Photo by Diane 'Livonn' Adam
"The most important Jamaican artist
since Marley," is how Bono of rock group U2 describes Abdel the newest
Jamaican musician signed to a major label and the most 'unknown' Jamaican ever to make it
to the forefront of international attention. Abdel's music is not dance hall, but strictly
roots with a modern flava that returns to the cultural origins of reggae as social
commentary and spiritual inspiration with sensitive lyrics and guitar-led rhythms.
Though his name is known only to a few music insiders and friends, Abdel has been making
his special brand of reggae music for 16 years, producing social commentary lyrics which
he accompanies on his guitar, piano, flute, harmonica and drums. A 13 track album produced
by Brian Jobson was heard by Dave Stewart, who was impressed enough to act as executive
producer for the album. The result was an instant signing to a record deal with Interscope
Records -- a division of UMG Music Worldwide -- and an engagement to record a song to be
performed at the Mandela AIDS Concert in Cape Town, South Africa on November 29, 2003.
From total anonymity, Abdel's signing took
him in a few short weeks on his first trip outside Jamaica to New York recording sessions
for the Mandela Concert and album, with such international stars as Dave Stewart, Bono,
Beyonce, Britney Spears, JayZ and 50 Cent, and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey and
Mariah Shriver. Abdel is honored and happy that his brand of music will be Jamaica's
contribution to the important event.
Tall, thin Abdel Wright was born 27 years ago
in Trinityville, St. Thomas. His single parent mother was diagnosed with mental illness
and he was taken as an infant to live at several Government children's homes before ending
up at SOS Children's Village a foster home in Stony Hill run by an Austrian
charitable foundation and heavily sponsored by the late singer Johnny Cash. Cash owned a
villa in Montego Bay and when Abdel was moved to the SOS Children's Village in that city,
he came in contact with the celebrated singer who often visited the home, playing his
songs and accompanying himself on the guitar. For the fatherless Abdel, Johnny Cash was
his role model. "I always wanted to be like Johnny Cash," he admits with a
|At 18 Abdel left the SOS
Children's Village to make life on his own. He moved to Kingston and for the next several
years worked at various menial jobs, eventually falling into the traps of crime and
violence that is the fate of too many inner-city Jamaican youths. Serving time in prison,
Abdel taught music to the inmates becoming leader of the prison band and trusted enough to
be allowed out each day to teach and play music. While in prison Abdel also learned sign
language and taught it to fellow inmates, giving himself a teaching skill which he used
when finally released after time-off for good behaviour.
Sharing his skills with anyone who cared to learn, whether for pay
or not, Abdel not only earned small sums to support himself, but also endeared himself to
a generation of young would-be musical artists. In addition to teaching himself to play
the guitar, Abdel also taught himself the lute, piano, and harmonica, and spent five years
teaching himself now-fluent Spanish "
because I wanted to write for a wider
audience," he explains.
Vibrating with energy, Abdel's personality is warm and
outgoing. The hard life he has lived has only served to make him stronger, and his
happiness at his successful 'break' has increased his positive vibrations. Caring and
benevolent to his friends, Abdel's first action on receiving his contract signing fee was
to made generous gifts to several artist friends still struggling in the same conditions
he endured, and a major donation to the SOS Children's villages.
A recent participant in the 10-day Caribbean Music
Expo/UNESCO Artists In Development Workshop, at which 25 of the Caribbean's upcoming
musical artists received lectures and demonstrations on management, marketing and
presentation, Abdel says he is preparing himself to handle the demands of international
performing and recording.
Plans for Abdel by his music company include a 2004 tour as opening act for a major
international star, as well as collaborating on an album with U2's Bono. With the
attention and admiration of such major music stars, Abdel will not remain an 'unknown' for
Abdel Wright Links: