Faith in the Crowd
Eagle-eyed music fans may recognise him as Ngig from John Carney’s Sing Street, but, since his acting days, Zimbabwe-born, Dublin-bred Jafaris has concentrated on his own music and immersed himself in the Irish hip hop scene. Hip hop has an ever-growing audience in Ireland with artists such as Rejjie Snow, Kojaque, Erica Cody and Kneecap (who rap as Gaeilge), but Jafaris too has been crafting his sound, through his Velvet Cake EP from 2017 and his debut album Stride released in March of this year. But how would his music translate from studio to stage?
The opening act at the Róisín Dubh was Galway rapper Celaviedmai, and the crowd’s energy levels were immediately brought up a few notches by her no-nonsense lyrics and take-no-prisoners attitude – ‘You barely give me no attention, but you got me all in your mentions’. Celaviedmai’s presence is invigorating, and, with her brutally honest lyrics about past encounters, reminiscent of American rapper Leikeli47. In ‘Confessions’, she sings: ‘God forgive me coz out of ten, I don’t regret nine’. Celaviedmai is a welcome addition to a usually male-dominated hip hop scene.
Jafaris drops straight into ‘Temple’, which, with his punchy rhythm and witty wordplay, reveals how his lyrics and song craftsmanship have progressed over the past two years: ’I feel like I should be real, but they don’t give realness back’. In ‘Stride’ he is not afraid to be candid, discussing his relationship with God and his faith. At a time when many young people are distancing themselves from religion it is refreshing to see an artist express how his beliefs inspire his music and life, without it being preachy: ‘I made mistakes then I made it to being great for me. Lessons learned re-enacted and then erased from me / So take from me I came for you, stride with me. Don’t be afraid to see life through me, fly with me’.
Not forgetting earlier releases, he includes ‘Love Dies’ and ‘If You Love Me’. These 90s-R&B-style love ballads allow us to see Jafaris’ vulnerable side: ‘We can’t fight this feeling / When so many years have meaning / If we stop now we stop breathing’. We’re brought back to this year with ‘Keeping Brothers’. The crowd are then two-stepping alongside the rapper and jumping to the riotous ‘Shanduka’, following the syncopated conversation between Jafaris and his drummer. His lyrics express a back and forth conversation with his ego, how he wants to maintain his integrity and not allow stardom to get the best of him: ‘I’m stuck in a choke, hold the applause. If they knew me like really knew me / They’d fold, they’d be appalled.’
Find your peace
Jafaris embodies his music and lyrics in his performance and confirms his status as a multi-talented artist: he can sing, dance and act. Rather than just throwing out lyrics, he shows us the process and thoughts behind each verse and chorus. In ‘Found My Feet’ he confesses, ‘I fell off twice but found my feet again’.
It is evident he has put his heart and soul into creating his debut album. He tells the audience he wanted to answer two things with the recording: Who am I and what do I want to achieve? He concludes his set with his self-care inspired hit ‘Time’ – ‘Sometimes the thing you need is just some time for yourself / Get up, get out / Go find your peace’.
So who is Jafaris and what did he achieve? After the gig in the Róisín Dubh, it’s clear to me that he has a unique and personal take on rap that stands out in the current Irish scene. Audiences can relate to his life experience and appreciate his honesty. His stage presence would lead you to believe he found his feet two or three albums ago, as he commanded the crowd from the beginning, taking us alongside him through his musical exploration.
This concert took place at the Róisin Dubh in Galway on 4 May. For more on Jafaris, visit http://jafarismusic.com.
This is the sixth review published as part of the Journal of Music/Galway City and County Music Writer Mentoring Scheme 2019 and is supported by Galway City Council and Galway County Council Arts Offices. Over the course of the year the editorial team of the Journal of Music will work with six new writers – Rachel Deckard, Massimo Cattaneo, Jake Tiernan and Kerri Haberlin (Galway City), and James Fleming and Tara Broderick (County Galway) – and publish their reviews of music in Galway.
Read more about our previous Music Writer Mentoring Schemes here.
Published on 3 July 2019
Kerri Haberlin is an arts practitioner currently working in Dublin but based in Galway. Having studied Music Technology and Production at Limerick Institute of Technology followed by an MA in Festive Arts from the University of Limerick, Kerri has pursued her love for music and the arts, whether it be behind the scenes as an organiser at festivals such as Spraoi in Waterford or performing on stage as a singer. Currently working with BIMM in Dublin, Kerri is always keen to hear new talent and support local musicians.