The new era of Konshens
Jamaican dancehall artist Garfield “Konshens” Spence will release his new album Red Reign on November 12.
This album, Konshens’ fifth studio album, symbolizes the artist’s new hunger. Its aim is to promote the dancehall genre globally as well as to promote Caribbean artists to the world.
He traveled to Jamaica just before the covid19 pandemic put the world in a bind. He thought he would be there for two weeks, but soon found out that not only Jamaica was on lockdown, but the world.
“The tours were canceled, the party was canceled. You realize this is serious. So for the first couple of months it’s just reality that sets in.
“Then stress comes in. Stress and depression comes in. And then it’s like, ‘Yeah, you know what, just shut up in the studio,’ you know,” he told Newsday in a Zoom interview. .
During this time, Konshens has written and recorded over 70 songs, 18 of which will be on Red Reign.
He will feature collaborations with Jamaican record producer Rvssian, fellow Jamaican dancehall artist Spice, Nigerian-American singer / songwriter Davido, and English rapper / singer Stefflon Don, among others. There are no TT collaborations, but he also collaborated with Bermudan artist Kaelyn Kastle.
At first, to deal with the isolation caused by the pandemic, Konshens said in an earlier conversation leading up to the Newsday interview that he drank and smoked every day. This routine caused mild depression and he began to develop some social anxiety.
He then channeled those negative emotions into creativity and ended up with 70 songs.
For him, “having a vibe” with the music was “kind of therapeutic,” he said. He added that knowing the Konshens from 2010-2012, he was the hungriest he had ever had as an artist.
It was also at this time that he dyed his hair red.
He then sang more dancehall songs and songs for the “gal dem”.
“Lots of songs for the brain, but a lot more for the body,” he said.
But at that time, he also had a thirst for driving. That hunger is back now – renewed during the pandemic – and it’s pushing him to see the genre achieve a better position. He thinks he has the roadmap to get there.
The album is structured to showcase the capabilities of dancehall and how it can be presented on a global scale.
“Show me that I can mix it with Latin – which was born out of dancehall – but I have to make sure the identity of dancehall is there.”
“We have 100% hardcore dancehall songs to show that the ability is there and it’s not a genre we should shy away from.
“We realize that we are a little afraid of authentic dancehall. It is fresh and pleasant. But the world wants it. The world wants dancehall… ”
Konshens merged Afrobeat and other genres with dancehall.
“I try to show them that diversity is good, but you still have to present the culture and take it forward,” he said.
He wants people to listen to Red Reign with an open mind.
If he wants to keep the identity of dancehall, he still likes the idea of musical fusions.
He said there were artists and industry insiders who said music has to come back to this or that.
“The Konshens never go out or produce ska music (a musical genre that originated in Jamaica in the 1950s)…
“We are trying to pioneer the new dancehall sound. The important thing is to keep the identity and not to pass it off as something foreign, ”he said.
He stressed that while mixing and embracing musical cultures was great, it was important for any genre to maintain its musical identity.
Konshens thinks the soca has been able to do it.
Even when the mergers are complete, it still looks like soca, he added.
“Maybe not the old soca, but it looks like soca.”
He said, however, that dancehall music sounded like “something alien”.
The genre needed some of the new artists and producers to stand up and try to shape the new sound that “contains the authentic dancehall element,” he said.
Konshens said he believes that once authentic forms of music are put forward, they will no longer sound generic.
“We can use the Afrobeats. Modern Afrobeat was born out of dancehall music. It doesn’t sound like dancehall music. There are authentic elements. Or there’s a little something in it that when you turn it on you know it’s African.
Even though he is moving forward, the artist still struggles with mild depression and social anxiety. He doesn’t know how he deals with these mental health issues, he said.
try to solve it again, ”he said.
His occupation does not allow his social anxiety to stop him either. But even though the world has slowly reopened and he feels less isolated, his anxiety was at an all time high, he said.
“Once inside, you feel isolated. When you are outside you feel anxious. But these are the problems to which this pandemic has really contributed… ”
He found coping mechanisms such as drinking a little more and trying to let off steam as much as possible. Trying to be vocal, he added.
Konshens’ brother, the late Delmark “Delus” Spence, committed suicide in 2016, and he also struggled with depression and anxiety.
He said he knew firsthand the stigma surrounding mental health and black men in the Caribbean.
He does his best to cope with his mild depression and anxiety. Although this is a work in progress, Konshens said locals need to understand that men are human beings who need safe spaces and ears in which to listen.
Even if he sails in this field, he thanks for the music in which he can “dive”.
In the new era of Konshens, he wants to think not only of his finances but of his status; find young Caribbean artists and send them to the world.