Mon | Jul 22, 2019

Album inspired by Trump tops Billboard Reggae Album Chart

Published:Monday | March 25, 2019 | 12:05 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer
Aaron Nigel Smith stands in front of a picture of his album, ‘In Our America’.
Aaron Nigel Smith
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What started out as a song dedicated to his wife after seeing her disappointment when Donald Trump won the United States (US) election in October 2016 has morphed into an entire album, and now, singer Aaron Nigel Smith is celebrating the project’s No. 1 debut on the Billboard Reggae Album chart for the week dated March 23.

An educator and international touring musician, Smith said he was totally shocked and honoured that his solo album, In Our America, had done so well. “Not in my wildest imagination did I ever think that this would have happened,” Smith, who is currently based in Portland, Oregon, told The Gleaner.

Released on March 8 on his Aya World label and distributed by Tuff Gong International, the album was produced by Dubtonic Kru band member Deleon ‘Jubba’ White, who said he was honoured to have worked on this project. This is the second album collaboration between Smith and Jubba’s White Stone Productions, and, always one to give respect where it’s due, Smith said, “It was a joy to work with the very talented White to create the sound for this project.”

In Our America comprises 10 songs inspired by events in the US and around the world, as indicated by the album cover, which has various messages plastered all over it: ‘Black Lives Matter’, ‘Immigrants and Refugees are Welcome’; ‘All People are Equal’; ‘Women are in Charge of Their Bodies’, among others.

In a weird kind of way, In Our America, an album that offers positive messages and inspiration for everyday activism, has Donald Trump to thank for its genesis.

“It was the day after the US elections, and I looked at my wife, and she was so disappointed, and the song Ring The Alarm came to me. It started out as a tribute to women, and it just ended up being an entire project,” Smith recalled.

“In fact, it so happened that Ring The Alarm is not even among the first two songs released because it is a pretty aggressive song, so we used More Love and Visions as the mainstream singles,” he explained.

Ring The Alarm, without ­apology, aims the spotlight on Donald Trump and his errant ­policies and represents a call to action. “We thought it best not to release that just yet; I still have to travel a lot,” the Rastafarian artiste said with a laugh.

Smith said he felt “compelled to speak up about the state of our country and our world, especially political changes in the last two years”, and the album does just that.

Songs like the lead, More Love , and One call for world peace and unity, two messages in harmony with the tenets of Rastafari and roots reggae.

NEW JOURNEY

Smith, who has no Jamaican roots, expressed his appreciation to the Jamaican community for embracing him. “I just love the culture. In high school, all I knew was classical and Eurocentric ‘white music’, and then a friend gave me a copy of Bob Marley and The Wailers’ Natty Dread album, and I started my new journey,” Smith said.

Born in Pontiac, Michigan, he credited his grandmother for ­getting him involved in music, that ­subsequently became his life, as he won scholarships that took him through school. “I know that music saved me as a child, and thankfully, my grandmother was astute enough to realise that I needed something. And it is for this reason why I have decided to work with children,” said Smith, who is the founder of 1 World Chorus, a non-profit organisation serving youth in the United States, Kenya and Jamaica.

Known for the Emmy Award-winning PBS TV show Between the Lions, he has produced and released five albums for ­children, including 1 World Chorus Celebrates Bob Marley, in ­collaboration with Ziggy Marley’s Tuff Gong Worldwide.

He has performed at events ranging from Pickathon to Lollapalooza, with lots of schools and community groups in his ­regular touring schedule.

In 2017, he was designated an Official Bob Marley Ambassador by the Marley Foundation, and in February this year, he performed creditably at the Bob Marley Museum as part of the annual Bob Marley birthday celebrations.