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  • Writer's pictureLucy Atherton

Reggae Violinist at Lashings

Reggae violinist Mark Stephenson plays at Lashings Treetop Bar, Jamaica, on Saturday nights. It's an amazing electric performance from this highly rated talented musician and not to be missed.

Mark is one of Jamaica's top violinists. Although he plays classical and jazz, he specialises in a style he has dubbed 'reggae violin'.

Mark started playing the violin when he was young because, he says, he wasn't good at sport. Then again, he says he wasn't good at playing the violin either. But now he is one of the top violinists in Jamaica.

"I was excited about doing it. I said, 'okay, I can't play football, basketball and I can't run, so I may as well play the violin'. At the time when I started playing the violin, I really wasn't that good, so I had to work at it," he says.

Mark says his passion for music is not hereditary, because he and his cousin DJ Ce'Cile are the only two in his family who are pursuing music as a career. He attended Belair Prep School in Manchester, Jamaica, where he decided to start playing the violin.

"I took 10 years to study and I had to get in a lot of the basics and I had to do a lot of exams. Simply because you play the violin doesn't make you a professional." Going professional really started when he entered Traxx, a local show which showcases various musical acts, which led to various musicians asking him to play with them.

"I was at a Silver Cat show and he asked me to do a performance. They didn't have a stage or anything, so I went behind the turntables and listened to the music for a while and then I started to play back the songs. The people started saying things like 'pull up' and they wanted me to play more. I was really surprised."

Mark has worked with a number of big name artists including Beenie Man and Beres Hammond. Although he is known for reggae, he is also plays classical music, salsa and jazz . He says this is a advantage when he tours.

"I have toured in Europe and over there they love reggae violin. When I'm over there I also play a lot of reggae/Celtic music. It's easier there, because the violin is mainstream.

"Because there are not a lot of reggae violinists in the industry, at times it is very difficult. The engineers don't know how to mic a violin, because they are accustomed to violins being played in large halls and having natural acoustics. Even abroad, it is the same thing. When you mic a violin, they say it is too loud, so they try to tone it down a lot."

There will be no toning down when Mark appears at Lashings! Catch him on Saturday nights at Lashings Treetop Bar.

Extracted from an article in the Gleaner.


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