Reggae artist Mishka returned home to Bermuda to spend Christmas with his family after a three-year absence from the Island of his birth.
During his visit, the musician, who has five No 1 Billboard reggae albums to his name, most recently The Journey, which hit the top of the chart in January, has been working on songs for a new album. Even though this is a family holiday “it’s an ongoing process,” he explained.
Modesty leads Mishka — born Alexander Mishka Frith — to admit to only “a few” No 1 songs on the iTunes reggae charts.
“Usually when they are released, they go to the top for a few weeks,” he said, and acknowledged that they typically do well on the Billboard charts as well.
However, he said: “Reggae translates to live performances. I love to play live,” he said. As a result: “The last ten years I have been travelling a lot — Hawaii, Canada, the Caribbean — travelling all over the world.”
The artist has the same complaints as many people for whom travel is a big part of their job — the amount of time spent on aeroplanes, in hotel rooms and in a state of jet lag. However, he has seen extraordinary things “like Kyoto in Japan, and Byron Bay in Australia.
“Sometimes you really do [see amazing things], and it’s a blessing,” he said.
He had success in Japan with Give You All The Love, which found its way into their top ten. It also in the top 40 in the United Kingdom.
New musical direction...
He hopes to record his new album on the Pacific island of Maui, Hawaii, where is he currently living. He will be joined by one of several musical cousins, Alec Frith, an accomplished multiple instrumentalist, who is stepping into the role of co-producer.
Mishka says his new album, which will be called Roots Fidelity, is being created to take listeners back to the fundamentals of reggae.
“I’ve always done cross-genre, but this one is going to be roots reggae from start to finish,” he said. “Roots reggae is just reggae, it’s not ska, not anything else.
“I’m focusing the sound of the album on King Tubby, and real analogue sound.” King Tubby, a Jamaican electronics and sound engineer, was known primarily for his influence on the development of dub in the 1960s and 1970s. He was the first mixing engineer to earn the sort of fame that composers and musicians gain, and was influential across many styles of popular music. “It’s tricky to go into that genre, and say it is going to sound like that, but it is the inspiration,” Mishka said.
The subjects of his new compositions include: “A wide range of stuff, but mostly revolutionary themed. Social justice, the police brutality which has been going on, the corporate nabobs that are running the world. I am talking about dismantling these things,” he said, and went on to explain the aim was to accomplish greater humanity. Mishka said this current project is interactive and crowd-funded. That means: “People can pledge to buy the album before it’s made,” he explained. “I want to tell fans that they can pre-order their copy,” he said. A little more than halfway to his goal, he is in addition selling signed photographs and handwritten lyrics, as well as giving live shows to raise funds.
For now, though, he is on vacation. “I haven’t lived in Bermuda for 11 years — and I haven’t been back for three years. I had to come and catch up with my family!” he said.
Among those family members are his sisters, the critically acclaimed and well-known music artist Heather Nova, with whom he is staying, and news reporter and model Susannah Frith. He and his sister Heather have been talking about collaborating on Roots Fidelity — something they have done before on his self-titled debut album.
Mishka has now settled in Maui after first going there more than two decades ago.
An accomplished windsurfer, he has represented Bermuda in the world championships. “Maui is the windsurfing hub, the Mecca for the windsurfing world, because of the super winds and big waves,” he said.
“I went there for a few months, and then went back in 2009 for a week, and I thought I would like to live there for a while,” he said.
“Reggae is really popular there — you hear it everywhere, all the time — it just happens to be the way it is musically. It’s more popular there than it is the Caribbean!
“But the place and the lifestyle — it feels natural with the music that I play,” he said.
While he lives in Hawaii, Bermuda is where he has deep family roots. “I’m rooted, grounded here,” he said.
“I see the potential of the place as being great, even thought it is so small and crowded; it could be a little model country as far as environment and community are concerned. What I’m really conscious of in Bermuda is the price of gasoline. In Hawaii you see a massive shift — everyone is going solar and electric. I thought everyone would be pushing that way here.”
For more information on Mishka’s current album project go to www.pledgemusic/projects/mishka