Abdel wright
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Abdel wright

Montego Bay, Saint James, Jamaica | Established. Jan 01, 2011 | SELF

Montego Bay, Saint James, Jamaica | SELF
Established on Jan, 2011
Solo Pop Singer/Songwriter




"From prison to stardom and back - The journey of Abdel Wright, an artiste with a difference"

From prison to stardom and back - The journey of Abdel Wright, an artiste with a difference
Published: Monday | May 11, 2009

Paul H Williams, Gleaner Writer


The brief performance he gave recently at The Gleaner says it all. He's a musical genius who should have conquered the world. Because, with his eclectic brand of music, charisma, swagger and endearing je ne sais quoi, the world should have been at his feet. Abdel Wright was born to be a star!

His rain-quenching-parched-earth voice, his soulful cadence, his dexterity with the guitar, and the funky acoustic that comes from it will force you to ask the question, "Why is this man, who is dripping with talent, not an international phenom, tearing down walls and building bridges with what he prefers to call 'the truth', the message in his music?

Yet, Abdel has already tasted stardom, even for a brief while. His star shone brightly and guess who were in the glare of it? Bono from U2, Nelson Mandela, Eurythmics' Dave Stewart, Johnny Cash, Oprah Winfrey and P.J. Patterson adored him. He met them all and bowled them over with a magnetic voice that you find only one in a million, and they and a legion of fans were looking to see and hear much more of him.

However, as fate would have it, stardom was
- The Jamaica Gleaner


LP:"Quicksand"-Interscope Records,a division of UMG(Universal Music Group).




Bono may call Abdel Wright, “the most important Jamaican artist since Marley,” but don’t
assume that means the energetic singer-songwriter is just another reggae musician.
Wright insists although he listened to the Wailers and Peter Tosh growing up, his influences were
more acoustic folk and country artists like Tracy Chapman, Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash.

“In the ’80s when people were into Whitney Houston and Anita Baker, I was more interested in
listening to the social commentary of Tracy Chapman and Dylan” he says.

Even with his disclaimer, Wright’s self-titled debut on Weapons of Mass Entertainment/Interscope Records brings reggae back to its “basics, the nitty gritty,” as Wright calls it, of social
protest and storytelling. Still, the album defies expectations with flashes of harmonica, steel guitar
and strings woven into the music’s traditional riddims, ska horns and dub-wise beats.

With an incredible true-life story that rivals Jimmy Cliff’s fictional tale of Kingston gangsters in
the classic reggae movie The Harder They Come, Abdel Wright has survived an upbringing in
foster homes and five years in a Jamaican prison to create an entire album of songs full of
redemption and hope.

“I have a special feeling for acoustic music,” explains Wright in his lilting, island patois. “I love
to blend it with social commentary lyrics. That’s why I love Marley’s ‘Redemption Song.’ It’s so
simple, just him and a guitar. It’s subtle, mystical.”

With an acoustic guitar and a song-based approach, Wright flies in the face of reggae’s current
dancehall fascination and hip-hop obsession with sex, drugs and materialism. In politically
charged songs like “Quicksand,” “Human Behavior,” “Loose We Now” and “Dust Under
Carpet,” Wright sings about real issues that could affect anyone: government oppression, the high
cost of healthcare, the lack of suitable housing and education, poverty and the hypocrisy of the
political and religious establishments.

“Quicksand,” with its checklist of society’s ills, “Human Behavior,” featuring a twangy pedal
steel guitar and harp, and the Dylan-styled protest anthem “Loose We Now” (“How long, how
long, how long?”) are steeped in Jamaica’s traditional political unrest, though the themes are
broad enough to provide a global message. “Paul Bogle” tells of an actual 19th century historical
martyr who is a Jamaican national hero, hanged by the British for his outspoken criticism of the
government. Wright invokes a soaring falsetto and a poignant violin while Babylon burns in
“Dust Under Carpet,” aiming his ire at hypocritical politicians who are “clean on the outside…
dirty on the inside.”

“The themes are worldwide, even though it all starts with Jamaican culture,” explains Wright.
“But it applies everywhere there are police forces using violence to keep society in shackles.
There are people with an inability to pay the rent, living in the gutter, everywhere… even in
America, one of the richest countries in the world.”

Wright’s own story is more incredible than any fiction. Abdel was put into government custody
at just nine months old, and he moved from one orphanage to another until ending up at the SOS
Children’s Village in Montego Bay. The facility was founded by an Austrian soldier and funded
in part by the legendary Johnny Cash, who owned a home nearby. Cash provided an early
influence on young Wright when he gave a benefit concert for the students every Christmas.

“All the kids, especially the musical ones, like me, were drawn to him. He played two mouth
harps at once, which amazed me,” Wright says of Cash.

At 12, Wright was given a guitar as a Christmas gift after a school superintendent spotted him
eyeing it in the school’s office. He went on to teach himself the instrument- as well as piano and
flute- by stealing in order to afford the instruction books. He began to write songs when he was

Kicked out of the Village and forced to criminal activities to support himself, Abdel was
sentenced to eight years in jail for being caught with a firearm. A policeman on the scene saved
Wright’s life by refusing to allow the arresting officer to shoot him after discovering the gun.
When the same cop ran into Wright years later after seeing him perform on TV, he told Abdel it
was the right decision: “‘I like what you’re doing,’ he told me.”

“I was really involved with some bad company back then,” says Wright. “Thinking that my gun
was the only way to make a living.”

In his cell, he wrote several songs, including “Quicksand” and “Ruffest Times,” the latter a
prayer of thanks for being allowed to survive his ordeal (“Jah will never give you more than you
can bare”).