Sitting atop a ‘mountain’ overlooking the capital city, I listen spellbound to the artist Solman who is two years shy of 30. The impact of his words seem to reverberate throughout the centuries and make its way back to my ears.
“I want my music to light up the souls of human beings. Music is sacred. It is more than just survival. It is a higher calling. I want my music to take the listener higher and heal something inside or uplift them in some way.”
Richard Solis shares that he got his sobriquet while attending St. Mary’s College (CIC), Trinidad.
“A friend at school called me Solman just on kicks, as a play on words. You know, ‘Soul-man’ and it sort of stuck.”
Years later he says the name has a deeper meaning.
The word sun bears significance since the origin of Solis’ family name is Spanish and el sol translates to sun.
Sun = Soul [strong O – phonetic] – man
He says his greatest wish is to share his positive vibes with others through his music and illuminate their souls with light and warmth, similar to how the sun illuminates us on earth.
“Only human beings can make music or anything come to life in that way. I think music that is created solely for entertainment purposes, has the inclination to awaken qualities within us that may not always lead to something positive.”
When asked to describe his genre of music, Solis says he would have to call it heartbeat music based on the rhythm and feel.
“While I want my style to remain fluid and not confined to any one genre, I would describe my current style as acoustic roots, reggae with a Caribbean feel.”
His support system
As far as he could remember, his parents always encouraged him and his siblings to do what they loved. With a smile, he recalls making a racket while practicing drums in his younger years and his mother being the ever-present face of reassurance in the audience at his concerts.
He looks out towards the harbour and after a pause shares,
“My dad never got to really hear my music. He died in 2010 and I only started writing songs in 2011. I began playing guitar and drums while he was alive and he was always very supportive.”
His moments of truth
At age 13, a schoolmate asked if he wanted to play drums and so the group of friends formed a band and played for fun and at talent shows. While studying permaculture at Wa Samaki Ecosystems farm (Freeport, Trinidad) at the age of 21, the artist recalls getting lost in the sound one. chord. at. a. time.
While studying at Berklee College of Music (Boston) circa 2008 – 2010, he first began to realize the level of human suffering in the world and his disenchantment was gradually building in his mind as he read books and watched documentaries.
He declares with a maturity way beyond his years, that he could not feel comfortable and happy living his life just for himself by conforming and getting a regular job with the world in such a state.
Richard Solis wanted to contribute to life in a meaningful way.
“Here I was at school, going through that intense life or death experience with my father ailing back at home, coupled with looking on at how troubling our world was becoming…”
He pauses and looks at me, “[I’m sure you know …] when you are faced with the whole idea of death about someone you love, it makes you come to terms with what is really meaningful in your life. I said to myself, I can’t stay here any longer … too much was at stake.”
During that period, he asked himself what is the most meaningful thing he could do to make an impact. He was led to type the following words into Google that would forever change the direction of his life:
Fate would have it that the first item that came up in the search engine was the Wa Samaki Ecosystems farm. One email later, he discovered that the owner was a long-time friend of his father Gregory Solis and was invited to volunteer.
Solis believes that growing food can solve many of the socio-economic ills of the world such as poverty, violence and crime, since there are many people without food to eat. “Once there is food growing, there is sustenance, humanity and dignity in life,” he shares.
During that period, the young artist spent hours in solitude with nature healing himself and penning his thoughts which became a great source of his deep sense of spirituality and the turning point for his music.
He shares that it was one of the most difficult periods in his life and the best decision to return home and spend what was to be the last two weeks with his father who had been battling cancer for the past six years.
The artist bares all and says that he was also mourning the loss of his first real (romantic) love and all those painful experiences served as the catalyst to write songs of healing, never before shared with anyone.
He looks across pensively and points to the Tobago ferry that is making its way into the Port-of-Spain harbour,
“It was the first time I came face-to-face with the gravity of death of a close family member, falling in love and then heartbreak. But those experiences had to happen, to get me to this important juncture I am at today.”
When asked about the love ballads; he shares that this was awakened by the girl he spoke of earlier, when he first experienced that ‘deep fullness of love’ [as he describes it] in 2011.
“[This may sound weird, but to be honest …] I feel that fullness of all love within my heart thinking about God and Divinity.
For me, all types of love including love for other people and romantic love is an expression of that deep love for God that everyone can feel inside of themselves.
