Donavan ‘I-taweh’ Cunningham was born in the lush rolling hills of St. Ann, Jamaica, to Rupert and Ruby Cunningham. Like many Jamaican artists, he came from humble beginnings. He was raised in the farming community known as Prickly Pole just a few miles from the childhood home of Bob Marley. I-taweh spent most of his early years farming alongside his father and four siblings. It was there as a young child he learned to play music on handmade instruments crafted from bamboo and sardine tins.
Recognizing I-taweh’s love for music, his sister and mother saved enough money to buy his first guitar. When it was time to attend high school, he moved from the countryside to St. Ann’s Bay, where he lived on the same street as Burning Spear and enlisted in the Ocho Rios High School band. After coming in second place in the All Schools Music Competition, I-taweh gained confidence that led him to Kingston to pursue his love of music.
I-Taweh was rarely seen without his guitar. He was soon given the nickname, “Danny
Gitz", and gained the reputation as an outstanding guitarist. He attracted the attention of the legendary producer, songwriter and singer, Sugar Minott who took him under his wings. He eventually became Sugar’s band leader, and credits Sugar for making him the musician he is today.
“Sugar was like a father to me. He was the roughest, but at the same time the kindest, sweetest person. On stage he would let you know in front of thousands of people if you were messing up, but at the same time, when you had it, he also let you know, and made you feel good. He had a sense of pride in his music, and was the first real reggae star who made me feel I was good enough. No matter how good you are, if you don’t get the chance to show it – what can you do? He was one of the first people who made me believe in myself as a serious
musician..” ~ I-Taweh
In 1998, I-taweh became the youngest member of Count Ossie’s original Nyabinghi group, Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, and toured Europe with them extensively until 2007. Mystic Revelation of Rastafari were well known for their presentation of traditional Jamaican music and workshops. While in France, he collaborated with the reggae group, Broussai, which led to recording sessions for tracks later used on his first album.
Not only was I-taweh in demand for live performances, his incredible versatility and precision on guitar and bass kept him busy in recording studios. He recorded with artists such as Sade, Capleton, Morgan Heritage, Sugar Minott, Luciano, Lenky Roy, and Iqulah.
As the guitarist for Everton Blender’s band Blend Dem, I-taweh traveled to the U.S.A. and went on to work as bassist for the Yellow Wall Dub Squad, a major backing band for Jamaican artists in the U.S.A. Billed as
“Itawe", and often referred to as the Reggae Lion, he quickly gained popularity as the singing bassist, opening for artists such as Sister Carol, Prezident Brown, the Abyssinians, Yami Bolo, Half Pint, the Mighty Diamonds, and the Melodians.
In 2011, he released his independently composed and produced debut album “Overload” under his label
Tap Nat Muzik. Selections from the Overload album received significant airplay on stations in Jamaica. The single
“Overload” was a 2011-2012 hit, reaching #1 on the Hot 102 FM chart. In the U.S.A. the album was very well-received at traditional reggae radio, college and syndicated programs. Overload was selected as part of Direct TV cable network's menu of reggae for regular rotation.
I-taweh continues to captivate audiences with emotionally moving lyrics, confident stage presence, and precision talent. His unique and original sound stems from his authentic Jamaican roots combined with inspirations from expansive travels abroad. His music is diverse, reflecting passion for human rights and social justice. Whether performing acoustic guitar, with a stand-up bass, or regular bass with his ten piece band, I-taweh wins the hearts of listeners everywhere, continuously leaving his audience wanting more.
I-taweh offers a cool refresh on roots reggae music best described as timely, updated and professional. His future shines bright as demonstrated by the consistently growing audience and fan base at home and abroad.
I-taweh’s second album “JUDGEMENT” was released February 2017, with a successful album release party in Kingston. Three singles with accompanying music videos have been released from “JUDGEMENT” - “Never Fade Away”, “Herb Treez” and the title track of the album “JUDGEMENT DAY (Love Youths)”. This was followed by a series of live performances in Austin, Texas during SXSW 2017.