This article was originally posted here.
Singer, songwriter, producer, guitarist and overall bad ass Jafé Paulino, simply known by Jafé, was literally born to be an artist. No really! With Nina Paulino, one of the influential advocates for Afro-Carribean culture in the New York City as a mother, it is probably hard to do anything other than music. However, it wasn’t until recently that the Dominican Republic native began to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
After several years as the frontman for band VIVA MAYDAY, his recent collaborations with rapper S’natra and producer Russ served as a solid introduction to who Jafé is as an artist. With such big shoes to fill, the multi-genre singer is ready to assume the throne his family legacy has provided from him.
I recently had the opportunity to talk to Jafé about his online activism, the disbanding of VIVA MAYDAY, his journey to becoming a solo artist for a while, the forming of Jafé and the Royals and much more. Read the full interview below!
Growing up in an Afro-Dominican politically active household I’m sure you’ve learned a great deal about the history of governmental corruption across the world. On social media, you have voiced your opinion on the results of the 2016 presidential election in the U.S. Do you ever fear your broadcasted opinions will have any negative implication on your work as a musician? Backlash? Blacklistings?
In the words of Ms. Nina Simone, “You can’t help it. An artist’s duty, as far as I’m concerned, is to reflect the times.” My heroes have all used the power of music in one way or another to incite revolution, to dismantle segregation, to call out injustice, and to teach people how to love. Fela Kuti did it with Afro-beat in Africa and across the globe. Marley with the popularization of reggae and the Rastafari movement, and my mother, who has been organizing and creating a community around the celebration of Afro-Carribean culture in New York City for a few decades now. So no, I do not fear any negative implications, especially not from any form of government. I welcome it. Please come for me. It’ll make for some great music.
Having tasted success as the lead singer of blues/rock/reggae trio, Viva Mayday, in 2013 the trio disbanded for reasons unknown to many. How did you handle that as a founding member? How did you muster up the confidence to pursue music as a solo artist? How does Jafé & the Royals differ from Viva Mayday? Are there any similarities?
The disbanding of Viva was a peaceful, mutual conclusion – all love always. By the end of the 7 years, co-founder Gian was flourishing as an engineer and producer running his own recording studio, and I just felt it was time for me to explore the world of music outside of Viva Mayday. Over the last 4 years, I’ve been recording, performing, and touring with a handful of bands and it’s been an amazing learning experience.
Funny thing, I’m still working every day on the confidence part. I am comfortable with and love who I am, yet it is still a scary thing to share that with the world. I’ve been fortunate enough to be surrounded by amazing, supportive friends, family, and communities of artists that encourage me to the point where I literally had no choice! Over the 4 years of no Viva Mayday, many people expressed how much they wanted to hear my music again – people who I admire and respect – so I did. Jafé & The Royals is Viva Mayday on acid…and steroids…and tequila.
As an artist, you are extremely hands-on in all aspects of your art, whether co-producing a track, writing or visual direction. Can you detail your creative process?
I’d say my creative process is a reflection of one of the things I admire most about life, that being spontaneity. A lot of my songs just happen because they have happened to me. I keep everything organic, honest, and with purpose. Sometimes my friends are talking mad jive and suddenly a sentence inspires a song title, and I run with it. Other times you start with a melody, or chord progression, or a fully constructed beat. It’s never the same and always a learning experience. Sorry to anyone hoping to find a hidden gem in this question! Love yourself, trust yourself, and your art will resonate!
Collaboration is key! This is certainly true in your case. With high-profile collaborations under your belt including with fellow artist S’natra and producer Russ, recently teaming up with producer Adrian Lau on your latest singles, “001: Witness” and “002: Bison Skulls”. How did these collaborations with Adrian Lau come about? What was the inspiration behind the Maverick Inman directed visual for “001: Witness”?
The homies! The saying stands true: “It takes a village.” I wouldn’t be anywhere without these amazing individuals who all share their creativity, talent, time, and resources with me. Anyone I collaborate has either been a friend or become a friend through the NYC music and art scene. These people specifically just wanted to be a part of my music and vision and see it shared with the world, so they made sure it happened. I’ve got some features on Adrian Lau’s upcoming project as well as S’natra’s #STC album coming out very soon, produced by Grammy-nominated Ivan Jackson of BrassTracks. And as always, Maverick and I are cookin’ up some more visual treats for the eyes.
While you will be joining Taj Weeks & Adowa on the ‘Love, Herb, Reggae’ tour asking for a full project would be a bit much. So, what can fans expect in the near future from Jafé?
Yes! Touring with Taj Weekes & Adowa is always such a blessing. I learn so much from these veterans everytime we hit the road together. They truly are family.
I’m releasing a new single every month, with “003: Little Bohemia” coming this week. Live shows with the band every month. Over the course of this year I will continue to release singles, videos, interludes, and their may or may not be a Jafé & The Royals EP in the works. There’s 2 years of content I’ve been working on and preparing to finally share with the world, and its finally time.
header photo credit: Kelli McGuire provide by JAFÉ