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When I got the WhatsApp message from Jeremy Ashbourne announcing the resumption of The Jam last month, the world suddenly didn’t look so bleak and hopeless anymore.
I’ve been visiting 22 Barbican Road since the country’s government gave permission for concerts and other entertainment gatherings to be held. The reason for this is that, every Thursday night, there’s a gathering of creatives playing music at the 22 Jerk restaurant location. I tend to arrive, get myself a shot of Campari and Ting and get settled on the outside with my drink and some clouds while enjoying the sounds of reggae, jazz, blues, hip hop, rock, country, or any other inspired vibration coming from the stage.
The Covid-19 pandemic hit every musician at their core this year when the ability to do live shows with crowds was severely limited, and in most cases prohibited. To be able to walk into a chilled atmosphere, order food and drinks and just take in the creation of art is a blessing that I for one have definitely overlooked, and must become more grateful for. In retrospect, sometimes it’s that one night that gets me through the rest of the week.
Of course, another huge plus is linking up with friends and being able to talk about life otherwise, catching up with each other’s highs and lows. I’m not a very social person but being able to see familiar faces and know they they’re doing ok is something I appreciate, even if I never walk over to say hello. Sometimes my head is filled with things I’m processing, and until I’ve had that drink I’m just not very present. I’m also terrible with names and faces, and in order not to offend anyone I may simply keep my distance until I feel like I can remember for sure who you are. I may not even be in the best mood, and I’d hate to spoil your vibe by any means on great nights like Thursday nights at The Jam.
I’ve gotten used to appreciating Jeremy or Clayon on drums; Moon, Darryl, Tobi or The Roots Percussionist on vocals; Top Brass on the horn section (Okiel, Oshane and Randy); Joel on piano; Jody-Ann or Chad on the percussions; Irkah on the steelpan; Omar on guitar; Spyder on bass; and even various other guests, as all are welcome to pass through and participate if they ever feel the urge. It’s a family setting where one can simply be chilled and natural.
Last night, after hearing wonderful renditions like the jazz standard “Summertime” in reggae, I returned my glass to the bar and was about to leave when I suddenly felt that urge. If we’ve ever spoken at length about why I do less music playing these days, you’ll know that I don’t feel very connected to music like I used to, and it feels wrong to just get up and play any instrument half-heartedly. Still, I suddenly wanted to drum.
I motioned to Chad and asked if he had any drums…I just felt like hitting some beats. He provided a set of congos and for the next 2-3 songs I just allowed myself to enjoy some actual music playing. Uninhibited, actually-feeling-this playing. I’d completely forgotten the chemistry that comes with being in sync with other musicians and it hit me last night like a new experience. After the third song however, the urge left and my avoidant nature kicked in; I grabbed my bag, thanked Chad and left immediately. I had thrown away my nonchalant anonymity and definitely wasn’t going to stay in the space now – but it really did feel good.
Jamming is necessary, I now see. Space is needed to be yourself, and to feel anything you might. Understanding this, I now feel more obligated to help push and protect these initiatives, as this kind of therapy cannot be replaced by any other in this world.
That’s right, folks. The Jam is back!
Blessings in abundance!