Interview and photos by Sista Irie
Ancient wisdom comes from deep knowledge of past experience resulting in a unique philosophical understanding of nature and behavior of people and events. When carried forward through multiple generations, ancient wisdom serves as a powerful pathway to benefit the intelligence and actions of future societies.
Pentateuch, a rising Kingston band crafts their lyrics in alignment with historical significance. Their music inspires others to look deep inside their soul, to yearn for truth and to live with pride in the knowledge of ones beautiful self. Wisdom captured from ancient teachings transcends into a roadmap for lyrical acuity. Just as Rastafarians embrace the old testament, Pentateuch’s lyrical wisdom was carried through family generations resulting in some of the most beloved music in the world. Educational and inspirational roots music forms the locks of reggae music and plays a critical role in future societal advancements.
The name Pentateuch refers to the first five chapters of the Bible. In Judaism, these books are referred to as the “Torah,” a written documentary of instruction and teachings also known as the book of Moses. Pentateuch as a band name is a perfect reflection of the seriousness and goals of their music. At the same time, band members will testify that the purpose of Pentateuch is spirituality and oneness, not one religion. Like many reggae artists, Ke’vor’(Var) Williams(lead singer) and Brady “JAH BRADEZ” Robinson(drummer) were raised in Christian families. Their upbringing resulted in a strong foundation of spiritual faith shielding them from the influence of pulsing negative radio vibes, music with no soul. The road taken by the band is a direct reflection of ancient spirits selectively planted and emerging from within them in the form of lyrical teachings.
Var Williams came to know Rastafari through extensive reasonings with his granduncle and grandfather who would speak at length about Africa and His Imperial Majesty of Ethiopia. He tells the story about his uncle and grandfather with immense pride and self fulfillment. Sadly, Uncle Dan, known as ‘Peace Man’ passed right after Pentateuch played the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival 2015. Var’s familial elders must have been extremely proud to see the shared rich knowledge pass on, ingrained deeply from their influence and now shared through musical parables. Var hails from the hills of Portland, a place called Bellevue. Pouring out love for his grand uncle and grandfather, he mentions that “Peace Man” lived a life of Rastafari, far more than his mention of it, a sign of a heartical Binghi Rasta. Var’s ancestral family hails from a small Maroon village, a little place called Johns Hall. The Maroons brought language, culture and extra-sensory attributes from Mother Africa nearly 500 years ago and were eventually relegated to Maroon societies and land isolated from the rest of the country. As a society, they remain deeply committed to the preservation of their African roots and culture. Var’s richly nurtured family history impacted how he and Jah Bradez anchored their musical goals in tradition and ancient wisdom.
Having noticed Var in early photos with dreadlocks, I was curious to ask him why he no longer had them. “Cutting my locks was part of my spiritual journey. I got a vision that I should do so, and after two confirmations, I followed through. Removing my locks took me through a spiritual cleansing and had great impact on my life and spiritual livity.”
Pentateuch has gone through band changes since the beginning when the original five band members first met in college and trained at the Edna Manley School of the Visual and Performing Arts. The two anchors of the band, Vor and Jah Bradez remain steadfast in their mission and settle for nothing less than musical and lyrical quality.
With many new young and professionally trained musicians coming from Edna Manley School for the Performing and
Visual Arts, I asked how they choose new band members, is the most important factor professional technique or do personal values come into play? Var sights “I do music for the poor in spirit and not for entertainment, so no matter how talented one is,they must be committed to soul music. Perfection is balance between the two musical needs.”
Reggae music has long been recognized as message music. Although, roots reggae was handicapped for too long by negative musical influences and messages that was quickly adopted by many young people in Jamaica, Jah Bradez clearly acknowledges “roots reggae music has been alive straight through. The difference is that even though many roots reggae artists remained working hard, it was the more negative music that was played extensively on the radio.” Unfortunately for Jamaica, many youth gravitated to the gangster vibe further influencing a desperate social atmosphere punctuated in the dance halls and spilling out into street behaviors. The result has been a degradation in Jamaican society marked by increased violence, promotion of guns and degradation of women”.
Fortunately, music and history is cyclical. The last ten years has introduced a shift in focus now leaning to a modernized roots reggae offering, eagerly anticipated and spreading quickly across the globe. Young professionally trained singers and players of instruments have emerged on the Kingston scene, creating a rebirth for roots Rasta music.
Given the origins of the Pentateuch band, it is not surprising their first album in 2012 was entitled Genesis. The beautifully written content established their place in a quickly growing roots movement. Black Face, Coming Home, Struggles of Africa reveal with passion an inspirational cry for black people to process history and choose a better path in alignment with royal roots. Some of the many crucial themes include a plea for environmental protection (Change- “let the change begin with me and my family”), the value of a strong work ethic (Lazy Bones- “get out of bed, you are going to go hungry”), the fight against cancer (Cancer Survivor -a stirring message of hope written for a young family member lost to cancer), the need to prepare for earthy disaster (Armaggedon-“the streets will run red with blood, run to the rocks and they will cry out.” Followed this year by Chapter V, an acoustic selection from Genesis only deepens my respect for the artistic prowess of Pentateuch. Both Genesis and Armageddon are ‘must haves’ for reggae collectors.