This year SNWMF is presenting another in the recent wave of "new roots" artists out of Jamaica, the man called Spiritual. With his roots firmly planted in the church, where he sang in the choir as a youth, Spiritual brings a truly spiritual vibe, and his music is centered around this feeling.
Spiritual's music transports us to another time, when reggae legends like Bob Marley first took the rebel sound of Jamaica to a worldwide audience. Authenticity can be heard in every note, but then it's coming from the same source - not only musically and culturally, but even the same ghetto communities of West Kingston.
Spiritual was raised in Allman Town, and sang in his local choir before embracing Rastafari. He was orphaned at an early age, and could have joined the throngs of young hopefuls at any number of studios and sound systems scattered throughout the city. Instead, he shunned fame and helped to heal the broken society around him by counseling the poor and needy. Music was in his blood and he continued to write songs, but Rastafari was his true calling.
Awakening, released in 2017, is his debut album, and arrived just as reggae music is resurgent in its homeland again thanks to artists like Chronixx and Alborosie. The latter shared Spiritual's breakthrough hit "Marathon" and introduced him to Clifton "Specialist" Dillon. Under Specialist's direction, Spiritual realized his musical vision at last, and delivered an album that can stand alongside the seventies' classics that inspired him as a youth.
After "Marathon" came "My World" and "Freedom Fighters", which was a rallying cry for the faithful. Right from the start, Spiritual's music gave us hope and uplifted the spirits, which is how he got his name. Any doubts that he wasn't among the most thrilling roots reggae discoveries of recent times were then swept aside by the release of "Stand Up To Rasta". A highlight of his album, it's a magnificent song of awakening, and sung by an artist reborn.
There are traces of Burning Spear and Culture in his voice, whilst the songs harken back to an era when artists were judged on their integrity, both musical and otherwise. Spiritual lives by the same principles, and doesn't imitate. He writes original songs of meaning and depth, and then records them in a studio with "live" musicians, including horn and lead guitar players, percussionists and backing singers. Reggae music hasn't sounded like this for a generation, and the timing of Spiritual's emergence was flawless.
"I'm a spiritual person, and I like songs with spiritual messages in them - songs about life and our place in it, and that make you think about what you're doing," he explains. "I write songs that are supposed to make people feel good about one another, and that can show you something positive about life."
"Love is the cure for everything. Love makes you healthy and I'm convinced that one day, scientists will discover that it's the basis of living, y‘know? Because we should all be loving people, and that's the key message in my music. It's all about love and progress."
We can look forward to hearing and feeling the love from Spiritual when he takes the stage at this year's festival. Though he is a relatively new artist on the scene, he obviously has the "old soul" so admired in the reggae community, and his roots and culture style are sure to win over the massive!