No child's play

No child's play

Aaron Nigel Smith takes a look at America

By Howard Campbell
Observer senior writer

Thursday, January 17, 2019

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Since the election of Donald Trump as the 45th president of the United States in October 2016, that country has been under the microscope based on his controversial policies and pronouncements. Many of them have made artistes like Aaron Nigel Smith cringe.

Smith, an American singer-songwriter who has collaborated with Ziggy Marley, is known for his children's albums. He reaches out to adults on In Our America, his latest set, which will be released in March by Tuff Gong International.

It contains 10 songs and is produced by Deleon “Jubba” White of the Dubtonic Kru band. Smith is scheduled to perform on the annual Bob Marley celebration in February at the Marley Museum in Kingston.

He recently told the Jamaica Observer that there is a consistent theme on In Our America.

“I would describe my sound as American roots, rock, reggae. I share messages of truth, peace, love and hope through my songs,” Smith said.

Songs like the lead song More Love and One, call for world peace and unity, a message synonymous with Rasta and roots-reggae. The hard-hitting Ring The Alarm takes swipes at Trump whose crude approach has angered conservatives and liberals alike.

Smith, who is in his 40s, has worked with children for most of his career. His 1 World Chorus, a non-profit organisation, is involved with youth projects across the US; he is also part of the cast of Between The Lions, an Emmy Award-winning programme on PBS.

Two of his major music projects, B Is For Bob and 1 World Chorus Celebrates Bob Marley, were recorded with Ziggy Marley, the reggae legend's eldest son.

Working with children, Smith notes, prepared him for the adult market.

“Children are one of the toughest audiences, they are brutally honest and can tell if you are giving the best of yourself. I think that my experience engaging younger audiences will be useful as I expand to a wider audience,” he said.

A number of Jamaican musicians worked on In Our America including Almando Douglas, Daniel Singer and Omar Johnson (guitars); Sheldon Bernard and Oneil Darcus (keyboards); Kenneil Delisser (drums) and Jerome Small, who played bass.

Born in Pontiac, Michigan, Smith said he discovered reggae in high school when a friend gave him a cassette of The Wailers' Catch A Fire album. He credits reggae for making him more aware of his African roots.

“For most of grade school and all of high school, I attended private music schools that were attended by predominantly white students. My training was in classical vocal studies, so most of my musical exposure was from European origins,” he recalled, adding: “When I heard the message that Bob Marley sang, I began to explore my African heritage and found new pride in my culture. The last day of high school, I started growing my locks and learning more about Rastafari. Since then, reggae music, Jamaican and Rasta culture have been key to my journey.”

This will be Smith's fourth appearance at the Marley concert which celebrates the reggae legend's birthday. He has also brought his Rox in Sox Children's Music & Book Festival to the museum, St Ann Library and Majesty Garden Primary School in Kingston.

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