When you think of Reggae music, perhaps the first thought that pops up would be long dreadlocks, the offbeat rhythms and to some, the beanies and funky colours. But the music represents much more than that, especially to the international artists Maxi Priest, Big Mountain, Shaggy and Diana King. The Mirror Magazine caught up with [...]


One Love: Colombo Music Festival artists share their thoughts, passion for music


When you think of Reggae music, perhaps the first thought that pops up would be long dreadlocks, the offbeat rhythms and to some, the beanies and funky colours.

Diana King

But the music represents much more than that, especially to the international artists Maxi Priest, Big Mountain, Shaggy and Diana King. The Mirror Magazine caught up with the headliners, just before they took the stage at the Cinnamon Music Festival which concluded last week.

What do you do for fun when you’re not on tour? we asked Maxi Priest. “Well, I play soccer” he says with a chuckle. On a serious note though, he tries to spend time with his family. “It’s difficult, because even though I may have what they call holidays, my mind is always thinking about music.”

He explains that he simply hates to sleep and let the time pass him by. “You should live life as much as you can and do as much as you can.” Life is short and Maxi tries to make the most of his time.

Despite being one of the first reggae artists to have achieved international fame, Maxi remains humble. “The music business is bigger than all of us. But the music is even bigger. I humbly do something creative and pray and hope that there’s somebody out there who likes it,” he says adding that whatever support he gets, is massively appreciated.

His music continues to stay fresh and loved across the world and he tells me the secret to it is his passion for what he does.

“I feel that this gift which has been given to me is my partner and my friend, it’s my soulmate and I have such a passion towards it, that I just don’t take it for granted.”
He works hard at what he does and feels that the more one puts into something, the more one gets out of it. “I would like to think that that’s the answer to why I’m still here, doing what I do.”

There’s really no magic to it, he says other than the fact that it’s magical to create something new and when you’re up on stage with it and the people sing along.

“That’s the magic and that’s special,” says Maxi.

He relates that through the years, there have been several moments where he’d been afraid. But adds, “my faith in God can overcome anything.”

Our conversation with Big Mountain focused on a different twist. Their music has resonated worldwide, since the 1990’s. In fact one could easily identify their sound owing to Joaquin “Quino” McWhinney’s unique vocal style.

Big Mountain

But the other aspect that defines them, are their lyrics. Quino tells me the band’s music has been touching upon political subjects since its inception. Quino himself is of Mexican descent and has always been an artist and an activist for immigration issues.

Reggae music has a tendency to influence a community with its style and catchy tunes. And, Quino has used this platform to always try and keep the issues forefront.

He explains that in many countries, the ethnic minorities are marginalized and sidelined in the main story that the country is putting forward historically. However, he feels that things are changing now for the better and adds that his mentors such as band like Los Alacranes and Ramon Sanchez ‘Chunky’ and many others have been focusing on these issues to bring stories of their people to the forefront and make them a part of the national culture. But the work still remains.

“The US has been a nightmare for people of colour. White supremacy exists and we’re trying to make music so our people are represented. Especially the immigrant community, because they contribute so much,” he says.

On a final note, Quino tells me that he’s excited to be here. He never knew that there were people who enjoyed their music in Sri Lanka. “We’re on the other side of the world so to be able to come to this beautiful place is exciting.”

Sooner, it was Diana King’s turn. Much to my surprise, she explains that she is an extreme introvert, who loves to stay home, which is her sanctuary.

We talk about the thought process that goes into Diana’s music, to which she explains that she mostly writes from experience but it’s not always a personal experience. “For example if I’m talking to someone and I get inspired and I relate to it I would write on it.”

‘Shy Guy’, one of her biggest hits was actually a song about her. “My producer at the time asked me ‘what kind of guys do you like? And I just said shy guys, because I was thinking about me and how I am.” Funnily enough at the time, Diana was actually married to a shy guy, she tells me and we enjoy a hearty laugh.

Maxi Priest

The song was completed within 15 minutes, but Diana recalls not wanting ‘Shy Guy’ to be her first single. “I wanted to do another song that showcased my vocal styles more. But they told me this was the song and they were right.”

Diana currently has her own label, ‘Think Like A Girl Music’. “I did it for myself because although it was great with a major label, you don’t own your music.” After the rise of social media, artists started putting out their own music and they were blocked. That inspired Diana to have her own label. She realized that as a female artist there was a need for a company like hers, especially for female artists who find it tough in a male dominated industry.

“I wanted the artists to not worry about anything else, and to just be creative. So it’s a label for female, gay and non-binary artists and it’s for free.” Diana is also putting in her years of experience to helping other artists.

For Shaggy being a returning artist to the country, he tells us what he enjoys the most is about performing is the experience. “Sri Lanka has always been welcoming.


They have been receptive to my music over the years. So I have been having a long and productive relationship with the fans here. The Sri Lankan audience in my experience has been enthusiastic.”

Hot off his new album with Sting, Shaggy says the album was a means of reinventing himself. “It might seem like a crazy strategy but I don’t like repeating myself over and over again doing the same thing, so I try to change up stuff. I try to change it in the music and in the collaborations, instead of changing the genre. What I like about the music is that much of it is reggae, but I never do reggae in its authentic form. Oh, Carolina or Mr. Bombastic are not pure reggae, it was always fusion music, always a hybrid. I like hybrids because it gives me more room to experiment,” he says.

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