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The Voice of the People, the Conscious Rebel
Photography By: David Bolger
Sheldon Senior is a fresh and dynamic artist out of Mandeville Jamaica who is making his presence felt on the world music scene, assuring him a future in the global reggae industry. This extraordinary singer/songwriter has been creating deeply meaningful and thought provoking songs that capture the essence of an artist capable of achieving worldwide acclaim.
His musical roots were formed through listening and studying a wide variety of music from ska to jazz, reggae to R&B, negro spirituals and gospel music. From an early age Sheldon possessed the charisma and vocal power to reach an audience in a deeply soul-comforting way, leaving them wanting to hear more of this talented singer. His constant drive has allowed him to evolve from singing on sound systems to become the lead singer of the Conscious Rebelz, one of JA’s up and coming roots rock ensembles, as well as a solo artist. He has performed worldwide, from the streets of Mandeville to some of the largest stages in Europe.
Sheldon has recorded with some of the top producers in the reggae world; Jah Youth Productions of Hawaii, Shayne Green’s Forever Music based in Sly Dunbar’s studio, Pharfar’s Food Palace Music in Denmark and for his most recent release, Stephan Günther & Thomas Klick of XV Audio in Germany, who produced his latest EP, Break Through, available through all quality retailers. A video from the EP, Wise Up is to be released shortly.
The Danish press wrote of one of his performances on a 2010 European tour: The entire Aalborg experienced the best summer reggae stage show with Sheldon Senior. The energy level was so high that after his first song he had 70,000 massive waving their hands in the air. The born talented entertainer was so dynamic on stage you could feel him reaching the hearts of the enthusiastic audience with so much positive vibes that he had the crowd buzzing with excitement. It was a little bit of Jamaica in Aalborg with Sheldon belting out some of the best music from the island and a lovely reminder of Bob Marley.
IRIE. Take us back to your childhood. You are originally from Mandeville, Jamaica. How were you introduced to reggae music?
Sheldon Senior. My name is Sheldon Senior and I go by the mantra “the Voice of the People, The conscious Rebel”. I was born in Spanish Town St Jamaica. My parents went back to the country to live in Manchester Jamaica where I found the Tranquility of my surrounding area, the cool temperature and they warm nature of the people created an atmosphere for a young boy loving music to thrive. From those early days I was very involved in music because my mother and my father are both singers and my mother used to sing in the choir at church. So I grew up washing the dishes and singing, playing and writing song. Then in my teens I started to get involved more in my school’s choir and other extracurricular activities and was elected to represent my school in the JSDC [Jamaica Social Development Commission] workshops that the country puts on every year. In one year I won gold medals for best vocals and best original at the ISDC national finals for my Parish Manchester.
IRIE. You are a singer and a songwriter. What inspired you to start writing music?
Sheldon Senior. Well it was very early on that I found that I have this listening ability and translating what I have listened to into melodies. Later on in my musical development I entered the Tastee Talent contest that was normally held in Kingston Jamaica and at that time I wrote a song. My very first song, that I won best original for. The name of the song was ‘You Transport Me’. From me winning that competition for the best original song I started believing more and more in my writing abilities and know that I could create my own story using my own thoughts, converted into words.
IRIE. As you pursued your dreams as a reggae singer/songwriter, who were some of your musical influences?
Sheldon Senior. My very first CD that I bought was a CD from Dennis Brown and it contained a song named, “Should I”. From that CD I learned about Dennis Brown and I kept on learning, falling more and more in love with his musical style. Infact, at one point, people said as a (Young Man) that I sounded so much like Dennis Brown did at that age. But I soon, found my own style and my own voice. So Dennis Brown was one of my first musical idols. Then came Marcia Griffiths and of course the indomitable Bob Marley. Back in that time, I also loved the style of Buju Banton, Sanchez and Wayne Wonder. But at the time some extablished singers were singing cover songs and I wanted to stick with my original songs. I started listening more to people like Burning Spear and Culture. The became more appealing to me and helped to formed some of my early musical roots.
IRIE. What is your approach when writing a new song? Do you have a method in place or does each song evolve differently?
Sheldon Senior. Each song evolve out of my being quite differently. At times I would hear a melody and I would quickly try to write it down. Other times I would get a melody and record it. Then again I might hear someone say something and a thought would come in my mind. I would try record that if I can. So it can be really tricky and complicated but the best thing that I try to feel is the passion and the sentiments, contained inside of me at that time of writing. Because without me feeling it and me trying to convey that feeling and that emotion in music and words, just won’t work. So I have to get myself at that place where I’m in touch with the emotion that I want to write and sing about.
IRIE. Congratulations on being the 2018 winner of the Reggae Star Factor (UK)! You will be making your first debut at Rebel Salute in Jamaica. How does that make you feel?
