Levi eyeing the world
by Kimberley Cummins
Being knocked unconscious was the wake up call Barbadian dub artist, Mr. Levi, needed to start living his dream.
Born Justin Ramsey 26 years ago, he attended the Alleyne School, then studied carpentry at the Samuel Jackman Prescod Polytechnic and later masonry and tiling at the Skills Training Programme. After graduating, he landed his “ticket out of the ghetto” with Government as a mason in the Ministry of Transport and Works.
In spite of this achievement he was unhappy, uncomfortable, and felt like something was missing in his life. Then on May 23, 2009 after a hit to the head which knocked him out cold for six hours, the revelation of what was missing became apparent to him.
In an interview with Barbados TODAY with the picturesque hills and lush green fields of St. Andrew as the backdrop, Mr. Levi explained what happen when he awoke.
“I went right down and I ask myself what am I going to do to get back up. That same year I heard Elombe Mottley at the Emancipation Lecture say that ‘the average Bajan can find something to market to the other 270,000 Bajans, why not find something to market to the world?’. That is when I make up my mind that I gine market my voice because I always used to be singing karaoke — serenading the ladies.
“I said I gine look to write some music and sing, so I went back to school do English and Social Studies and from there I was just writing music,” the Bawdens, St. Andrew resident said.
“This is a path the Father put me on, so wherever Jah takes me I will go … and on my 25th birthday in 2011 I put aside everything, that was kind of my birthday present to myself — a major reset. These are the best times of my life. I am more free. You know what it is to be gine work and three out of five days you tell the boss your mind? The only time I does worry about the time is when I got to go catch that plane. In the short space of two years performing I am more comfortable that when I had to go and do Massa’s work for six years and, for real,” he added.
Giving up a “certain” job, for what has been described as an uncertain field, left many of his friends and family upset, he said. However, a fellow artist, Coloured, was one of the only people who encouraged him to pursue his dreams, and that he did.
His first recording Barbados Pun The Athletic Map, dedicated to hurdler, Ryan Brathwaite, was produced by veteran entertainer, Lil Rick and this was the first sound in some 20 years to incorporate the “Bajan dance hall style”. This song gained popularity but not as much as he would have liked.
He quickly moved on to†Stamina, which was recorded with 5 Star Sounds, and it became an instant hit, bringing new fame having gone on to set “Trinidad pun fire”.
“My music was sent to Trinidad. A DJ down there played it and when he play Stamina a girl tell he play it again and from there it couldn’t stop playing — it just blow. That was around April last year. My first booking was May 26 and my last was November 3. In that time I went to Trinidad nine times and performed about 32 times and once in Tobago.”
He has since worked with Renaissance Entertainment and producer Minnim to produce 13 of the close to 70 songs in his repertoire, which comprises reggae, lover’s rock,† dancehall and even calypso. His songs include Brek It Off, Crank it, Touch Me with Spread Out and Balance Pun Yuh Head to be released at the end of the month.
Mr. Levi now has two tunes blazing in Europe and Columbia and his next move is to invade China with his music. After one of his visits to Trinidad and meeting the late Jackie Opel’s wife there, he has gained a greater respect for him and also planned to modernised at least two of the legend’s hits and release them for Crop-Over.
“I looking to touch all genres… I living this thing, this ain’t no hobby for me. For me I come from a place, the ghetto, where they expect me to make nothing of myself. But from a young age my intellectual capabilities were of a high magnitude so I jump people and, with a positive impact once you could find yourself and deal with innovation and intuition, all things are possible for others who have a dream too — live to achieve,” the last of four children advised his fans.