Whether in his native country of Jamaica or his current home of Boston, Kevin Holness, better known by his stage name Mighty Mystic, has observed the callousness bred by intrusive technology and rampant materialism.
He fears we're turning into a "concrete world."
"We're getting so hard in our ways that we've forgotten what really matters," Mystic said in a phone interview last week. "It's not our cars or our phones -- it's friends and family and the Earth and Heaven that really matters."
The theme is central to the reggae singer's sophomore LP, a collection of socially-conscious reggae songs that rose to the Top 10 of the Billboard Reggae Albums chart last week.
Mystic celebrates the release of the album, "Concrete World," with a performance at Bridgeport's Acoustic Cafe on Friday, Feb. 14. I Anbassa, Connecticut's celebrated veteran reggae ensemble, will open.
Influenced by the musical traditions of Jamaica, where he was born in 1980, as well as popular contemporary American styles, Mystic makes roots reggae infused with alt-rock riffs and hip-hop beats to create a sound he dubs "hard roots."
His songs are club-ready while retaining the social and political awareness of his roots reggae forebearers.
"I'm all about bringing a positive message and enlightenment to the world," Mystic, 33, said. "And I also like to have fun with it."
The "positive message" comes across most acutely on the title track of "Concrete World." The song, which features a deep reggae groove produced by Stephen Thunder, finds Mystic lamenting the state of our society: "What happen to the roots and the culture / We desecrate the sepulcher / Me say we move like a vulture / We put the faith in a de concrete sculpture."
"We're getting so caught up in the materialistic things -- things that don't really matter," Mystic said.
Mystic was born in Jamaica in St. Elizabeth Parish, about two hours from the capital, Kingston, in 1980. He moved to Boston when he was 9. Performing under the name "Mystic" (the childhood sobriquet of his father, and coincidentally, the area where he and his family relocated to in Boston), he has pursued a career in music since the late 1990s.
However, it wasn't until years later that Mystic made a name outside of Boston, his success propelled by the release of his 2005 single, "Riding on the Clouds." The song received heavy airplay on regional radio (JAM'N 94.5 of Boston offered crucial support), and later, reggae, R&B and hip-hop stations across the East Coast. His debut LP, "Wake up the World," dropped in 2010.
Honing his performance chops at the Paradise Rock Club, a hotspot in the city's Allston/Brighton section, he went on to tour with some of Reggae's biggest names, including Steel Pulse, Damian Marley, Toots and the Maytals, Lee Scratch Perry, Shaggy and The Wailers. His fanbase stretches from Connecticut to California.
With "Concrete World," Mystic is urging people to "wake up" -- to turn off their cell phones and focus on what really matters.
"That's what the vibe of this album is all about," he said. "When's the last time you actually said hi to your neighbor?"
Whether Rihanna is quoting his lyrics on Twitter or Drake is retweeting that “Beres Hammond has to sing at my wedding,” Jamaica’s most prolific crooner has influenced some of the biggest stars today. Known to many as the “Otis Redding of Reggae,” Beres Hammond has been producing and pouring out his smoky-sweet voice over every kind of riddim track for over three decades. On November 13, the Grammy-nominated reggae icon will unleash his brand new double-disc studio album One Love, One Life with VP Records. The first disc One Love includes his signature classic lover’s rock sound on new singles like “No Candle Light” and “Keep Me Warm,” while the second disc One Life contains more of his socially-conscious, spiritually-empowering tunes including “You Stand Alone,” “Truth Will Live On” and “Prime Time.”
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