Musical journey: Gavin ‘Djata’ Smith has formed the band Rocket which performs this Saturday at Chewstick. *Photo by Sarah Lagan
Musical journey: Gavin ‘Djata’ Smith has formed the band Rocket which performs this Saturday at Chewstick. *Photo by Sarah Lagan

The man who has spent years providing an environment to nurture and promote local artistic talent is about to embark on his own musical career. Executive director of The Chewstick Foundation Gavin ‘Djata’ Smith has formed an original folk, rock and blues band Rocket featuring himself on guitar and vocals backed by Allen ‘Skeets’ Daniels and Roddy Nesbitt Junior. The night will also feature the “lyrical musings” of up-and- coming artist Makeem ‘Haz’ Bartley.

Smith spoke to the Bermuda Sun about his first professional concert. 

What sort of music can we expect on the night?

I have lots of new songs. I still have my socially conscious kind of stuff — I don’t like the general pop palette of love songs — the hills and valleys of love. I do have some love songs, I have stuff that is energized and songs about my personal struggles. The songs deal with issues that are often private, I tend not to speak to them publicly and they manifest through my music.

I have always wanted to bring my personality into my music. My acoustic material has always been a part of me but always wanted to do stuff that reflected my energy. 

Who is your music influenced by?

I think coming up I was heavily influenced by R&B and reggae and hip hop. I was influenced by (folk singer/guitarist) Ben Harper during college. I didn’t think black people could make music like that so it blew my mind. He is one of my main muses. Of late I have been going with artists more like Jack White, The Black Keys, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray, Curtis Mayfield, Bill Whiters — I’m trying use the guitar as another part of my voice. 

We don’t have enough examples of our people doing other types of expression in Bermuda. We can do more than just perform against backing tracks or playing  reggae and hip hop —we need an original voice. 

When did you first get into music?

I’ve been playing regularly on the scene for about ten years. My Neo Griot session was the first session I ever did and that was three year ago. 

Since then my time and energy has been spent on doing other work for Chewstick Foundation. I went through the doldrums because I was always being busy, being busy. My guitar skills were not ready so I went into the trenches to get better at guitar and aim it in the direction of the type of performers and style I would rather have as a professional artist. The guitar is much more central rather than just an accompaniment. 

I’ve also gone electric which was very daunting for me before. I never thought I would figure it out but I’m figuring it out. I feel comfortable on stage and feel like there is no questioning that I can be a great guitar player — it was a real lightbulb moment and I feel very proud of it.

What sort of energy can we expect?

I am doing a lot more upbeat stuff now — it is a stand up show it will be rocking. There’s nothing worse than doing a song that you love but it is a slow song. This show will touch on the past, but it will also showcase what the future is looking like and it will be loud. Most will be standing — there will be a few seats.

What does the future hold for Rocket?

We are hoping to do more this summer. Anyone interested in making bookings can do so at www.chewstick.org We guys are ready to rock! I’d love to perform at Shine’s, Docksiders, HogPenny etc. A big part of my strength is showing how my music has evolved over the years. 

I think think the whole collage is the best experience — it will be a one and a half to two hour show.