ORLANDO – Growing up, Mishka recalls, there was something quite idyllic about watching life go by from the boat that his family called home.
“I think the particular flavor of my music has a lot to do with growing up on the boat,” said Mishka, the Maui-based singer and songwriter, who spent most of his early life with his seafaring parents and older sisters aboard a boat in the Caribbean. “It comes with a kind of fluidity, and maybe a more laid back element than some other Reggae. It’s got a folk element, and a feeling of floating. It’s like the kind of music that I grew up with.”
Sailing across the waters, moving from one port to the next, Mishka said he was drawn to Reggae and Rastafari — the kind of music he performs now, including on his recent release “Talk About,” which debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes Reggae Chart.
“It was a natural way of being, you know? Reggae music is a part of our culture,” he said. “Have you ever been on a boat before? It’s music in the sense that it can be grounding, or it can lift you off the ground. I think there’s a certain feeling of floating in my music. I wouldn’t say I’m consciously trying to make that happen, but it’s the kind of feeling I think just comes through, just like it did in those early days of being afloat, literally. It’s very beautiful, you know? As far as like the scenery and the whole physical experience, it was really awesome. But it wasn’t always sailing, sailing, sailing. We spent a lot of time on port.”
Mishka is getting ready to make a return visit to Orlando tomorrow night, when he performs at The Social at 8 p.m. on Thursday. The Social is at 54 N. Orange Ave. in downtown Orlando, and tickets are $12 in advance for general admission, and $14 at the door.
Mishka said he’s always pleased to be coming back to Orlando, and to the intimacy of performing at The Social.
“I really like the audience, it’s a really nice vibe,” he said. “There are definitely clubs with bigger and better sound systems, but I like the fact that it’s an intimate club and they can draw people in and the crowd is really engaged and they’re into the vibes. It’s really cool.”
In recent years, Mishka has become the face of surf-culture clothing giant O’Neill’s new eco-friendly apparel line ECO’Neill. “Talk About” is his fourth album, and offers both his traditional roots in Reggae, while adding a more mainstream rock influence.
And he traces so much of his influences to the decision his father, an architect, made when he constructed a boat and decided he wanted the family to discover life on the open waters.
“My father was an architect before he built the boat,” Mishka said in an interview with Freeline Media. His father also wanted the freedom that the Caribbean waters offered.
“He checked out the whole system and tried not to be dependant on it in any way – taxes, so on,” Mishka said. “It was just living kind of unplugged, as you were. A lot of people think living on a boat is a luxury, but we led a very simple life that some people would think is rustic or hard living. But we didn’t see it that way.”
Mishka developed his influences listening to music on the radio, but also visiting the clubs at the ports they stopped in, where someone was always performing for a live audience.
“A large part of it was the music playing all around – live shows and stuff in the bars, in some of the ports,” he said. “Music is a big part of life in the Caribbean.”
And Reggae, he said, was an important part of the culture as well.
“The birth of Reggae music was in the late 1960s and 1970s,” he said. “There were harmony groups that made up the music. Through the 70s, that whole tradition continued. Then in the 1980s, it became about the drums and the synthesizers. It was more about the m.c. and the singer, and less about the musicians. It became more like hip hop is, when you slide on a record and someone raps to it. That was the whole thing in the 80s. I think roots Reggae had a bigger rebirth in the late 1990s, and people looked back to the roots and played live more. The music is always changing, they move up and down in tempo and style and different things. All along, you have artists and bands who stayed very much the same and true to the roots in their music.”
Mishka began writing songs and performing across Europe, playing in clubs in France, Germany and Holland before he got signed to a record label in England. He’s found strong audiences all along the way, including here in the United States, for his brand of roots Reggae.
“I think it has a widespread appeal, but it’s not given the media hype like a lot of other music,” he said. “Reggae music is like message music, it has a very conscious message, and the mainstream press doesn’t push that much. They push very simple love song lyrics. They don’t want to push consciousness.”
But with the political consciousness of so many people being raised by the Occupy Wall Street movement, Mishka said, that coverage may start to head in a different direction.
“I think things are changing now,” he said. “It’s taken a while, you know, for the message to reach people and hear about equal rights. I also think people have had enough of being cogs in the machine and doing the daily grind for centuries. Now people can say what’s been going on for so long. If you look up anything to do with Occupy Wall Street, there are a million links to it and it will lead you down a path to awakening.”
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