As Trinidad and Tobago settles into a three-month extension of the state of emergency to contain the spread of covid19, the public is again called upon to exercise restraint, sacrifice and responsibility.
But for those who have experienced lockdown measures over the past 18 months, abiding to an extended curfew, may very well be an uphill battle, as the restrictions, reports suggest, have already taken a physical, emotional and psychological toll on many.
So, how does one balance these restrictions with the need to preserve lives and revive the economy?
In his new song, Crossroads, artiste Xavier Edwardz suggests that people have options and are responsible for their own destiny.
“Crossroads is inspired by a simple unavoidable element of life called choices,” Edwardz, 29, told Sunday Newsday.
“It’s woven closely into ideas surrounding free will, critical thinking, perpetual learning and the ability to listen to divine guidance, that which many call ‘God.’”
Released on August 20, the Tobago-born singer described Crossroads as “a radical song reflective of the radical times we living through right now.”
In light of the covid19 challenge and other issues confronting the country, he believes the song should appeal to society as a whole “as we are all currently at a shared crossroad.”
Edwardz is hoping listeners will internalise its message.
“One is faithful that people leave feeling more empowered to truly ask for divine guidance when challenging or confusing life choices are presented and that the highest point of reasoning should be intuition.
“We learn a whole ‘setta’ things from family, school, church and TV and had to unlearn because they were never truth, at least not the truth that resonates in you. However, when the answers come from within, it is truly wisdom if we learn how to really listen.”
Edwardz wrote the song, which, he said, was conceptualised five years ago.
“Most of the music came as divine inspiration that I now have to interpret as best I can.”
He said late soca producer Daryl Braxton, whom he met through a mutual friend, was also a major contributor.
Describing himself as a revolutionary artiste, Edwardz sings several genres of music, including calypso, hip hop and neo-soul.
“I see music as a great way to catalyse positive changes in this space we all share called Earth. I am a lyrical genius with a poetic and conscious mind. I represent my art not just in song but every breath.”
He also believes his music is timeless “because I know who I am, an artiste to inspire a generation in a time where we need that type of inspiration.”
An emerging voice on Tobago’s socio-cultural landscape, Edwardz was elected president of the Tobago Writers Guild earlier this year and is also a member of the NGO Tobago CivilNET, which comprises noted personalities from various sectors on the island.
Within recent times, he has been a panellist on several discussions relating to the Tobago’s internal self-government and the six-six deadlock in the Tobago House of Assembly.
Edwardz, who graduated with a bachelor’s in public sector management (social development policy and planning) from UWI, St Augustine in 2015, believes his life and philosophy were shaped by his childhood experiences in Roxborough, Delaford and Calder Hall.
He said he does not recall ever feeling unloved.
“I had a great childhood. I grew up in an extended family home with the most loving grandmother I could have asked for and surrounded by cousins and aunts who always added joy to my days. I can’t say there was ever a shortage of love coming my way.”
At Belle Garden Anglican Primary School and later Bishop’s High School, Edwardz said he loved learning, reading and talking.
He said while he had some challenges “fitting in” at times, he was never without good friends.
He said many of the stories about his childhood and adolescence are told through his music.
Edwardz believes divine inspiration made him gravitate to music.
“The universe has been set up in such a way that I have music living in my DNA.”
He recalled his parents’ families also had music flowing through their veins.
“While I wouldn’t say I am a connoisseur or a master musician, I have a deep appreciation and sensitivity for music that touches the soul. I would always know when the music was just sounding good and when I could feel it dimensions deeper than the five senses.
“If there’s a lot of music out there like that, I didn’t access much of it. So, when I really needed to feel that soulfulness as I was finding my own soul, I had to make it myself.”
Edwardz said the range of music he listened to as a child immensely impacted his sensibilities and preferences.
Apart from the music of late rapso artiste Lutalo Masimba (Brother Resistance) and Ataklan (Mark Jiminez), Edwardz, in his early teens, also had access to his uncle’s vast CD collection. He said music videos on BET and MTV were a must.
He said by the time he got his driver’s licence at age 17, “I discovered the overwhelming power within music to control moods and shape the mind and behavioural patterns.
“That lives with me everyday.”
He said the music of Michael Jackson, Erykah Badu and his grandfather’s jazz and soul piano “all helped shape the melodies people hear me singing now.”
In 2017, Edwardz released the album The Live Free Project, featuring the songs Skybound, Lucid Dreaming and Raindrops on Roses.
Asked about the album’s title, he said before one can be free they must first be “truly aware and awake.
“I used the music as a means to wake up, sharing the inner conversations necessary for the unlearning and reprogramming that are necessary in the process of self-discovery, fearlessly.”
Three years later, he released Real, a song about self-examination. It was a collaboration with musician Reuel Lynch.
“In the midst of all the chaos going on around the world, coronavirus, extreme violence, economic and social instability, I wanted to be real with myself and simultaneously encourage others to see how we can contribute to all the things we complain about.”
Saying the song enabled him to move away from his comfort zone musically, Edwardz said the visual team of Isolate Media and Miguel Lashley, helped him craft a visual presentation of the topics.
He described Where We Come From as one of his favourite projects, saying the song was written as a gift to TT. The video was directed by Melvern Isaac and co-written by Rayshon Alleyne.
Edwardz has vowed to continue writing thought-provoking songs on issues he feels passionate about and which, in the long run, will uplift humanity.
In his role as Tobago Writers Guild president, Edwardz, backed by an executive team, is responsible for the overall management and strategic guidance of the organisation.
Saying the organisation is one of the first platforms that allowed him to share his music, Edwardz said he hopes to provide opportunities for the continued development of the literary arts in Tobago.
“The plan is to continue to build and develop the work done by the organisation and successfully steer it through this transitionary period.”
He said several of the guild’s core projects, such as First Mic (an open mic for children) and its lecture series, have already been shifted to a virtual platform, making it readily available to a global audience.
Edwardz said the guild will soon launch its website and operationalise its publishing house.
“We have to continue to create opportunities to boost and support authors and artistes in Tobago.”
He believes organisations like the writers guild and CivilNet, whose major purpose is to empower and educate, are needed in Tobago.
“They offer not only a gramophone to empower voices through authorship or articles but also to provide a listening ear to the pulse of the people, with meaningful discourse, diagnosis and suggested treatment.”
Edwardz said he is excited to be a part of both groups.
“My testimony will be the exponential personal growth that it has brought me, whether through facilitating The Next Chapter Open Mic, partnership with the library for a discussion on reparatory justice in the Caribbean or viewing the Tobago Rocks lecture series, the works add true and meaningful value to Tobago and the world.”