Ranjabati Das (for Verve magazine) interviewed Diana King, following her performances in November at several venues in India: Raasta Hauz Khas, Delhi; Raasta Cyber Hub, Gurgaon; and Cafe Lilliput in Goa. King is an Indo-Jamaican singer and songwriter whose work brings together reggae, reggae fusion, and dancehall.
Here are excerpts from the interview:
Greatest challenge… Being an introverted, phobic, yet successful artist. Can you imagine having the fear of crowds, public speaking and germs (and doing what I do)…like, what was God thinking?
The best part about being a singer-songwriter… Performing songs that are real and personal to me and witnessing how they relate and connect with others. It touches my heart every time. Shy Guy alone has saved lives. When you know these things about your music, you are humbled and you realise and are made aware of what music can really do.
Harshest criticism… That my type of voice and style would never make it in Jamaica or anywhere else.
[. . .] What about India excites you the most? Are there any Indian musicians that you admire or want to collaborate with?
I am half Indian, from my mother’s side. This is my third visit, and I have been on a journey ever since my first. I have just been curious and dying to come back…. I am open to working with any artist I get good vibes from.
[. . .] You’re the first Jamaican artist to come out. What was the experience like?
It’s been unexpectedly awesome! I’ve lost a lot but I have gained more. When you make a decision such as this, you have to first accept mentally the worse things that can happen, even though it is impossible to know how it will feel. So, I stayed with the positive feedback and ignored the rest. I feel a freedom that only truth can bring. There’s nothing like being authentic. Nothing like not fearing or caring about what society may think about you. That’s a burden I dream we all will shed. To be ourselves and allow others the same right. We weren’t all meant to be the same. I realised that one must live one’s life in total honestly…even if you do not shout it out like I did and only admit the truth to yourself.
In the mid ’90s, you re-introduced reggae fusion to India through massive hits like Shy Guy…. Cut to 2015, and both The Wailers and you have been down for shows in the last month…. Do you think that there’s now a market and a bigger fan following for reggae out here?
Yes, of course. I have learnt that there is always a market for any type of music. It just has to reach the people.
Do you think the original ethos of roots reggae – of finding freedom from Babylonian oppression in Zion – has become diluted with time?
Nothing stays the same. Things evolve. Art is about the artists’ reality or interest. If one is into roots reggae, it can always be found especially at this time in history when so much is available online. [. . .]