Sheldon Senior. I thank you for your congratulations and it is something that I have planned for and I wanted to use as a stepping stone in my career. I went to Tony Rebel in 2016 and started telling him and showing him some of the stuff that I have done musically over the years and asked him for an opportunity to showcase my talent on his stage he was very encouraging and asked me to keep working at it and he will call me and put me on the show when it’s right. I took that as an extremely motivating step in my music.
I went to London and got this competition through a friend of mine there. I saw it as an opportunity to represent myself, my family and my community on a larger stage so I entered the competition. Having only one aim. To win. I was very fortunate at the end of the day, to have won though.
Reggaestar Factor 2018 competition was extremely high and I count myself fortunate to have won it. I will not only representing myself, my family and my musical Journey but also the United Kingdom with regards to reggae music. On Rebel Salute, I intend to represent with every good parts of my musical gift. I want to take this opportunity to thank the entire staff and team Reggaestar Factor 2018. Tony Rebel and Rebel Salute management for giving me this opportunity to perform at this prestigious event. Watch this space my people, please!
IRIE. Your latest release is the single, ‘Hungry Days’. What is the meaning behind the song?
Sheldon Senior. The meaning behind the song came from a thought I had while sitting in Manchester Jamaica at my home under a cool ponciano tree.
There was a time last year where a lot of domestic violence against woman and kids. There was a outcry by the citizens to stop this buy all means. And the perpetrators most be brought to justice. So I decided to write a song about the days we’re in. I saw it’s as really Hungry Days we’re living in. Yes, hungry as in hunger for food on a higher understanding. There was also a hunger of the spirit, the mind and the psyche. People seemed to be hungry for a greater understanding of this life that we are in, hungry for a greater understanding of themselves. So that’s why I write the song Hungry Days. I would like for people to take away from this song the positiveness and the ways in which you can find food for your hunger by enriching yourself spiritually, emotionally and physically.
IRIE. What do you hope your fans and first-time listeners take with them after listening to your music?
Sheldon Senior. I would love for my listeners to be able to see themselves becoming more enriched in terms of awareness of themselves, their surroundings and people in their lives. After listening to my music people should feel happy their alive and be thankful. It is a mission of mine to remind the world to love themselves. It might not be a mission that is achieved in my lifetime but then again missions of value, don’t necessarily mean a one legged race, it is a relay. Like life is a relay, to constantly remind ourselves that we can be greater than we are today. Greeter than we were yesterday. That’s why I gained the name the voice of the people, the conscious Rebel. Because all throughout my music you will see that common thread of positive, uplifting and righteous music.
IRIE. If you could change one thing about the perception of Roots Reggae music to outsiders, what would that be?
Sheldon Senior. I would want to change the perception of roots reggae music to be seen as a genre of music that’s some of the deepest intellectual minds partake off. Intellectual not only in the conventional academic sense of intellectually but rather, intellect from a Divine source. I want people to gravitate to this music for the enrichment and fulfillment of one’s spiritual life.
For too long the notion of Roots Music as only being the Rastaman’s music is at best, incorrect. I see Roots Music as the world’s music, the music of the downtrodden and the forgotten in society. The music off the intellectual and highest spirituality. That’s the precision I would wanna use my music to help to change.
IRIE. What’s in store for Sheldon Senior for the second half of the year? 2019?
Sheldon Senior. I think I’ve had a really involved and encouraged year in my music so far next half of the Year seems even more exciting. I have the opportunity now to complete some tracks with Billy Mystic of the Mystic Revealers and Earl Geno Smith a world-renowned Guitars and composer. Some may also remember Earl from the recent Inna De Yard Series.
I have a number of musical projects going on with regards to completing the videos of Hungry Days and another soon-to-be-released track called Stone Cold Rasta.
I also have a quite a number of performances in the UK lined up and in Jamaica from now until the start of the new year. I start the new year with the performance at Rebel Salute and of course the completion of my next album for the new year. So I am quite excited about the coming months in my career and I would encourage everyone to keep following my journey and if you haven’t started, now is the best time to start following this blessed musical journey of spreading peace, love and unity to the world.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to say or share with the Irie Magazine audience?
Sheldon Senior. I just want to continue to share my heart with the people through my music and my passion of encouraging people to become better and stronger than they are spiritually, mentally and physically. To remind people also that I have my GoFundMe account opened and I would love to ask you to contribute what you can. I created this gofundme account to aid me in the completion of my album.
Ever since I’ve been little, it’s been my dream of mine to produce a album such as this. Its been a magnificent journey so far. I’ve invested all of my savings, time and talent to the completion of this album. I truly believe that the people need to hear and benefit from the messages that’s contained in this album.
I speak about me overcoming the dreaded disease cancer. I sing about what mental state I needed to be in, in order to overcome this threat on my life and that’s why I believe that people need to hear the messages of this album. So if you can, by any means, contribute to this project that has the potential to touch and change lives. So please feel free to contribute.
Also look out for the new album that’s going to be coming out in the new year.