Taj Weekes delivers reggae activism at Boll Theatre
By C.C. Hutten
The University of Dayton and Cityfolk partnership is merging entertainment and education with World Rhythms Conert: Reggae Activist Taj Weekes on Thursday, Nov. 14 at 8 p.m., at the Boll Theater in Kennedy Union Student Center on UD’s campus.
Weekes said he sees himself as a musician and an ambassador for the Caribbean. “I try to be a modern-day town crier,” he said. The music surely is reggae, but more so a “rhythm to a poor man’s cry.”
Weekes uses soul and reggae to tell stories of today, and believes that people can be reflections of the music they grow up with. He said that he grew up with positive music and with an incredibly generous mother who always made efforts to be charitable. His childhood experiences influence his efforts to send a positive message to the world through service.
“It’s in my music,” Weekes said. I’m not fragmented. It’s one mindset. When I sit down to write a song, I do not write a socially conscious song – a socially conscious song comes out. I am who I am.”
Weekes is currently touring and performing shows in Europe, after a short period in New York City working on music in a “bittersweet” documentary surrounding diabetes awareness. After his concert at UD, he will perform at the Miami Book Festival and then plans to travel back to his home in St. Lucia.
Eileen Carr, the Arts Series cCoordinator at UD, said that a mixed crowd is expected at the event – students, community members, Yellow Springs residents, Cityfolk supporters, reggae fans – and that they all can benefit from his messages.
Weekes said he doesn’t normally have expectations of audiences when it comes to performing. “I come to play music,” he said. “When you travel with expectations, they are always shattered. It’s better to go with open mind, and let it be what it is and accept it for what it is.”
Weekes is not only a positive message-oriented reggae musician and poet, but also an advocate for education and charity. In 2007, Weekes founded the They Often Cry Outreach, a program that takes care of children through enrichment programs in St. Lucia.
“We team up with community activists to combat diabetes,” Weekes said. They Often Cry Outreach addresses issues that affect youth through comprehensive projects and initiatives such as after-school sports programs, diabetes awareness initiative, domestic violence awareness campaign and artistic programs on each Caribbean island.
UD’s Human Rights campaign, “Rites, Rights, Writes,” is in the same vein as Taj Weekes’ efforts to relieve children in poverty in regards to human rights – a major reason that UD sought out his performance. Carr said that UD looks for certain events that will specifically suit the campus and human rights campaign, and that Weekes is a great model for people.
“He connects his music back to serving and brings a message about the world to different places,” Carr said. “He uses his message and proceeds to actually make a difference.”
“We are kind of on the same page,” Weekes said. “It’s all coming together and I’m very happy to be a part of it.” UD’s Marianist values, like “Learn, Lead, Serve,” are strongly connected to what Weekes is doing, Carr said.
Initially, Carr said, she wasn’t so sure if reggae was the direction they wanted to go. But when she looked deeper into who he was and what he was saying, she thought Weekes was someone the Art Series “could totally stand behind.”
“We’re really excited and proud to be presenting him,” Carr said. “It just feels so right. … I really had to pay attention to him, really listen and realize that there’s something deeper that drives what he’s doing.”
Carr said that she appreciates the rich layers in both his music and message, and that’s why she feels good presenting him – because of that complexity.
“That’s usually what I would look for in presenting anything – the layers of content artistry,” she said. “The more interesting artists, musical or visual, have multiple layers … It’s something I think appeals to many people.”
The UD Arts Series strives to present performances and events like Taj Weekes’ concert that involve content that one can experience, as opposed to listening to something and taking notes.
“It’s great music with a real connection with the rest of the world that can make an impact in a joyous way,” Carr said.
Many artists with similar intentions bring messages that seem too heavy, Carr said, but that Weekes has a “beautiful balance” – he wants to have a good time while he provides education.
Weekes said that he believes that the point of learning is to not realize that it’s happening. “Somebody once coined [my work] ‘educainment,’” Weekes said. “I quite like it. It’s education and entertainment all bundled up in one.”
University of Dayton Arts Series presents Taj Weekes, Thursday, Nov. 14 at 8 p.m., at the Boll Theater in Kennedy Union Student Center, 300 College Park Dr. General admission is $20, $15 for UD faculty, staff and alumni, and $10 for UD students and youth. Tickets can be purchased through the UD Box Office at 937.229.2545. For more information about Taj Weekes and the They Often Cry Outreach, visit theyoftencryoutreach.org.