Soca’s Fallen Sol­dier

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Kerwin Cae­sar

It all went down­hill when he seem­ingly hit his peak in his mu­sic ca­reer. A front run­ner in the soca arena, his 2008 sin­gle “Rise”, por­trayed a dif­fer­ent side of the lo­cal star and cre­ated an aware­ness of the plight of soca mu­sic as an art form. On a cam­paign, not solely to el­e­vate soca mu­sic but also the youth, he be­came a codi­rec­tor of RISE Saint Lu­cia Inc. But in Fe­bru­ary 2009 for­tunes changed dras­ti­cally for this en­ter­tainer, after be­ing ar­rested and jailed on mur­der charges. With bail be­ing de­nied him three times based on ‘pub­lic opin­ion’, he has been lan­guish­ing on re­mand for nearly six years now. This fallen am­bas­sador is Jonathan “Ninja Dan” St. Rose. Ninja Dan hap­pened to be among the in­mates I in­ter­viewed at Borde­lais who had suc­cess­fully sat the CXC ex­am­i­na­tions, as fea­tured in last week­end’s ar­ti­cle, ‘Ed­u­ca­tion: The ‘key’ to Borde­lais’. Ninja also per­mit­ted me a sep­a­rate in­ter­view about his life prior to and be­ing at the pen­i­ten­tiary.

What was your pri­mary goal be­fore be­ing in­car­cer­ated?

ND: My main goal was youth de­vel­op­ment. Through me be­ing in­volved with RISE St Lu­cia Inc. it was a tran­si­tion pe­riod for me to move on a dif­fer­ent level, where I could be­gin to por­tray pos­i­tive mes­sages; be­cause as an en­ter­tainer you also have a re­spon­si­bil­ity to ed­u­cate and el­e­vate the peo­ple.

What was it like be­ing ar­rested and jailed? How dif­fi­cult was that to cope with for you?

ND: First of all, I was sur­prised when I was asked by the po­lice to ac­com­pany them for ques­tion­ing, but be­cause I am in­no­cent I went along. But what is shock­ing though is how ev­ery­thing has un­folded and how I have been treated. But I don’t want to go into that. Ba­si­cally, I’ve been in soli­tary con­fine­ment from day one, which is good. In the be­gin­ning it was a dis­ad­van­tage for me be­cause I am away from other in­mates, adding to that they teased me a lot, like “look the man that used to preach stop the vi­o­lence, look at him now”. So my pro­file and af­fil­i­a­tions sort of made it hard to cope with the harsh re­al­ity of prison.

How do you spend your time in prison?

ND: I spend my time read­ing all sorts of books and ed­u­cat­ing my­self. I play my gui­tar and I in­ter­act a lot with the for­eign in­mates like the Venezue­lans, I learn to speak their lan­guage and vice versa.

What mo­ti­vates you to ed­u­cate your­self at Borde­lais?

ND: What mo­ti­vates me is that be­ing in here, I have to keep my­self abreast with so­ci­ety, and lis­ten­ing to the news as to what’s go­ing on, on the out­side in terms of the mu­sic, so­cial is­sues, gov­ern­ment, pol­i­tics, eco­nomics and such. Be­cause I see my­self as a leader, and I have to keep my­self at a cer­tain level so that when I get out of here I can ed­u­cate the youth. Be­cause right now the youth have no one that they can look up to; ev­ery­one seems to be caught up in the ma­te­rial world.

What re­ally mo­ti­vated me also is my son. My son was eight when I got jailed and right now he is 14. Prison was never a place I’d want my son to have to be limited to visit me but with me be­ing in here, I am de­ter­mined to show him that prison has its neg­a­tive ef­fects but I will use this ex­pe­ri­ence to be­come a bet­ter per­son and fa­ther to him.

What is your opin­ion of the level of soca mu­sic cur­rently?

ND: Hon­estly I think it has di­gressed. I mean, which artiste on the out­side can stand firm and say we’re form­ing a move­ment or we mo­bi­liz­ing for the bet­ter­ment of soca mu­sic in Saint Lu­cia? I’m not crit­i­ciz­ing or chastis­ing any­body, but we need to change the fo­cus of our mu­sic. What are we do­ing for the youth, the com­mu­nity and soca mu­sic on the whole? We as artistes have to re­al­ize that our mu­sic has power and what we por­tray in our mu­sic is only the party vibe. The main role of artistes is to ed­u­cate in a form of en­ter­tain­ment. We are role mod­els for the youth and we are to help make them aware of not just liv­ing and en­joy­ing life now but 15 years from now.

In terms of the in­dus­try, when I came out in 2002, it was real tough be­ing a lo­cal artiste. About six of us lo­cal artistes came to­gether and ex­plained to the pow­ers that be that we are the ones rep­re­sent­ing the coun­try; the for­eign artistes get treated a cer­tain way so raise the bar for the lo­cals also. From then we ob­served an emer­gence of lo­cal tal­ent into the in­dus­try. When I get the chance to speak to artistes nowa­days, they tell me of their strug­gles in the in­dus­try and th­ese are the things that real crush me inside. Be­cause the things that we had worked for, to be put in place are be­ing tossed aside and artistes now have to work harder. To be hon­est, I feel de­mo­ti­vated to come back into the art form, be­cause it’s like the same artistes we fought for to have bet­ter op­por­tu­ni­ties are the ones killing the art form and have no re­spect for it.

If you could do one thing dif­fer­ently right now, what would it be?

ND: If I could do one thing dif­fer­ently and I knew all the things that I know now, I would’ve loved my fam­ily more. I read a book while in here about Man­dela and in it he said that he gave all the peo­ple of his coun­try priv­i­lege over his own loved ones, and I fall in that same bracket. When I was on the out­side, I tried to help all those that I could es­pe­cially in the mu­sic in­dus­try but what I re­gret­ted was not spend­ing qual­ity time with my son.

You con­tinue to men­tion youth de­vel­op­ment and our artistes be­ing role mod­els. Don’t you think that your prison ex­pe­ri­ence is one which can mo­ti­vate the youth to be pos­i­tive?

ND: Of course, def­i­nitely, and this is my goal when I get out of here. The work I used to do with RISE, it was like I was just test­ing the wa­ters; I didn’t have the true re­al­ity. Now be­ing in here, I have the un­der­stand­ing of how the of­fi­cers, the in­mates feel, the frus­tra­tion and ev­ery­thing that goes on in here. So when I get out and I speak to the youth they have to feel it. And it has been a bless­ing and a priv­i­lege to be in prison be­cause another man or artiste who went through what I went through inside of here could have com­mit­ted sui­cide and I have con­tem­plated sui­cide. But that’s not my pur­pose. My pur­pose is to go through the bot­tom-less pit, walk through the dark­ness and come back and tell the peo­ple about the dark­ness and how I man­aged to con­quer it.

Jonathan “Ninja

Dan” St. Rose dur­ing his days as a per­former and soca artist.

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