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Soul of Jamaica, heart of Boston

Mighty Mystic redefines the reggae genre

Celina Colby
Celina Colby is an arts and travel reporter with a fondness for Russian novels.... VIEW BIO
Soul of Jamaica, heart of Boston
Mighty Mystic (Photo: Photo: Twisted Dreams Radio)

Mighty Mystic, the Boston-based champion of Reggae music, wrapped up his summer tour on the Paradise Rock Club stage last Saturday evening. Band lead, Kevin Holness broke into the music scene in 2006 with his single “Riding on the Clouds,” and became a household name in 2010 with the album “Wake up World.” Mighty Mystic is known for its compelling mix of reggae and rock sounds, and its non-traditional emphasis on showmanship in concert.

Holness’s passion for music started early. “I always loved the reggae scene, growing up in Jamaica,” he says. When he moved to Boston in 1989 he found a ripe opportunity to expand his involvement.

What draws the artists to the reggae genre is the element of storytelling in it. “Reggae music is the people’s music,” says Holness. “It’s an avenue to speak your mind.” Much of the music on Mighty Mystic’s latest album “The Art of Balance” addresses contemporary issues such as police brutality. Each track tells an intimate narrative, written by Holness and often inspired by his own life and experiences. “The Art of Balance” was written, composed and produced locally. Holness said that it was a powerful experience to be able to craft music in his home base with his friends and family.

Mystic’s style may be rooted in Jamaica, but his stories speak to the African American experience everywhere. Though the base of the music is traditionally reggae, the band incorporates influences from rock and even a little pop in the tunes, making the tracks accessible to all audiences. The inclusiveness is part of Holness’s love of the genre. He says, “There is something for everyone in reggae.”

Mighty Mystic’s showmanship is an unusual presence in the reggae genre. Holness performs live with such passion and vigor that one can’t help but get up and move with him. There isn’t a minute when he’s not moving about the stage, interacting with fans, belting out his lyrics or dancing wildly to the drumbeat he created. His songs are powerful in stand-alone form, but in person he brings an exceptional life to the music. He says, “You can walk and dance and sing to the music, but you also get some substance in your belly.”

Holness believes that Boston has a diverse and promising reggae scene. He attributes the continual musical experimentation in the city to the rotating pack of college students that flood the city every year. “Kids from all over the world come here with different tastes, and that forces the scene to keep growing,” he says.