Intro by Sista Irie
Last July, I had the amazing experience of traveling to Bali, one of the most spiritual and health conscious countries I have ever known. The week before I landed, a volcano was erupting causing the airport to shut down, a week after I returned, a tsunami and additional earthquake created chaos on Bali. The worst damage was on the neighboring island of Lombok. My sympathies quickly mounted after meeting these glorious people who are deeply committed to their spiritual values. I was delighted to soon learn one of my most favorite reggae bands, The No-Maddz, was performing and discovering the life of Rastafari living on the two islands. The following article is a blog shared with me from Sheldon “Sheppie” Shepherd and Everaldo “Evie” Creary. Both are recipients of the prestigious Jamaican Prime Minister’s Youth Award for Excellence in Arts and Culture and original members of the innovative creative musical experience named The No-Maddz.
The No-Maddz in Bali – Heaven On Earth.
Sometimes as artists, we get consumed with our target fan bases and may be unaware of our reach to diverse communities and peoples from distant lands. The World Wide Web, especially through various social media platforms allow us the opportunity to reach much farther than we could once imagine. So an invitation to Bali, Indonesia via Instagram was met with some misgiving. Like seriously, Bali? Reggae music? The No-Maddz? Nevertheless, we took a chance and our team at Caribbean Entertainment investigated its legitimacy. The invitation came from Disko Africa, a music session in Canggu organised by Orly Evans and Blue Water Cruises, a travel company operated by Britta Slippens that specialises in pirate boat adventures throughout Indonesia. Lo and behold the invite was legit and in a few weeks we were on our way to Bali, Indonesia!
It certainly was nice to know that Jamaicans do not need visas to travel to Indonesia. However, our hosts still got us business visas that we had to pick up in Singapore. When we arrived in Singapore it was the Muslim and Ethiopian New Year so all businesses were closed for the holiday. As a perk, we got to spend a night in Singapore as we waited for the embassy to open the following day. As far as we could see, Singapore is the cleanest place we have ever visited. The Balinese brother at the immigration post in Ngurah Rai was pretty cool. He told us, we could renew our Indonesian visas and extend our stay to upwards of a whole year and a half. A year and a half you say? A year and a half in a country with some of the strictest marijuana laws in the world? A place where you could be executed by a firing squad for a spliff? Okay, okay, perhaps not an execution but most definitely a hefty fine or some jail time. However, executions are possible sentences for serious drug offences. If you don’t believe me, google the story of the Bali Nine.
The Bali Ngurah Rai International Airport is one of the busiest airports The No-Maddz has ever seen. After more than sixteen hours of flight time from London to Bali, we could not wait to put our bags down, take our shoes off and stretch our legs. We were in Balangan, in an area called the Bukit or hill. Evie and I were escorted to our separate living quarters, I entered the space and was greeted by a huge Komodo Dragon hanging out on the wall Just to the left of the door, a psychedelically brilliant Ganesh painting to my right and the word love hanging from the roof directly over the bed straight ahead, a big room with high bamboo roof sitting right by the pool. I must add, though only slightly significant, my roommate likes to crap on the bed. i didn’t make it bother me too much as i am the new comer and that may be the way they do things in this room, it also didn’t help that i felt kinda intimidated, just imagine a Gecko the size of a wine bottle, chilling out on a bamboo in the roof above your bed, dropping fecal bombs on the bed every time you make the bed, calls his women and ward off other big boys with his piercing chirps and squeaks… lets just say he minded his own business and i, minded, his own business. Before bed, we chatted a bit with our chaperone until one by one we wore ourselves out except for me, safe to say that’ s attributed to my jet lag, after all we were 12 hours into the future or it could be my roof dwelling roommate and the shrill of his voice as it echoes the darkness.
Worshipers and workers
The main religious cultures in Indonesia are Islam and Hinduism. We interacted with persons from both religions and they all received us well. However, we mainly experienced Hindu religious expressions while in Bali. Every Hindu home in Bali is considered a temple where smaller temples like shrines or altars for offerings are also constructed in the yard. The number of smaller temples is determined by the size of the yard. Balinese pray and make offerings to their Gods and ancestors multiple times each day. Around the village, women can be seen placing small baskets on the floor of the outdoor temples that had food, incense, money, or other things that Balinese use in their daily lives. We were told that every time the Balinese ate, their ancestors also ate. We loved the scent of different aromas permeating the air from the many incense in the various yards. We also noticed that the women, especially the married women, do all the work preparing the small baskets made from dried grass or straw. It would appear that women are responsible for these rituals, in addition to preparing for other ceremonies, taking care of the needs of the family and keeping the temple while the men are out on the busy streets of Bali trying to get that “Babylon paper”.
