MusicMakers: S.T.O.R.M. Performs at Weekend's Weekend Reggae Night
Friday, June 19, 2009
Growing up in Jamaica, the eventual frontman of S.T.O.R.M. had to make a choice regarding reggae: Get involved with it, or forget about it.
"My family, they got a sound system, so every day I get up, music was playing," says Monsoon (né Denton Bedward). "I was of the mind to get involved in it."
Local reggae heads are glad he did. Known for energetic live shows and the camaraderie that stems from them, S.T.O.R.M. headlines tonight's Weekend's Weekends show at Carter Barron Amphitheatre, along with Proverbs, Ras Abel & Tesfa and Ras Lidj & the Deep Band.
A quartet with roots in Jamaica and the Caribbean, S.T.O.R.M. (Strong Talented Organized and Real Musicians) was formed after Monsoon and S.T.O.R.M. bass player Ambrose "Amby" Connor parted ways with DKGB, a longtime Washington reggae band that made a home at Crossroads in Bladensburg and Adams Morgan's Bukom Cafe.
"After leaving DKGB," Monsoon says, "I decided to put my own thing together, you know? I was staying in Washington at the time, so Washington became home."
For Monsoon, the creation of S.T.O.R.M. in 2000 was an artistic progression and an opportunity to build on what was begun in the DKGB years.
"At first, I wasn't decided if I wanted to stay here, but I found out that I can make something here," he says. "There was not a lot of reggae music when I came here. I just decided that if I can make a foundation here and work on my stuff, I can take it to the next level."
Now nine years into the S.T.O.R.M. era, the band has twice been recognized by the Washington D.C. Annual Reggae Music Awards as the city's best reggae band.
In addition to entertaining audiences, S.T.O.R.M.'s goal is to educate. Songs such as "Hola Hola" and "Gimme Di Treez" are designed to engage the crowd, while "Price Increase" and "No More War" strike a more serious tone.
"You're sending a message, but you entertain at the same time," Monsoon says. "You're not trying to force nobody to believe in what you're doing. You're just going to entertain and you're going to teach."
A strong sense of community is essential to the S.T.O.R.M. experience, Connor says, perhaps as integral as the music itself.
"It's about being in touch with each other, and it's an experience," he says. "When people come to a reggae show they come for the enjoyment of the music, but they also come for the camaraderie, new friends that they meet at the shows."
Monsoon says he thinks that keeping a positive aura around the music is an essential tenet of reggae, with an emphasis on spirituality and healthy living.
"It's not where it's supposed to be as yet in my view, but it's getting there," Monsoon says of the current state of reggae. "You have to keep it conscious, that many years down the line, a person can put in your CD or your song, and they can play it around the kids. That's my kind of music."
The weather plays a significant role in the popularity of reggae, Connor says: "As soon as the [cold] weather breaks, people want to hear good, live reggae music. It goes with the climates. Whenever it gets warm, that's what folks like."
For those unfamiliar with S.T.O.R.M. or reggae music in general, tonight's show is an ideal entry point into a genre enhanced by the communal nature of a live performance.
"They're gonna get what they come to see, and nothing less," Monsoon says. "We deliver. We be the pizza man of reggae music: We deliver for you."