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You were singing background vocals and suddenly Shy guy hit us like a meteor in 1995. What was the experience like?
This was like living in a dream for me. I don’t make plans. I have always been this way. I’m not the type of artiste who said, ‘Oh I want to be a star or I’m gonna get a big record deal’. I am very low-key. When all this happened, it was a shock and still is. My career and all that I experience — good and bad — humbles me.
Your music is diverse and spans various genres. How hard was it back then to be an artiste and not typecast yourself into a genre? How hard is it now?
My fusion style, look and voice were not accepted in Jamaica back when I started. It has always been important to me to be myself and be consistent. No matter what was said, I followed my heart and just shrugged it off and kept going. It was challenging because of the constant pressure to be either reggae or dancehall but something in me knew that there was an audience who would appreciate me.
What does coming to India mean for you, especially when your mother was Indo-Jamaican? How has the complete experience, in terms of sights and sounds, been like? Are you looking at any collaborations when you perform this time?
Ever since I came to India in the late ’90s, I have felt a connection. Not just because it is my heritage but I felt an awakening within me. It was the first place and only place I have been to where I experienced the most peace of mind and clarity. I have been dying to return to continue my self-discovery and improvement journey. India reminds me of Jamaica — a paradox. This time, I am yet to relax because performing brings it’s own type of stress but I am looking forward to almost two weeks in Goa where I will take time to center myself. I’m not in the habit of making big plans. I only plan things I will do from day to day. I love the surprises life brings so I always stay open to whatever feels right in my soul.
How do you think Diana King has evolved as an artiste?
I would love to think I have evolved mentally and spiritually. I am a constant student, I learn new things everyday and try harder to not limit myself when it comes to growth and change, as challenging as it may be.
But I love my style of fusion so I stick to it. This allows me to go in and out of any genre I desire. My next project may be an EDM album.
You are known to be the first Jamaican artiste to come out publicly. What made you speak about your private life in public after so many years, especially since you belong to a country that is not very tolerant of the LGBT community, ?
I am a very private, introverted person. A “shy girl”. But when you are an artiste, you are a role model, whether you like it or not. I came out publicly because I needed to be authentic. What you do personally also affects the world. It is very important to me to live an honest life — to love yourself and be yourself regardless of what society dictates. I did think it through and I realised that I did not care about what may happen negatively. I also felt that it was/is my duty as an LGBT person to stand up and be the person I wish to be. When I felt my moment of courage, I took it. Jamaica has a long way to go but I see a growing positive difference.
How was growing up in Jamaica? What kind of music were you listening to? What is it that you wanted to do
All genres of music were played on the radio. This is how I developed my own style. I loved everything from reggae to dancehall to pop and R&B to country music. I didn’t intend on being an artiste. I was always and still into science / physics / astronomy and so on. I believe my son has inherited it now. He is currently studying to be an astrophysicist. But, for me, the more I sang the more I fell deeply in love with it.
You’ve said in the past that music got you through multiple sclerosis. It is hard to pick up oneself from a low point like that and write a song when it’s so easy to slip into an abyss.
I liken my experience with MS to Bob Marley’s Trenchtown rock lyrics — One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain. I now know this is true. I could not walk for many months and I spent a long time in despair. I could not believe I may never walk again. One day, I got sick of feeling sorry for myself. One day, I just got up. And I kept getting up, no matter how hard it was. I began writing songs and noticed that with every beat, every lyric and melody, I began to feel better. It was like magic. I did things physically and musically that I had never done. I learnt that everything starts and ends in your mind and that music heals.
Diana King will perform at Raasta in Hauz Khas today and at Raasta in Gurgaon tomorrow, 8 pm onwards.