Whether it is another human being that evokes that feeling of love inside of you or whether it is any of God’s creations (human, flora or fauna) – it’s all the same kind of love – God’s love inside of us which comes alive.”
Who is God and the influence on his musical journey
“To really know God is beyond words – it is an inner experience. God cannot be defined because it is way beyond an intellectual concept. God is a personal experience which you must come to know yourself …
We can say that God is everything: the life, the source, the energy that is everything in existence … and that essence of life is God – Divinity …
The full essence of God is inside every human being. Throughout history, all of the Holy people were able to realize that fullness of God inside of themselves, so they became absolutely one with God …
We experience suffering because we believe in the illusion that we are not one with God; that we are not divine and instead get distracted by all of the trappings of the world …
If you can remember and live with the awareness that you are a sacred child of this sacred Universe; a soul that is growing and evolving through the experiences of life, then you have the ability to accept and be grateful for all of the challenges which bring growth …
You will have the ability to enjoy the beauty of life with a heart filled with joy.
The ancient eastern scriptures teaches that your deeds in this life will determine how you are born into the next life. If you do not seek self-knowledge to grow higher; but rather personal gain and hurt others, then in the next life you will be born into circumstances that make it even harder to grow higher.
However, if in this life you give of yourself selflessly for the sake of goodness and helping others, then in the next, it will be easier for your soul to evolve to the next level along its journey towards knowledge, love and truth.”
Solman bares all during a transitionary period and shares his new journey circa 2016
The process of writing
Solis’ most creative time of day to write music is sunset and late night and early morning for poetry. The artist says he likes reflective/poetic and celebratory type music equally because they each have a different vibe.
“I tend to write the slower, quieter ones since I love poetry and believe there is a more meaningful and artistic impact, since it requires contemplative listening and tend to be cathartic and healing.
The upbeat songs elicit feelings of joy, fun and love because the words are light and intended for that purpose.”
The artist echo’s the sentiments of many that school days (both secondary and tertiary level) were some of the best days of his life. Despite the limitations of expressing one’s truest gifts and abilities, there were a lot of benefits derived at both levels.
“At Berklee we enjoyed state-of-the-art rooms and equipment and there were young musicians everywhere with whom we could exchange ideas.
There was a Caribbean club where I had the awesome experience of connecting with students from the British Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Barbados, St. Vincent and Bahamas.”
His most fascinating teachings were from professor Jamie Hadad who taught south Indian music which influenced his playing of percussion.
The decision to grow dreadlocks
He says it wasn’t a big decision to suddenly grow his hair; but simply in keeping with his vibe of naturalness, liberation and being at one with nature where things are unpredictable and exciting, rather than controlled and clean-cut, because that is real life.
He says the look itself is superficial and can cease to exist tomorrow because it’s more about a feeling and vibe.
The artist says he likes performing to a mixture of both large and intimate audiences, where there are benefits at both levels.
He explains that the larger shows allow for more creativity with the use of drums and a band, whereas the intimate crowds allow for a deeper (emotional) connection with the audience.
Performances – Little Carib Theatre [2016, 2017], Gazebo Jam [2014, 2015, 2016], Re-Think concert, After Jazz Fringe Festival, Friendship Festival, Fiesta Plaza, private events, many weddings.
Influences – Bob Marley, The Wailers (rhythmically), Andre Tanker, Jack Johnson, Trevor Hall, Midnite (lyrically and rhythmically), Lianne La Havas (guitar playing), Vaughn Benjamin.
“I essentially want to be remembered in this life for assisting others to embrace Divinity. We are all souls on a journey towards growth and evolution.
I believe that once you know and consistently live this, you will be able to manage and transcend whatever struggles you may encounter.
Once my music can be of benefit to others, my wish is that it becomes accessible to the masses as far as possible without losing its essence.”
Richard ‘Solman’ Solis will be performing some of my personal favourites: Eden Again, Fill Your Cup and more of his compositions guaranteed to bring the house down at the 4th edition of my newly re-branded evening of entertainment: Music, Arts & Motivation Festival: Carve Your Path, Make Your Mark 2018.
The event, now in its third year is carded for July 29th 2018. For more info and to reserve your seats, you can visit this tab.
Interview and feature by Carolyn Correia | March 2018
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