Too many of us hold a monolithic view of Jamaica and its music. Splitting his time between Kingston and Los Angeles, rising artist Tessellated aims to challenge those narrow ideas with his music; a delicious heady fusion of homegrown sounds and external elements.
He tells Clash, “Jamaica is an amazing creative hub, we have our unique style within a tight community. But everyone is coming from a similar background, more or less. In LA I was exposed to more musicians, and how they made music differently. It gave me a wider perspective.”
Tessellated has hit a sweet spot, “There's the Jamaican and wider Caribbean influence, and then there’s those outside things that feed into the core essence of the music. That makes it distinctly different from traditional or typical Jamaican music. And I think, the more I experience, and the more I'm influenced by different styles, the more unique that blend becomes.”
It’s a forward-thinking sound, which is making calm, steady waves on the island. “I think we're at a stage right now where significant change is happening, and we're in the middle of a movement. It still has to grow, and become more foundational for Jamaican music.”
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At home, the core supporters of this wave are Jamaica’s YouTube generation. “We grew up on lots of different music, a big part of that is due to the internet. When I actually started to listen to music consciously, I was exposed to so much more by just watching YouTube videos. I think pretty much everyone in my generation can relate to that. And because of that, you know, their palates are kind of opened up, to be ready to accept the type of music I'm making.”
Tessellated’s approach is best-evidenced across his debut EP, ‘Tropics Vol 1’. It’s a warm, all-encompassing project. “Having lots of different influences, and experimenting with different styles can be a blessing and a curse. Just because people may not understand what your vision is as an artist. And so, I wanted to bridge the gaps. Like, ‘I learned some Jazz today’ is rooted in jazz and hip hop. But it has a Caribbean flavour in terms of the vocals and percussion. ‘Santeria’ has a dancehall, island energy and ‘Sweeter’ is very Latin influenced.”
The project, and Tessellated’s sound in general, is reflective of modern Jamaica. “I think it's reflective of what Jamaica is becoming. Which is much more diverse, much more nuanced. It’s stepping out of what everybody expects of Jamaica, while still maintaining that foundation. So it's not becoming something brand new, it's just evolving to a new stage within. People often ask me if my music is really Jamaican music. Well, I’m a Jamaican and I'm creating music. Jamaican music is not a monolith and Jamaican people are not a monolith. With more and more people channeling their own individualistic styles, you know, it’s going to change perspectives and expand on what people realise or accept Jamaican music and culture to be.”
It’s something that runs deeper than music, and is a beautiful comment on progressive acceptance. “It’s all about people being themselves because to express yourself creatively, you need to be able to express yourself as a human first, right, and be able to feel comfortable in your own skin. We support people of all sexuality. If you're gay or straight, or bi, if you identify as something different, we support that. It’s about people feeling safe, and people being honest with themselves, and expressing themselves the way they want to.”
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Words: Robert Kazandjian
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