Wed | Dec 2, 2020

The Mystic: birth of a Jamaican-Balinese ‘baby’

Published:Sunday | June 14, 2020 | 12:00 AMJanine Jkuhl - Contributor
Cover of ‘The Mystic’ illustrated by Shavie Rattigan.
Janine Jkuhl

When I left Jamaica for a two-month creative residency in Bali, Indonesia, little did I know that I would be getting far more than I bargained for.

The residency, arranged through a Jamaican-Balinese collaborative programme, Esirom Sama Sama, was forced into overtime when the COVID-19 pandemic hit, confining me in Bali – well, not that I was complaining about being stranded in this paradise.

This residency aims to broker cultural, creative exchanges between Jamaicans and Indonesians, thereby expanding their horizons through the immersion experiences. As a singer-songwriter, I planned my projects around writing new songs, performing, learning new instruments, collaborating with other creators, recording my materials in Bali, and building my practice.

One song in particular emerged in a way that was in part intuitive, technical, and creative, but there are still some things about the gestation and birthing process of this haunting melody that I am still trying to fully explain.

Here is my account from my perch in Bali.

My story

While on the Sama Sama creative residency, held at the beautiful Rumah Sungai Villa in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia, one of my aims was to write a few songs and get as many as possible recorded. I had no idea what kind of songs I would write or where my inspiration would come from, but I knew that, indeed, it would come to me like a flowing epiphany. In my first week of the residency, I was introduced to a ukulele, which was owned by one of the staff members at the villa.

I was enthused to play it even though I had no knowledge how to. I was informed that its owner wanted to learn to play it, and I offered to teach him. I taught myself some chords as I have knowledge of the guitar. I taught him what I had earned, and in teaching, I was motivated to become more familiar with the instrument.

As I got to know the instrument, a magical relationship started to develop with me and this ukulele. A chordal progression began to build, and a melody later came forth. Professor Michael Morrissey, the residency host, kept encouraging me to hang out around the ‘Bale Bengong’, which I did. This area overlooked the ridge, with a beautiful view of hillside green landscape, bamboos swaying in the wind, coconut trees standing taller than a three-storey house, and the sounds of the river rushing down below, hidden from sight by the lush greenery of the jungle. With this view, and the energies of Bali around, the song took form and shape.

The song, basically, wrote itself, and during the recording production, named itself. Its a representation of my experience in Bali and its energies. People come to Bali for many reasons known and unknown to them. It is all about connection, vibrations, connection with self, nature, ancestral connection, universal connection, spiritual connection, and connection with others. In seeking this connection, we also seek to find love, peace, and our universal mission. I have seen love emit from the largest of creatures to the smallest. I have seen that everything is connected through vibrations, and the reactions of an action are immediate.

Felt the power

I have witnessed and felt the power of the Moon, the power of the water, the power of the Sun, the power of the Earth, the power of the universe and the power of our divine creator. No matter our complexion, race or nation, we are all connected and by our actions we are all affected.

I wrote this song with the aim to heal through sound and music. I aim for all its listeners to go into themselves, be in tune with the energies inside their mind, bodies, and soul and find the balance that is needed. So close your eyes, breath, let go, and flow. Does it mean something that I am here in the Asian jungle miles away from home, having written such a song during the time of a global pandemic (COVID-19) when the world is in confusion, chaos, and distant yet connected? Maybe.

“There is nothing more mystical than nature itself because it is directly connected to the hand of the creature – as are we.”– Anonymous.

The song is now available on all digital platforms and will be a part of my second album, which is almost at a completion, thanks to my supportive family, friends, fans, sponsors, Music Unites Jamaica Foundation, Rizal at Tropical Folk Records, the Jamaican Ministry of Culture, Gender Entertainment, and Sport, Esirom and Sama Sama creative residency. The cover illustration was done by Shavie Rattigan.

- Janine Jkuhl is an alternative reggae, independent fusion singer-songwriter from Kingston, Jamaica. IG @janine_jkuhl. ‘The Mystic’ was written, composed, and co-produced by Janine Jkuhl, produced by Rizal of Tropical Folk Records in Bali, Indonesia.