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Shakka swaps London for Dominica as he traces his roots

WEST GOES EAST: Shakka travelled to Dominica as part of the Homelands project

FAMED FOR songs including Say Nada and When Will I See You Again, as well as his feature on Wretch 32’s smash hit, Blackout, Shakka has racked up numerous achievements since his emergence onto the music scene in 2012.

The west London singer-songwriter has graced the Glastonbury stage, earned two MOBO nominations, and performed in the 2013 production, Home at London’s National Theatre.

More recently, the talented artist left his London home to reconnect with his roots on a trip to Dominica.

Here, Shakka recalls his Caribbean capers:

What did you do when it was confirmed you were going to Dominica?
I called all of my cousins, aunties, nephews and uncles, even though I didn’t fully know if I had enough time to see them all!

What was your first impression?
My first impression was immersed in flashbacks: The colours of the airport, the smell and humidity of the atmosphere. I genuinely expected to hear my mum hurrying me to somewhere in patois.

Where did you go from the airport?
The first spot we hit was the market by the sea in Portsmouth. I surprised my uncle; he knew I was coming, but he just didn’t know when. We poured rum into a full coconut and made a toast to our reunion.

What was your first day like?
Overwhelming. I was calling people to organise meeting points when I didn’t know where people lived! Also, trying to navigate in a place where Google maps don’t serve much assistance was tough. No postcodes, minimal road names – just landmarks and the hope that people know them. After a while though, I became one with the rhythm.

You weren’t wasting any time! So what was next?
[Caribbean street party] J’Ouvert – 4am with people dancing to a constant drum beat and chocolate smeared everywhere. Nothing but the very few street lights and our voices to guide us. It was like we were trying to communicate with our ancestors. In the afternoon, we drove across the island to Grand Bay, visiting Asa Banton – Dominican artist and Bouyon [music] pioneer – talking to him about his ‘strictly local’ ethos, which emphasises the importance of being himself with vernacular, clothing style and subject matter. The following days included meeting the indigenous inhabitants of the Island, the Kalinago people; learning of their history and the history of mankind, their struggle, and how they live in Dominica today.

PARTY PEOPLE: Shakka got into the J’Ouvert spirit

How did the Homelands collaboration work out?
This was new – I had never collaborated with an outfit who specialised in Bouyon. Neither had I made music in the country of my parents’ birth. I don’t know if it was the stew chicken I had before we started, or the buzz of carnival still in my system. After five minutes, making the song felt like clockwork.

What did you learn about Dominican culture?
I was reminded about how our people can be quite loud and misleadingly confrontational! The pace is a lot more relaxed than London. But the appreciation for agriculture and the product of farming and living off the land is great.

What was the last day like?
Part of me wanted to get back in the studio ASAP. The other part wanted more time with the island. I felt like the island had more to tell me.

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