The Buzz feature (September/October 2004)

Talented Dominican reggae artist Nasio Fontaine has been hailed as “the late, great Bob Marley reincarnated”. Find out why

Nasio. Photograph courtesy Susanne Moss/Selah Photo

Stirring it up

Hailed as “the late, great Bob Marley reincarnated”, lauded as “one of the most talented reggae artists on the planet”, Nasio Fontaine has generated too much buzz to maintain the low profile he prefers.

Born on a farm in Dominica, Nasio was the last of seven children. His family encouraged his musical talent early on, and he first sang in church and then school, often winning singing contests in his village. Growing up, he listened to the up-tempo sounds of calypso, soca, and zouk, before moving to St Maarten and discovering reggae.

Today, Nasio exudes lyrical magic, and expresses a reality ignored by many big-label artists. “Seeing the poor man on the road, in the subway having no place to sleep, is an inspiration to me. Seeing the brothers have gun an’ a run after each other ’pon de street is a inspiration to me,” he says. “Life itself is a inspiration to me, everything, both the good and the bad.”

His songs rehearse a timeless good-conquers-evil theme — without ever offering a tangible alternative, some say, but such criticism misses the point. Nasio sings from what he knows: the everyday reality of life for small islanders. It’s a point of view that rings true for anyone who’s ever felt powerless, overlooked, sidelined.

“Some people call it political. I am not a politician, so I can’ say political. I look at it like I get to express myself, tell the system how me really feel . . . So I am just saying to certain elements, don’t try to fool the children anymore, because we are not stupid, everybody knows right from wrong. Me, you, people’s eyes are open.”