THOUGH it has a strong Jamaican connection, Panama is not known for producing many reggae artistes.
Singer Likle Mystic is determined to change that with Solvation, his debut album.
Produced by Ziggyblacks Productions, the 15-song piece was released on October 1. Its songs are originals written by the 57-year-old Mystic who has lived in Panama for the past 12 years.
Recently, he told the Jamaica Observer that Solvation is a personal statement he was unable to make while living in Jamaica. He remembers hanging out at studios like Channel One for years without getting an opportunity to record.
"Hardcore culture mi sing, maybe dat's why mi always get a fight. From mi a youth mi protest against the system," he said.
Mystic credits Shotta, a song he recorded in 2011, for introducing him to reggae fans in Panama. It is one of the cuts on Solvation, which also includes the title song, I'm Not a Criminal and Behold.
The St Andrew-born entertainer had all but given up on music by the 1990s. He followed the path of independent Jamaican retailers and headed to Panama where according to him, "mi try a likkle buy and selling."
Through frequent trips to the United States territory, he developed a relationship with Rastafarians there and discovered that reggae had an enthusiastic following in areas like the capital Panama City, and Colon, where many Jamaicans settled while working on the Panama Canal in the early 20th century.
He gradually revived his music career by performing at dances and appearing as the 'hometown' act, opening for artistes like Capleton and Anthony B when they made stops in Panama.
With the release of Shotta two years ago, Mystic said his base grew even more. It gave Italy-based Ziggyblacks International Productions the impetus to record a full album by the dreadlocked vocalist.
Born Leroy Hamilton in the community of Ackee Walk and raised in May Pen, Clarendon, Likle Mystic says he was inspired by the roots-reggae movement of the 1970s. However, he never got the chance to express his "conscious message" professionally and threw in the towel until getting a second crack through his Panamanian sojourn.
Solvation will be specifically marketed in Latin America, Africa and Europe.