‘Shadz’ plucking the right chords - Guitarist paves the way for other females in Ja
The phone rings, and a sleepy-sounding Shadz, wondering who could be calling her at 10 a.m., answers.
Caller: “Hey, you in town?”
Shadz: “No, I am home in St Mary.”
Caller: “How quickly can you get there?”
Shadz: “In two hours.”
Caller: “Good. Go by Jimmy Cliff’s studio for 2 o’clock. Wait … were you sleeping?”
The caller was Kenroy ‘Shortman’ Mullings, one of Jamaica’s most talented guitarists who has worked with reggae icon Jimmy Cliff for many years, known for his crafty and catchy melodies. He was making the calls to several potential candidates for the auditions to replace him in Cliff’s band as he was prepared to take on a new challenge.
Shadz, born Shadeeka Daughma, at the time, was a 25-year-old, new Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts (EMCVPA) graduate and what many seasoned instrumentalists would probably call a rookie.
“Part of me thought the call was a prank. Still the answer to his question whether I was sleeping or not was “nope”. I got up, thinking to myself, I know a few of Jimmy Cliff’s songs, but this is a reggae legend with a wide catalogue, what was I getting myself into? He sent me a list of 30 songs to know for the audition … no brain suh quick … . I studied the songs from home straight to Kingston,” Daughma shared in an interview with The Sunday Gleaner.
She then explained how she arrived to closed gates and how again, she thought persons were playing a trick on her.
She said, “I was really puzzled, but I was also given the band leader’s contact number who confirmed auditions were happening and he would soon be there to open up. Soon after, I began seeing other musicians – most of when were playing longer than me and had done tours. I had to keep the mindset that I was even considered and that it would be good exposure.”
As luck would have it, because she was the earliest to arrive, she was called in first to see Cliff tuned in on FaceTime on an iPad.
“I couldn’t tell if he liked or did not like how I played, which was the general feedback everyone gave after coming out of the studio. Then we were thanked for attending (by then it was late evening) and told that everyone would be called when the decision was made,” she said.
‘You got the job’
While making her journey back to St Mary on public transport, she added, “I got the call … . The voice on the phone said, “You got the job”. I was like OK, thank you. It was unbelievable … to get the opportunity to work with Jimmy Cliff was a miracle from the universe.”
One year later, the Portland-born female guitarist can tell of the sights she has seen touring Europe, the people she has met, and the things she has learnt, but there is no forgetting the start of her musical journey.
“The two most accessible instruments in school or church were the drums and keyboard. So, I guess I could say it started there, and I was in the steel and brass band in high school, but I remember when I first heard the guitar and my curiosity went through the roof, and it was then I decided to go to Edna,” she said.
“When my family moved from Portland to St Mary, it sort of fell to the back of my mind because I didn’t have any musicians in my family – I am the first – but turns out I was living across from well-known guitarist, the late Winston ‘Bo-Pee’ Bowen, and he was the one who taught me the two solo pieces – one, a bunch of chords, and the other was Blackbirds by the Beatles – for the college auditions.”
Shadz admitted to not having an in-depth knowledge of the subject as it is a requirement to have intermediate up to grade four level of music theory but was successful in auditions. An introvert by nature, the now 26-year-old guitarist said, not having developed a stage personality until lately. She was one of five graduates in the EMCVPA Bachelor of Music in Performance degree programme in 2018 and the only female.
“If he [Bo-Pee] didn’t teach me the songs, I wouldn’t have gotten through the auditions, and whatever else I learnt about music was through my studies at the college,” she said of her education, “and a lot of people would have changed their course of study, drop out whether because of financial difficulties or personal issues.”
Then it was time to figure out how her tuition and living expenses would be sourced. The work and travel programme was her friend. When school closed for the summer, Shadz journeyed to states like Illinois and Virginia to work to help pay her tuition for the following year.
“For me, once I decide to do something, I put my trust in God, and I get it done. I couldn’t sit and wait for it to fall from the sky. It’s not just playing an instrument, acting, and dancing. Part of the final grade is not only completing a thesis. The students have to plan a final-year show. I don’t think I recovered the sleep I lost from just working on my thesis, which was ‘The Contributions and Influence of Black Women on Rock and Roll’,” she shared.
It is her dream, as a devotee of rock and reggae music and one of the few females in her field, to be recognised as making valuable contributions to the local music industry.
“Most times, I am the only female, aside from vocalists, on a stage, and it makes a statement. I want to show young women, if you so desire to do this, go for it. It can be rewarding. What makes it rewarding for me is the expression, the melodies, and finding ways to express them and reggae music is even more amazing because it can accommodate other genres from jazz, blues, to rock and roll. Money is the cherry on top of the cake, the success of taking on a challenge to not only play the notes, but develop ways to play them is the intangible feeling you get when you enjoy the cake,” she said.