Jamaican artistes in the Diaspora sustaining themselves during pandemic

Since the coronavirus was declared a pandemic in early March, local entertainers have shared how they have been coping with the period of lockdown, from penning new music, to engaging fans online, helping with COVID-19 relief and even working out.

More than 25,000 people have succumbed from the coronavirus in New York state.

The tale is the same for Jamaican artistes in the Diaspora, only a bit more eerie in states like New York where the virus has claimed the lives of more than 26,000 people.

“It’s pretty scary here but being a Jamaican, we always tek care a we body and tek di regular tings weh people are now craving for like garlic, honey, ginger, lime, plus I always take my vitamins so my immune system is fully charged,” deejay Powerman told BUZZ. “I see people dropping around me every day, people I know and talk to. I went to the studio the other day and I was talking to this rapper and he was admiring my sneakers and the next week I heard he died from corona. I’ve spoken to people on the phone and mi haffi a guide dem through it and most of them survive.”

“Nuff people don’t know I record two, three times per week, I always have lyrics so that part has not changed.”

– Powerman

The Stone entertainer has been based in the ‘Big Apple’ for a number of years, and is not allowing the virus and its accompanying chaos to prevent him from living his life. In fact, he was in a barbershop getting a fresh cut during the interview, and still goes to his nine-to-five.

“I went to school and got my GED. In Jamaica I’d never work, everybody would be looking at me, but in America you see millionaires on the train every day, people just go about their business, there’s no pride,” he said. “New York is no joke cause the least rent is all US$1300 per month. I work at an online supermarket so a lot of people don’t really see me, I’m inside. When people call and order, I scan it out and put it on delivery to their home. When work is finished I go to the studio and record just the same.”

Deejay Powerman has been working at an online grocery store while maintaining his music career. (Photo: contributed)

While the pandemic has not inspired a surge of new music, he does feel more energised.

“Nuff people don’t know I record two, three times per week, I always have lyrics so that part has not changed,” he said. “My institution has been getting a lot of work so I have to be moving like lightning to meet deadlines which makes me stronger and makes me go longer when I’m in the studio. I know when I get to touch the stage it’s gonna be incredible.”

He also recently released his album Black Book Diary which he is promoting on social media.

Canadian-based entertainer Chester Miller

Doing some online promotion of his own is Toronto-based singer, Chester Miller. The ‘Please Have A Heart’ vocalist migrated to Canada as a teenager, and described the new normal as discomforting.

“Everything is on lockdown over here except for the essentials,” he said. “There are long lines to get groceries and as of recent some stores with sidewalk entrances are now open. I hope it’ll lead to the opening of other stores. I just try to occupy myself by keeping busy as much as I can.”

Included in this is songwriting, which he said he has been better able to focus on since the corona-induced quarantine.

“I’ve been getting a lot of offers to do songs for various producers, and I’ve been doing a lot of dub sessions more than normal which have been pretty lucrative so no complaints there.”

Prior to the worldwide disruption, Miller was working on an album with show promoter Michael Barnett, and anticipates completing the project.

“We had to put it on hold because of the travel restrictions and social distancing but hopefully by late June or July I’ll be back in Jamaica to resume with Michael and Roy Frances of the Mixing Lab Studio. I’m really looking forward to it.”