We experienced the Islamic religious culture mainly in Lombok. Lombok is an Indonesian Island east of Bali and west of Sumbawa. We left from Benoa Harbour in Bali via Patagonia boat company (heard they ran bankrupted after the earthquakes), stopped in Padangbai Harbour Bali on the way, passed Gili Islands then we disembarked at Bangsal Harbour North Lombok. It took two hours from Bali to North Lombok and we stayed in Lombok for nearly a week. Experiencing Lombok, we had the privilege of praying with the Muslims under a makeshift tent mosque because the Earthquakes destroyed their original place of worship. From where we stayed we could here via microphone and speakers the prayers sang from the daily Muslim gatherings. The Muslim priest told us that we are welcome regardless of our religious practice and that love and non-prejudice is their way of life.
Everyone was curious about our religious culture and practises. In our opinion, a religion is any practise that one gives utmost importance. Jamaica is said to have the most churches per square miles in the world and it is customary for many Jamaicans to go to church on Sundays or Saturdays and worship the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Most Jamaicans, at some point in their lives, bought into this religious culture and practise but not all remain committed to Christianity. We explained to our new friends that there was another religious culture and way of life that have since gained national and international attention after some esteemed and enlightened brethrens in the 1960s stumbled upon the teachings of The Right Honourable Marcus Garvey’s speech that instructed them to “looked to the east” for The African King of Peace.This King is known by many names – the true King of Kings, Lord of Lords, Concurring Lion of Judah, Elect of God, Earth’s Rightful Ruler, Jah Ras Tafari – and he came to us in the physical persona of His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I. Well, we never gave quite so many details but let’s just say that when we left they all bore witness of His Majesty.
Beaches and more beaches
There is so much to do and see in Bali and Indonesia on a whole. After all, there are about 17,000 islands in Indonesia, several indigenous groups residing on the islands, plenty of wild life, a variety of food, cultures, landscapes and spaces. We spent most of our time in Seminyak and the Bukit. Seminyak and Bukit are among the most visited areas in Bali, we also spent some time in Canggu another area flocked by scooters. Canggu is a big village that was once a fishing village saturated with rice fields. Today, this village is all modernised and congested with businesses, tourists, expatriates, thrill seekers and the likes. In Canggu, there are also beaches for you to relax after a long day. The No-Maddz performed at La Laguna, on a beach in Canggu. When you are on the beach, on any beach in Bali, everywhere seem to be in walking distance especially from the beach in Kuta, even the airport. We spent a lot of time on the beaches and bought some souvenir on the beach in Jimbaram.
For those who have been following The Nomaddic Movement since its inception or those who just started following our careers since the Sly and Robbie presents No-Maddz album, you may have noticed a few changes in our artistic expression, our presentation and our aesthetics. To our fans, the less obvious changes are those to our booking and management teams and the new professional relationships we’ve forged. We also changed our name, or more specifically, we’ve added “The” to the “No-Maddz”. Cool, right? In addition, our logo is simpler, we’ve added new art and tailored our sound that still embraces our parent Dub Poetry.
The most obvious change is the number of band members – we’ve downsized. To be frank, a hard lesson learned is that sometimes the betrayal of a loved one is your blessing. Today, appearances and performances by The No-Maddz will be a treat from Everaldo @iampukupoo Creary and Sheldon @thedonshepherd Shepherd featuring the talents of different musicians and harmony singers. As per usual, we will be rocking you with the original “Bongo Music” you have grown to love, just as we did at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival in California and the Duluth World Music Festival in Minnesota. So of course, Bali was no different.
Before our performance in Bali, we were introduced to five talented musicians called Bhismo and Di Joyfull Sound. We instantly hit it off. Bhismo and Di Joyfull Sound are known and loved musicians who are credited with expertly merging the authentic Indonesian cultural sounds with international sounds such as Reggae. Prior to our arrival, we had sent them our music and they were ready when we arrived. After meeting them, we spent two days preparing for our first South-East Asian performance at Disko Afrika. Disko Afrika is a monthly afro beats dance party organized by Orly Even and Jamilia with a live DJ and live percussions. On special occasions the team invites an artiste as a treat for their audience. The No-Maddz was a real treat for the patrons who were excited to know that we came directly from Kingston, Jamaica. The No-Maddz delivered a beautiful set that had us doing a double encore. It was beautiful and the band did justice to our music.
