Jahmali now in a ‘Pleasant Place’
Conscious music has been the hallmark of reggae singer Ryan 'Jahmali' Thomas, who in 1998 gave the world the hit song, El Shadai.
Much was expected of Jahmali. He released his debut album, El Shadai, in 1999 to critical acclaim, and although two other albums have since been released, Jahmali's name hasn't been ringing. But he expects great things from his recently released fourth album, Pleasant Place, a 17-track offering which, in a sense, heralds his return to his first love -- music.
"Where have I been?" Jahmali repeated slowly. "Always doing music, but also spending time with my kids and ensuring that I give them the best of me."
Nearly two decades ago, Jahmali's mother filed for him to reside in the United States of America and now that his children are grown -- with his first daughter recently graduating from New York University and teaching -- he is ready for the road and also to fill in some of the blanks.
"It was unfortunate that after my first album, the narrative was circulated in the music industry that 'Jahmali hard fi deal with', and also, that I was supposedly ungrateful. And this was all because I would ask the right questions; and they don't like that because they can't give the right answers," Jahmali explained.
He added, "I remember artistes telling me that 'Yuh a educated bwoy. Reggae music a fi poor ghetto youth, so leave it alone'. A lot of them were mad at me because dem never get the regular ghetto youth from mi. When dem find out that mi have mi green card, that was another problem," the Mico College graduate, who taught at Kingston Senior School (now Kingston High), told THE WEEKEND STAR.
Reminiscing on the trajectory of El Shadai the album, Jahmali said that he had suggested that it should be a live album, but was told that "live music is dead".
"Can you believe that? That statement doesn't even make sense. But I come to realise that a lot of people out there love the music, but they don't understand the frequency ... and that's why mi stay silent all these years. Too much ignorance around. Sixty years after Independence we shouldn't be devolving. It's a shame and disgrace, because the world expected more. As a collective, we are not worthy of the legacies of the great people who blazed the path."
His album, Pleasant Place, released on March 24, is a self-produced project and one which he is confident will be the blueprint for great 'conscious' albums.
"The key thing I want audiences to take away from Pleasant Place is the effect my music has on their entire state of being, namely, the way it speaks to them. I'm certain that it will," Jahmali said.