Mason and Rebel Region: Serendipity
Rebel Region is ringing off the hook with a fresh sound. Like reggae, but not. Like dance hall, but not. It's a sound that is distinctly Caribbean, but from where? Mason, a prime mover of Rebel Region music, is as vibrant and as unexpected as his home - Barbados. This island is not nearly as present and influential as is it's far away Caribbean neighbor, Jamaica. There are points of contact between the two: the use of soca, dancehall, roots reggae, and the influence of American music, i.e., hip hop. But being not of Jamaica perhaps allows for more diversity than current Jamaican music produces.
The cuts vary in flavor: "Move Like Dis" is a dance hall dance party cut; "Ahoy I Hey" is a fast soca-merengue cut with a calypso melody; "Treasure Map" is a slower dance hall song about finding love; "One Wish Upon a Star" lopes along with a roots -dub groove with a hip hop feel. Mason has created a gumbo of Caribbean music. Or perhaps it's a Bajan stew.
[Mark Kirby] When did you feel that music is the thing that does it for you?
Mason Somewhere deep inside, music always did it for me. As a kid I would sometimes have dreams of being 'on top of the world.' However, for many years I just ignored it. That could have been a good thing, 'cause I treated creating music more as a hobby, so my love for it was pure. Around the time I was 18 I was writing songs every day to the point that new tunes would pop in my head every second, to the point that I couldn't sleep until I wrote it down.
"The defining moment, however, was last year, after I created the website. I released some demos over the internet. I was very surprised by the response and the people that signed up on the website, and that inspired me to really stop fooling around and start to truly promote my talents to others, rather than just keep it to myself."
[Mark Kirby] What was the music scene growing up in Barbados like?
Mason The music scene growing up was very diverse. We had a lot of international music playing on the radio. Every Friday we had the Kasey Kasem Top-40. On Sundays, all day long it was the Oldie-Goldies. We still had a lot of Caribbean music playing, but it was seasonal. There was only so much to go around because there were only like 4-5 stations that I remember. As a little kid I was more in tune with calypso than I was with reggae and dancehall. It was only after I started partying around 14 that I really started getting into the fast soca songs and the dance hall reggae.
[Mark Kirby] What makes your music so unique? It seems to have influences of soca, calypso, dancehall, and roots reggae.
Mason I see things different and do things different. I see music as a sound track of life. Every minute of the day you don't feel the same way. Sometimes you feel a little dancehall, sometimes you feel a little smooth. I like music in general. I have absolutely no problem going to a symphony and listening and feeling for hours. So usually I just grab the music from a feeling, and then write about a situation, whatever situation comes to mind.
My music doesn't have limits. I create and experiment without boundaries. I try to infuse as much of my cultural heritage as possible. I focus more on sounding like myself and what I'm feeling or trying to convey instead of a manufactured voice.
[Mark Kirby] Was music part of your upbringing? Did your parents play music around the house?
Mason Music was a big part of my upbringing. My parents started me off playing the piano when I was six. I enjoyed it a lot. I had a piano in the house, also. The funny story about it all was that my piano teacher was an older woman, and her hearing and eyesight was going a bit. She used to leave me playing while she did other stuff around the house. Call it boredom, laziness or creativity, after a while I just stopped reading the notes and played whatever I felt like playing. She never stopped me unless I hit a bad note.
Other than that, though, music wasn't just a big part of the house, it was a big part of the family. I'm related to one of the biggest calypso icons in Barbados "Red Plastic Bag," and it was an absolute that his albums and songs would be playing nearly all the time.
Growing up, my father was always a music enthusiast. Although he never created it, he wanted all of his children to have a strong musical foundation. At the age of eight I played a live piano recital over the local radio. At eleven I performed at school recitals and plays usually on the piano. At this age my interest in singing also emerged. I joined my school choir and was a featured soloist for several concerts.
At 14, under the influence of Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff, a friend and I decided to start creating our own beats on my father's old turntables. This led us to create an ad for a local clothing store that was actually bought. My parents were very supportive and encouraging to my musical endeavors and me.
[Mark Kirby] Who are your favorite musical artists and how do they influence your music?
Mason Let's see, I would have to say people like Phil Collins, Prince, Lenny Kravitz, Peter Cetera, The Beatles. I am more about the creativity, melody and arrangement with a good story than I am about the vocals. I like the raw sounding vocals. As far as influence goes, I also like infectious Rap & Reggae beats. Mix that all together, and you'll come up with something close to me.
Most of the artists I enjoy make music sound good without having the best voices. Their voices and how they put music together inspires me to create music like theirs, although with my own sound. I want my listener to have the same feeling when listening to my music. In truth, I am most influenced by classical music. When I arrange my music I try to make a symphony of sound: starting with one sound and layering it with others that don't take away from the individual sound, but fill and blend the space."
[Mark Kirby] What is the story behind the song "Made in Malaysia?"
Mason I was in college and I met a girl who was from Malaysia. Being from the other side of the world and not really knowledgeable about anything past England, I didn't know what it was or where it was except for seeing the label "Made in Malaysia" on a couple items. So anyway, I heard the girl talking to a friend one day and the language impressed me. I asked them to teach me a couple words. During this time of my life I was having doubts about the future of my musical career.
However, as she spoke the words and I repeated them back to her a beat came to me. I knew that I couldn't let go of my fire for creating songs. I took the words and the music and made them into a song exactly like I described in the song. Last year I made the trip to Malaysia, and stayed for about two months during a sabbatical I took from work so that I could find out what I really wanted out of life. It's ironic, but during that time, I made a lot of decisions about pursuing a musical career. So you could say I was "Made in Malaysia.
[Mark Kirby] What made you decide, at age 18, to start what you call your "affair" with music?
Mason At age 18 I migrated to the US to attend University. Just before that was when I started "documenting" experiences via music. It was a major change for me since I was the only one from my immediate family that came over. Although I was excited about change, it also brought a lot of challenges. Music was my way of getting through the different challenges.
I started writing about songs and situations constantly. Then I started working lots of hours to pass time. With the money I used to visit places like Sam Ash. At that time the Internet was just coming up, so I used to buy used recording equipment over the web and started building a home studio in my dorm room. People would come over to record and make music, and most days I hardly ever left my room. Just focused on making music.
The album, Serendipity, is about my personal growth and coming of age in the music industry. It's about creating freely and recognizing my cultural differences. It's a sampling of all the styles and music I have created over the years built into a storyline that you can follow from track number one until the end, and its goal is to let everyone know that producers/songwriter/artist Mason has arrived.
To delve deep into one of the most unique, creative and highly developed Carribean artists on the scene visit his website.
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