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Face To Face: Mdeez - From The Bleachers To Montego Bay

Mdeez

Mdeez

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FELICITY DARVILLE

By FELICITY DARVILLE

On the very day Davon Alistar “MDeez” Knight was scheduled to light up the stage at Sumfest in Montego Bay, Jamaica, he was laid to rest. The festival was to be widely broadcast throughout the Caribbean with a live stream available for fans around the world.

This premier summer festival for Jamaica was held on July 19 and featured a superstar reggae line-up including Buju Banton, Beres Hammond, Etana, Protoje, Chronixx, Beenie Man, Bounty Killa, Spice and so many others. It would have been a proud moment for MDeez.

Having a Jamaican father and having spent many summers in the birthplace of reggae, he must have been keenly anticipating this event. His father lived in an area where some of the reggae stars were born, such as Elephant Man. There was a recording studio in the neighbourhood, so the young Davon had lots of exposure to music.

Mdeez was on the cusp of international stardom and was about to start a 12-week, multi-country tour this summer, according to his close friend and manager, Luval “Big L” Culmer. The tour was due to make stops in various cities in Canada, the United States and Jamaica. Sadly, on the date of the tour launch MDeez was laid to rest at Abundant Life Bible Church.

One of the things he was to do when he returned from his tour, was to sit down and have a Face to Face with me, sharing all the highlights of a summer that he expected would take his career to the next level. He sent me a Whatsapp message in April, sending pictures of one of the charitable gestures he did with a group of friends. He was giving away grocery items and clothing to those in need. This was something he did regularly. I replied to him letting him know how proud I was of him and I looked forward to interviewing him later in the year. Instead, he became the focus of this posthumous tribute as I visit Jamaica with my eldest daughter Malia.

I grew up in the Eastern area of New Providence. MDeez and I are “in set”, as they say. We are in the same age bracket and we interacted many times at parties and events as teenagers. Back then, in the 1990s, the “East-side” crew consisted of young people who grew up anywhere from Fox Hill eastward. Many of them had dreams of becoming musical artists. I can remember hanging out at the park where lots of talented youngsters would freestyle to rap, reggae and dancehall. Dancehall was in its glory days then, with Buju and his “Bogle”, Shabba Ranks and his “Trailer Load of Girls” and so on.

The East-side boys were good! Many of them had undeniable talent. They could spit out fresh lyrics in a heartbeat as we sat on the bleachers with a big “boom box” to play music. We were the set who experienced the transition in media. One time ago we would purchase the latest hits on cassette, until they were replaced by CD; hence our boom boxes were upgraded to ones with CD players.

Many of the children out East were considered privileged, so you could bet that someone would have their hands on the latest stereo equipment and music. While the dreams of stardom were many, only a few pushed through beyond our days hanging out at the park. MDeez followed it through his entire life and became a success at it. He was not just a singer and entertainer, but also a writer and producer.

“We lost an icon with ‘Deez, his life was about advancing the culture of music here,” said Culmer, adding that no matter where he went, “he was beloved by the people”.

“He was a giant to us and his love, energy and passion are irreplaceable.”

MDeez’ murder came as a shock to many, including CEO of Downsound Entertainment and promoter of Reggae Sumfest, Josef Bogdanovich, who was eagerly anticipating the arrival of the Bahamian entertainer to the Jamaican stage. When Mdeez performed songs like “Love is”, “Bad Company,” “TKO” and “Hard Times”, he put his all into it. Search him on Youtube or social media to witness his performances that reveal the passion he had for his work. A senseless argument with a tenant led to his stabbing death just three weeks before Sumfest.

“I am extremely saddened by the loss of a talented musician in such a senseless act of violence,” Bogdanovich said in a press release to the media.

“The Sumfest family wishes to let MDeez’s family and other loved ones know that we share in their grief and deeply regret that he will not be performing at the festival.”

According to Bogdanovich, he learned about MDeez after a friend of his, pointed him out as one of the rising reggae acts in The Bahamas.

“I followed up on his recommendation and looked at one of MDeez’s videos. Impressed by his performance, I invited him to join the line-up for Festival Night 1. I was particularly happy to provide an opportunity for a Bahamian artiste with Jamaican roots, as it is my philosophy that it is our music that is the unifying element in our region.”

But MDeez was more than just about music, although his deep commitment to it made it seem like nothing else mattered. Family was important to him. He was also a successful entrepreneur and a cheerful giver. He had a heart for people, including my brother, Theo. More than once, when Theo needed help, MDeez was there for him. He took him in like a brother and for that I will always be grateful.

“There are so many things I admire about Deez, especially his devotion to family, friends and those he would call brothers,” said Ian “Bigg E” Cleare, a friend-turned-brother.

“His love and intentions were honest and true. You only had to call and he would be there. Another quality I admire about my brother is his dedication – not just to the people around him or his music, but to anything he set his mind and heart to. If Deez committed to something, he went after it with all his might. He once said to me, ‘E, I want my shows to be full of energy. I want to be able to bounce around on stage and sing my lyrics without losing my breath’. So we came up with a plan. We decided every day he should run on the treadmill at a moderate speed while singing his lyrics. Sure enough, every morning for almost a year, I would wake up to that iconic voice coming through the window. I am talking about awe inspiring, unparalleled dedication. It was the kind that made you want to help and support even if you felt like being lazy… it was an infectious fire.”

Tributes at his funeral also came in from people like his aunt Margaret Burrows, godsister Turkessa Mackey, childhood friend Audwyn Scavella and his beloved wife, Leshann Knight. He was predeceased by his father, David Knight. He is survived by his mother, Cheralie Mortimer, daughter Eden Knight, sisters Shauna Knight and Whitney Smith, and a host of other family and friends.

This is one of those instances where the phrase “Gone Too Soon” frequently seen on T-Shirts honouring the deceased would seem so appropriate. The good thing is, the messages of love, non-violence, camaraderie and love of country that he wanted to leave with this world will live on through his music.

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