Monday, April 2, 2012

Balancing a Career in Medicine with Music..

They call him the DJ Doc. and rightfully so because he is a Medical Practioner in his professional career and renown Reggae/Dancehall artiste and entertainer.  I met Shaka Pow sometime ago and was just awed by his exuberance, professionalism, dedication to anything he put his mind to and seemingly prowess at managing time. It was just a matter of time that I would have gotten a chance to interview him and at the right time so I asked Dr. Garth 'Shaka Pow' McDonald the Jamaican Reggae/Dancehall Doc. a few questions I want to share with you:-


N.I.P. Hey Shaka how are you?
SP: I'm as good as new (smiling)
N.I.P. Thank you for finding time out of your busy schedule to speak to me, much appreciated
SP:  Believe me Sophie, I would not have missed this for the world it is my life, I love music so I make time for it.
N.I.P. Shaka tell me a little about you, who is Garth McDonald?
SP: Garth McDonald is an ordinary Jamaican who grew up living a normal life. He attended Waterford Primary then St. Catherine High.  Thereafter I was transferred to Kingston College KC and from there to the Faculty of Medical Science at the University of the West Indies (UWI) at eighteen.

N.I.P. What was it like at University, you would have started a deejay career there too wouldn't you?
SP:  Well I would say my love for Reggae music emanated from me at a very early age. My Dad was the owner of a small sound system, I recall mimicking major Dancehall acts when I was about 4-5 years old you know, my parent loved the genre and they encouraged both my musical talent and academic performance. Regarding the evolution of Shaka Pow, the girls dem pop chow (he joked) at UWI I was popularly known for my talent as oppose to how well I was doing in medicine.  Often times I would find myself opening for acts like Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Scare Dem and Monster Shack at two of the university's annual popular events, Countdown and Spectrum put on by the Student Guild.  I was later elected Chairman of Entertainment for the Guild of Students in 1996 and really kept the campus busy.

N.I.P. But what inspired you, I mean you obviously did well in medicine, what motivated you?
SP: I love this thing man, that is what motivates me, my love of it.

Dr. Garth McDonald on the job
N.I.P. Step away from that for a minute I heard you operated on Oniel the late Voicemail group member who died tragically a few years ago from receiving gun shots wounds to the head at his gate, what was that like for you being an artiste yourself, a friend of the late victim and Doctor.
SP: (sigh) As you know in the profession we learn to harness personal feelings but it was not easy you know, I mean I knew him and wanted to keep him alive if I could.  He had a whole future ahead of him, a  young baby that was just born..it was not easy at all.

N.I.P. You recorded your first demo with another medical student what got into you guys?
SP: It's just vibes and actually a fun way unleash the pressures of studying so we enjoyed it.  The song earned us our first recording contract with a U.S. base company in state of New Jersey that song was called' Hello Hello'

N.I.P. You graduated from med school in 1997 tell us what happened after
SP: Well after an internship in 1999 I hit the studios and started recording with leading Jamaican Producers such as Q45, Steelie and Cleevie, King Jammy's, Jack Scorpio, Jah Screw, Syl Gordon, Robert Ffrench as well as Massive B outa New York City.

N.I.P. What were the songs you recorded then?
SP:  Tracks like Book, God Bless, Too Experienced with Barrington Levy, Jerry Springer and Stress.  'Book' which place specific emphasis on the importance of education, actually linked both my medical practice and music career somehow because after it was released I was invited to speak at several schools graduation and prize giving ceremonies.

N.I.P You released a number of albums tell us about them?
SP: I released "I Am The Doc" a 16 track album on the Inner Beat Records label in 2001, Special Design in 2009 featuring a collab with Gospel artist Richard Brown and several Dancehall/Reggae tracks featuring Natural Black, Heather Cummings and Ronnie Thwaites.  I'm about to release online, another album called Dancing 101which is a tribute to late dance icons Bogle and Ice.

N.I.P. How do you cope?  Your medical practice must be demanding and so is music, give me an idea of your workload?
SP: When you love something, finding time to pursue it will not be a strain, for me it's almost automatic.  There are times I leave the operating table and head straight to the studio and record two songs.  After a hard day's work at the hospital I will be out at night promoting my music or just representing.  I do this without thought because I love it.

N.I.P. People in your profession might scringe at the thought that you are a Dancehall artiste and that your time could have been dedicated to other meaningful projects what do you say about that
SP:  What I do may not be meaningful to persons who think that way, but certainly impact thousands of fans across the Reggae/Dancehall sphere who understands the Jamaican culture and appreciate the music us artiste produce.  My new album coming out, is a compilation of 10 years of Dance moves created by Jamaican ghetto youths many of whom spent their time creating the moves which would have kept them from getting involved in serious crimes and unlawful acts.  You really have to spend time around people to appreciate them and understanding my jobs, nothing is more self satisfactory than seeing a patient recover from a life threatening illness or accident and watching the fans unleash, exhale from listening or dancing to the beat my music. Importantly though other doctors around me fully endorse what I do, they like it so I'm cool.

N.I.P. What is Shaka Pow's biggest hit to date?
SP: I would say my biggest hit is Rubba Bounce, the video has gotten over 200,000 views and continues to climb.  I heard it was a popular song in Japan and is still a must played song in the Dancehall. 

N.I.P. So we are looking forward to the release of Dancing 101 and other great things to come from you Shaka Pow.  Is there anything you want to say to people out there?
SP: I want to thank you Sophie, this interview was enlightening and to the fans out there, thanks for the support and words of encouragement. To the people of the world, "life is precious, make the most of the time you have now"

N.I.P. Thanks Shaka.

By: Sophia McKay