Disko Afrika’s event with The No-Maddz was part of the 10th Anniversary of the Ombak Bali Film Festival. This edition of the festival was dedicated to raising fund for the earthquake victims in North Lombok, Indonesia. It was very successful and raised approximately US$100,000.
Rastafarian Culture in Bali
Rastafari is a worldwide phenomenon and grows even as I write this blog. Bob Marley, Reggae music and Rastafari Culture – fashion, locks, language and religious rites – are the coolest and most radical identifying factors in the world of many different music and faiths. Indonesians greeted Evie and I as Rastas and without fail, their next words are Bob Marley. Despite the country’s strong stance against ganja, Bob Marley’s music is played every day. And not Bob’s entire repertoire, it’s the same Bob Marley album on repeat everyday, 100 times per day. There are even cover versions performed and recorded by Balinese musicians everywhere. It’s a chilling prophetic omen to Bob’s song “Dem a go tired fi see mi face”. When we inquired, we were told that it has been this way for over twenty years. Wow! We heard none of the more recent music from Jamaica and I believe this is a new frontier for Jamaican music. I suspect that Indonesians’ openness to Reggae and Rasta will inevitably bring consciousness and diversity to their reggae music options.
Lombok experienced several earthquakes, the largest measuring 7.0,that devastated the lives of numerous residents. Evie and I travelled to North Lombok to see firsthand all the devastation and help in whatever way we could to lift the spirits of the ones who lost everything. We stayed at a unique eco-dome villa called Mentigi Bay Dome Villas that is located on top of a hill. From the villas, we could see the Selat Lombok, one of the deepest oceans separating Asian and Australian Continents (called the Wallace Line). Also in the foggy distance stands Mount Agung, an active volcano that erupted a few times in 2017. It was a glorious place. It made me feel small and yet big staring at the breathtaking and exotic views while seeing the devastation from the disasters.
We travelled with our new found Indonesian family, Britta, Orly, Bhismo, Slam Jam Bros; Trevor, Dustin and Kyle. On our second visit to Lombok, we made room for our Jamaican sister Joanna, who happened to be in Indonesia conducting workshops in Ubud for the Ubud Writers and Readers Festival. Our mode of transportation was the back of a dump truck that was loaded with books, backpacks, pencils, food, and other basic items. I am not the wealthiest nor was I born with a gold or silver spoon in my mouth but looking at the depraved conditions of most residents I had to give Jah thanks for my blessings. In fact, I felt guilt. We were leaving these people who were sleeping in rubble to return to our comfortable beds in a luxury dome villa on top of a hill that had no visible cracks to the infrastructure. I felt guilty recalling what I thought was a tragedy – a dead iPhone, a misplaced charger and an outlet that wasn’t compatible. Way to put things into perspective.
We played music, sang Heaven On Earth, did body percussion movements and sounds as we move from village to village. Joanna led the children in art therapy by painting their world, the heaven on earth they imagined on a stretch of wall that remained standing, shaking but standing as old teeth in the mouth of toddlers.
My fondest memory of North Lombok was the people, especially the children who were still smiling and laughing despite the devastation left by the disasters. When they saw us approaching they would pull out old chairs, dust them off and welcome us in what used to be their homes. They served us coffee and tobacco with traditional homemade food. I’m not exactly a coffee drinker, tobacco smoker, and have a few dietary restrictions but I drank that coffee, smoked that tobacco, and ate those soy crackers with so much gratitude. It had to be my finest dining experience – it was all they had and they were happy to share it. Maybe it was the environment, the people, the fact that I recently celebrated my earthstrong (birthday) or perhaps all of the above but my time in Bali was the best time I have had in a long time. #thenomaddz #heavenonearth #thenomaddzinbali #givethanks
Heaven On Earth is the title of our upcoming album to be released in 2019. It is our vision for our world – to make your heaven on earth. This album is our second studio album co-produced with Walshy Fire of Major Lazer and studio production works by The Wixard of Whizper Muzik and mastered by Aerial Sound. We recorded most of the album at Gee Jam Studios in Portland, Jamaica. Special thanks to Yakub Grant, Mountain Lion Music, Troy Baker and John Baker. There are surprises, special features, sounds, and a variety of different topics packed in this creation. We look forward to the world’s response.