Bob Marley accurately said, “One good thing about music, when it hits you feel no pain.” These words ring true, and never more clearly with this next singer we had the opportunity to interview. Desi Hyson is the lead singer and keyboard player for the mighty reggae band, Moja Nya. Through the years, they have been a pillar for reggae, representing true morally conscious Rasta music. Performing their own hits and backing some of the biggest names in reggae, Desi’s voice and lyrics bring you to a place of meditation and introspection on life, and you feel the vibe real reggae music brings. Recently we had a chance to sit down with Desi and talk about his musical journey.
RF: How did you come into playing music?
DH: My music career started in NY late 70’s early 80’s. I would hang out with some friends of mine from Dominica who had a group at that time. The band’s name is Moja Nya. I spent so much time with them, when the rhythm guitarist left, the lead guitar player started to teach me a lot. At first, I would just rehearse with them, no gigs. So, I did a lot of homework until the time was right, and they then let me play my first gig. I’m known for my keyboard playing but my first instrument is the guitar. We played all kinds of tunes — reggae, calypso, r&b, zouk. Then, one rehearsal they let me know it was time to start singing. I started doing harmonies and then it turned into lead eventually.
RF: What were your early influences?
DH: My early influences came from all music genres, because growing up in Dominica they played all types of music on the radio stations. I would listen to Santana, The O’Jays, Nat King Cole, Jimmy Cliff and Mighty Sparrow all in the space of one hour. So, all of those musical influences are a major part of the songs I write, especially now. As far as reggae artists I liked, Aswad, Third World, The Wailers, especially Peter Tosh, Dennis Brown…I could go on and on. Reggae stuck out to me the most because there was always a message in the music. I got into reggae music first as a listener with my friends in the band and, in New York, there was a lot of reggae music playing on the radio. I saw Bob Marley and the Wailers in Central Park in NY in 1975 and after that, I knew I wanted to play and write this music.
RF: What was your first band?
DH: My first band was Moja Nya, from the early eighties to late nineties. We did quite a few recordings, starting in NY with a song called “Rise Up.” The last album I was a part of using this name was done in the early nineties titled, A Moment In Meditation.
RF: Who are some artists that you have worked with?
DH: I worked with Joseph Hill and Culture for a good while, but I never produced any music with them. Those days I toured a lot. After Culture, I was asked to join The Original Wailers, with Junior Marvin and Al Anderson. We recorded an album titled Miracle. That was 2011. I wrote and produced four songs and sang on seven of them, which I wrote all the lyrics to. That album received a reggae Grammy nomination. I released an album, The Journey Continues, right before Covid.
RF: What aspect of working in music is your greatest passion?
DH: My music passion is recording. I love building songs and listening to them grow to what they become. I could do that for the rest of my life and be very happy.
RF: What productions are you working on presently?
DH: I’m not producing any artists now but I have an extensive catalog of songs, both instrumental and with vocals. I would not mind sharing them with any artist interested in doing so. I intend to release more material in the near future, especially bringing forth all my musical influences that I mentioned earlier.
RF: What is your message to young artists?