'Voice Out' in the BronxTuesday, June 08, 2021
BY HOWARD CAMPBELL
SUMMERS in New York City are usually broiling hot. With COVID-19 winding down due to nationwide vaccinations, Mayor Bill deBlasio has been gradually lifting restrictions on places of leisure.
That's good news for Damion Hawthorne, one of the promoters of 'Voice Out', a weekly event in north Bronx where artistes, musicians and fans gather to enjoy live music from established and aspiring acts.
In May, Chi Ching Ching graced the stage to an enthusiastic audience. Hawthorne, a singjay/musician known as Damiedon, said Voice Out continues to grow since its debut in 2018.
“We didn't know it would become what it is today – wi jus' did ah try ah thing. I manage a group called Royal KhaoZ, it's a reggae band that my brother and I started. We have this space in the north Bronx, it's very underground and low-key but gives you that dubwise feeling you'd get back home,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
Though the lion's share of artistes taking the stage are Jamaican, Hawthorne insists there is no room for insularity at Voice Out. There have been acts from other Caribbean countries, and the event is not limited to reggae.
Junior Reid, Carlene Davis, Jesse Royal, Yaadcore, Lila Ike and members of Chronixx's band have performed at Voice Out, where artistes not only freestyle but perform their latest songs.
“We decked it [venue] out and made it our own and just opened it up for people to come and share their artistry. Our first session was very intimate, about eight of us, and we just played live music. The word started to spread and to this date we've had the likes of Lila Ike, Jesse Royal and Dre Island, and so much more pass through. We have no intentions of stopping now. We want to make this global,” said Hawthorne.
Born in Kingston, 38-year-old Hawthorne was born into music. His parents are devout Christians, and he grew up playing the keyboard and drums in the church band along with his three siblings.
In 2002 his family migrated to New York City where they began working in Golden Krust Caribbean Bakery, a thriving company founded in 1989 by his uncle, Lowell Hawthorne. After his uncle committed suicide in December 2017 he released the song Goodbye For Now, in tribute to him.
Last year Damiedon released Next Morning, which is produced by his younger brother Andre who does similar duties for Yahweh, his follow-up.
A purchasing and inventory manager at Golden Krust, Hawthorne oversees a weekly feeding programme for the elderly and homeless in the Bronx. He is just as excited about expanding Voice Out and releasing an EP this year.
“It took time for me to get in the space of making and releasing music, so I enjoyed recording but chose not to release until it felt right. This was the right time; the pandemic was eye-opening for a lot of people,” said Hawthorne. “At Voice Out we use music to bring people together. It's a safe space and a community of artistes. [This is] one of the ways we pay it forward while still doing what we love. It's just natural.”
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