An article/interview by Ashley Hopkinson for The Desert Sun.
Chronixx brought the sun kissed warmth and soulful roots reggae of Jamaica to his debut set Saturday at the Coachella Valley Arts and Music Festival. Under the scorching heat at the Outdoor Theatre, an early festival crowd gathered. Some were seated comfortably on blankets and others stood, jumping up and down with their hands in the air as Chronixx yelled out “Coachella do you love reggae?”
Jamar Chronixx McNaughton, the 23-year-old from Spanish Town Jamaica, moved through the set with ease, and sang hit songs off his “Dread and Terrible” album including the massive crossover hit “Here Comes Trouble” and “Capture Land.”
There was no shortage of reggae enthusiasts among the festival goers, who knew many of the lyrics and sang along. For a moment I was transported back to the Caribbean and forgot I was on Southern California soil as the crowd lifted their hands to the air and bounced to the rhythmic flow of roots reggae.
As Chronixx led the way moving his hands left to right during the hit song “Here Comes Trouble,” the crowd mimicked the action and sang in unison”Left- right Jah soldiers ah’ come, left -right.” Chronixx brought the audience, to a slow sway with “Queen Majesty” and the popular “Smile Jamaica.”
Special guest Proteje brought fire to the stage with “Who Knows” and Chronixx performed harmoniously with his fellow Jamaican reggae artist. “Big up mi brother Protege, Coachella what you say,” he sang out in pace with the melody. Chronixx closed the set with telltale Caribbean air horn sound and a chant out to “blaze up the fire”
As the set closed and the Coachella crowd continued to sing “what a bam bam.” One millennial, standing far left from the stage held a Jamaican flag over his head, the green and gold banner flapped in a much- needed breeze.
“We love reggae,” he shouted.
That sounds about right for a Chronixx debut set.
Earlier this week before his Weekend Two Coachella performance I spoke to Chronixx about music, what inspires him and what it means to be at the forefront of what many are calling a reggae revival.
TDS. How did Coachella come about?
Chronixx: I can’t really say, not sure of (all the logistics). I always view these things as purposeful and something that was always meant to happen. We give thanks whenever these thing manifest. It’s very humbling and we give thanks and are very grateful to be invited to places like Coachella at this stage in our musical journey.
TDS :How did your career and love for music begin?
C: Growing up in the musical environment and growing up and seeing one of the persons you respect the most and love the most doing music helped to create a certain love and respect for the art from when I was a little youth (His father is Chronicle–a Jamaican musician) and it was born over time naturally. And in Jamaica there are a lot of opportunities for you to come about being introduced to music. There was school, there was church and home just bare music and there was always music.
TDS : So I grew up in Guyana and listening to music from Peter Tosh and Bob Marley and Tracy Champman because that’s the music my parents played. And I feel like those lyrics helped to shape my life. How has the Rastafarian culture shaped your music. For people here who may not know a lot about the culture of reggae music, explain the Rasta influence on music?
C: Rastafari have a lot to do with the consciousness that is encrypted in the music and each song has lyrics that carry a level of consciousness and spirituality and love of Rastafari. So our music becomes a new gospel and a new avenue through which people can access another height of consciousness.
TDS: Speaking of consciousness your music is deliberately conscious with its lyrics about love, social justice and freedom. What motivates you to sing about what you sing about?
C: Simply because I believe my art should reflect how I feel as a human being and troddin’ through creation in this time. It is what comes naturally to me and it is what I feel my contribution to humanity should be be, songs like these, words like these.
TDS: You’re doing a lot of collaborations. What makes you want to fuse your music with other artists from different genres too. Like you have a song with Joey Bada$$.
C: There is a lot of good music right now in the world music space and a lot of these people I would love to make music with them and it’s just a matter of time because whenever I connect with another artist who I respect their art it’s always easy no matter the musical genre or background. New genres and new cultures. Every collaboration should be a collaboration of cultures and continents and peoples.
TDS: OK so is there someone in the near future you’re hoping to collaborate with? Throw out a name for me.
C: Stephen Marley. He’s one my favorite artist. Salaam Remi, I like Esperanza Spalding and Emilie King. There are a lot of people who I think are really talented at this moment.
TDS: People have called your entrance on the music scene reggae revival. Do you see it that way?
C : Yes it’s definitely a reggae revival. I think people should take the time for themselves to learn the music and not just look at what’s happening in the culture or what the headlines portray. It’s really important to learn the culture from an intimate level so we can know for certain what’s happening in our musical space.
TDS: What do you want people to know and hope they remember your music for?
C : Right now, I would like to know that our music is a source of introducing consciousness into time and space and I would love it if our music could be appreciated as a clear and true expression of what is happening in the modern era and what is happening in our society and culture in the truest way because I believe one of the greatest purposes of any artist is to reflect the times and what is happening. Any music that makes it out there in the public space it should impact that culture and it should play a role in where the culture should go next and I would love it if the music I was chosen to make and so blessed to make was one of those things that helped to drive our culture and humanity at large forward.