The new era of Konshens

Konshens is pioneering a new dancehall sound.
Konshens is pioneering a new dancehall sound. "The important thing is we keep the identity and don’t make it sound like a foreign thing,” he said. -

Jamaican dancehall artiste Garfield “Konshens” Spence will launch his new album Red Reign on November 12.

This album, Konshens’ fifth studio album, symbolises the artiste's new hunger. His drive is to promote the genre of dancehall globally as well as promote Caribbean artistes to the world.

He went to Jamaica just before the covid19 pandemic put the world in a stranglehold. He thought he would be there for two weeks, but soon found not only was Jamaica on lockdown, but the world.

“Tours cancelled, party was cancelled. You realise say this is serious. So for the first two months it is just reality setting in.

Jamaican dancehall artiste Garfield “Konshens” Spence will launch his new album Red Reign on November 12. -

"Then the stress come. The stress and the depression come. And then is like, ‘Yuh know what, just lock up inna de studio,' yuh know,” he told Newsday in a Zoom interview.

During that time, Konshens wrote and recorded over 70 songs, 18 of which will be on Red Reign.

It will feature collaborations with Jamaican record producer Rvssian, fellow Jamaican dancehall artiste Spice, Nigerian-American singer/songwriter Davido and English rapper/singer Stefflon Don, among others. There are no TT collaborations, but he has also collaborated with Bermudian artiste Kaelyn Kastle.

At first, to deal with the isolation caused by the pandemic, Konshens said, in an earlier conversation leading up to Newsday's interview, he drank and smoked every day. That routine brought on mild depression and he started developing some social anxiety.

He then channelled those negative emotions into creativity and ended up with 70 songs.

For him, "holding a vibe" with music was "kind of therapeutic," he said. He added that knowing the Konshens of 2010-2012, it was the hungriest he had ever been as an artiste.

That was also when he coloured his hair red.

He then sang more dancehall songs and songs for the “gal dem.”

“A lot of songs for the brain, but a lot more for the body,” he said.

But at that time he also had a driving hunger. That hunger is back now – renewed during the pandemic – and it is pushing him to see the genre ascend to a better position. He believes he has the road map to get it there.

The album is structured in such a way to show dancehall’s capabilities and how it can be presented on a global scale.

“Me show me can mix it up with Latin – which was birthed from dancehall – but me need to make sure the identity of dancehall is in it.

“We have songs that are 100 per cent hardcore dancehall to show that the capabilities are there and this is not something as a genre we should shy away from.

“We realise we ah shy away from the authentic dancehall a little bit. It is cool and nice. But the world want it. The world want dancehall…”

Konshens fused Afrobeats and other genres with dancehall.

“I try to show them diversity is good, but you should always present the culture and move it forward,” he said.

He wants people to listen to Red Reign with an open mind.

While he wants to maintain dancehall’s identity, he still loves the idea of musical fusions.

He said there were some artistes and industry insiders who say that music needs to go back to this or that.

“Konshens never come out and bring forth 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 we keep the identity and don’t make it sound like a foreign thing,” 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 believes soca has been able to do this.

Even when fusions are done, it still sounds like soca, he added.

“Maybe not the old-time soca, but it sound like soca.”

He said, however, dancehall music sounded like “some foreign thing.”

The genre needed some of the new artistes and producers to stand up and try to shape the new sound that “has the authentic dancehall element in it,” he said.

Konshens said he thinks once the authentic forms of music are pushed forward they won’t sound generic.

“We can use Afrobeats. The modern Afrobeats was birth from dancehall music. It does not sound like dancehall music. It have the authentic elements to it. Or a little something is in it that when you turn on, you know it is African.”

Even as he forges ahead, the artiste is still battling with mild depression and social anxiety. He does not know how he is coping with those mental health problems, he said.

“Me a

Konshens' new album Red Reign will feature collaborations with various artistes including, Nigerian-American singer/songwriter Davido. -

still try work it out,” he said.

His occupation also does not allow his social anxiety to stop him. But even though the world has slowly reopened and he feels less isolated, his anxiety was at an all-time high, he said.

“Once you’re inside, you feel isolated. When you’re outside, you feel anxious. But these are issues that this pandemic really contributed to…”

He has found some coping mechanisms such as still drinking a little and trying to vent as much as possible. Trying to be vocal, he added.

Konshens’ brother, the late Delmark “Delus” Spence, died by suicide in 2016, and he also battled with depression and anxiety.

He said he knows first-hand the stigmas surrounding mental health and black men in the Caribbean.

He is doing his best to cope with his mild depression and anxiety. While it is a work in progress, Konshens said people in the region need to realise that men are human beings who need safe spaces and ears to listen to them.

Even has he navigates this, he gives thanks for the music he can “dive into.”

In the new era of Konshens, he wants to think not only of his finances but his status; finding young Caribbean artistes and sending them out into the world.


"The new era of Konshens"

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