Music is about seeking a connection. A connection between audience and performer, crowd member to crowd member. The more powerful the performance, the deeper the connection. And the more real the source of the music, the more genuine the experience. Dread Rider, a Taiwan-based reggae act, is a band whose music comes from a place both real and raw: the life experience of singer Sherwyne Pereira, a native of Trinidad who settled in Greater Taichung in 2008. Though he now lives the stable life — he’s married with two young children — Pereira came up the hard way in his homeland. In other words, when he sings original songs like I Grew Up in the Ghetto, he’s not just riffing on the apocryphal. He’s baring his soul.
“I really grew up in the ghetto, man,” says the impassioned frontman. “When I sing in the song, ‘In the ghetto, ain’t no paradise, every day we had to eat black-eyed peas and rice,’ it’s the truth. We try to deal more with truth in the music and we go with what feels right.”
Dread Rider, which performed under the name Wailin’ Soul until earlier this year, was born in 2008 when drummer Hanro “Jubba” Van Wyk was playing at 89K in Greater Taichung with his old funk band, the now-defunct Moneyshot Horns. Pereira was in the crowd, and the band got him up on stage for an impromptu jam. Guitarist Russel Rodgers was also in the crowd that night, and liked what he heard. He approached Sherwyne after the gig, told him he was looking to put together a roots/reggae act, and got the singer on board. Van Wyk, a seasoned performer who prior to moving to Taiwan from his native South Africa had already played massive shows such as the Isle of Wight Festival and Belgium’s Pukkelpop, would join following some lineup shuffles. The current four-piece is now rounded out by French bassist Cyrille Briegel, one of the most in-demand live and session musicians in Taiwan.
Over time, the Dread Rider sound grew to incorporate elements of hip-hop, dancehall and R&B. A couple of months ago, after about a year and a half worth of stops and starts with recording and post-production work, the band finally got to experience the delayed gratification of self-releasing its first album, a self-titled disc. Listen to the songs on the record, and it quickly becomes clear these are serious players we’re talking about. After doing time in various bands over the years in Taiwan, this is exactly the scenario Van Wyk has been looking for. If there’s a way back to the big stage, it’s with this group of musicians. But even though he’s already put in the time, he’s still prepared to invest even more if it means taking Dread Rider to the status of full-time band.
“If we can just do music,” Van Wyk considers, “I would be the happiest man alive. But even if it’s not like that and I have to keep on working, even if it takes another 10 years, I will keep on doing it. It’s my chosen path. We want to be heard.”
Van Wyk and Pereira have reason to be optimistic about the future of Dread Rider, as there are big things on the horizon. Tomorrow night the band will perform at Sappho Live in Taipei in what could be seen as a tune-up for the band’s biggest gig to date, a huge night of reggae at Legacy (音樂展演空間) on Oct. 12 featuring the likes of Hang in the Air (盪在空中), the O-Brothaz and Skaraoke. Dread Rider is expecting a big turnout, but regardless of how many people show up, one thing is certain. There will be a connection, and it will be real.