disaster’s human toll, of want and corruption, of innocence and greed. He doesn’t coddle. He confronts his listeners through a forceful poetry that’s never crude, but also never compromising.
“My mind always wandered beyond the borders of the 238 square mile island. What I was seeking seemed to be somewhere out there.” – Taj Weekes
This fearlessness is longstanding, as illustrated by his inter-city, intercontinental relocations. Obviously Weekes is not by nature or inclination a bystander, waiting timidly as the world imposes itself, and his compassion for those who suffer the ills and deceptions of society is as deep as his lyrics would suggest. In fact he insists that his quest for the true meaning of life, of why we’re here, necessitates going “…beyond the influences of any kind of corporate or media indoctrination.” He refuses not to think for himself.
The depth of Weekes’ empathy for those who suffer has prompted significant non-musical projects as well. The most far-reaching of his many charitable efforts is his 2007 founding of a non-profit organization called They Often Cry Outreach (TOCO) (www.theyoftencryoutreach.org). Active in various Caribbean islands, TOCO incorporates such diverse activities as the provision of sports equipment to underprivileged children, diabetes awareness and support to prison inmates.
Given all this, it’s little wonder that Weekes is receiving some well-deserved attention: he has been appointed Goodwill Ambassador by the International Consortium of Caribbean Professionals, recognized formally by a division of the United Nations, and most recently, in February of this year, honoured with the St. Lucia House Foundation’s Distinguished Humanitarian award.
You wonder how there can possibly be yet another side to the Weekes story, but there is. He’s involved in business too. Good Seed Hemp (www.goodseedhemp.com) is a Canadian company selling hemp based products, and Le Beurre Shop (www.lebeurreshop.com) promotes natural skin care using Shea butter. If these activities seem somewhat at odds with the idealism of his music and charities, the products themselves certainly fit with the holistic approach to life of a Rastafarian.
In any case, Weekes has a pragmatic response as well. “To accomplish what we need to get done in our charity requires a lot of capital. As of now the philanthropic work is basically fuelled by the dollars we make from music, which limits our possibilities. I needed new sources of revenue. The idea is to have that revenue flow through to benefit other people.
Our portrait of Taj Weekes is still not complete. Probably it could never be. Even in a cursory overview like this it would be impossible to omit his role as a father.
“We all live on earth and we all want what’s best for each other,” he declares, “That is family right there. With my immediate family that just tightens the circle a bit. To me there is no greater responsibility than to my children. My art and life have been even more affected simply because I want to lead by example, so my children can see that I’m giving my best. Hopefully they in turn may do the same.”
A noble sentiment. It surely becomes quite clear to everybody who knows Taj Weekes, whether in person, through his music or otherwise, that he is indeed giving his best. Further, that whichever of his many roles happens to be in the forefront at any given time, his standard for “the best” is veryhigh. Truly, St. Lucia has given the world a model citizen.