The Voice of Jah: USVI’s Kolaiah Bey brings conscious music to pirate radio

IMG: DJ3D. Facebook

Kolaiah Bey (aka DJ3D) is a man with a message.

“The voice of Jah” has been putting in work as one of the most consistent conscious music DJ’s for over 6 years on radio and internet platforms such as ZionHighness Radio and his station, Icebox radio. The humble DJ hails from Brooklyn, NY, and his Caribbean roots are about as deep as they come. His grandmother, a hard-working woman from St. Croix and his grandfather, an equally ambitious man from Barbados, met in St. Thomas where they began a life together and soon after started a family. Like many Caribbean families of the day, they sought opportunity in the land of stars and stripes and in the late sixties, his grandfather sent his wife and by then grown children up to New York.

The 2 locations would have a direct affect on the grandchildren, as the DJ spent many years traveling back and forth from the warm sandy beaches and golden sunsets of the Virgin Islands, to the concrete islands of New York City, all the while absorbing the culture and music of both lands.

Kolaiah fell in love with deejaying in his junior year in high school. “7’s, 10’s… 12 inch vinyl… I loved spinning records,” says the DJ. When he first saw a pair of CDJ’s, he didn’t even know what to do with them. “I was so used to wax. I was looking at them like, “What is this?” But I’m curious and a self-starter so I sat and taught myself how to use them and how to use a Mac computer. Then I began gaining knowledge about broadcasting over radio and internet. But at first I didn’t know how to use any of that stuff!”

A close friend helped him choose the right equipment he needed to get things started and he began his quest to be on radio professionally. He fondly remembers those Thursday and Friday shows as the beginnings of the sound he is known for. The sound of message music. Although his inspirations in music go back a bit further.

IMG: Timothy Takemoto. Headphones. Flickr. CCBY 2.0.

His sound

“I came up listening to guys like Vaughn Harper, Dahved Levy, WLIB, WBLS… the Quiet Storm. I was listening to that all the time. The DJ’s would narrate what the night would be. They’d give you straight information and have a direct connection with the listener. And no two shows were ever the same,” he states.

Each week Kolaiah narrates his own story for his listeners with an unabashed preference for uplifting music. He keeps the roots and culture high, and tends to avoid anything promoting negativity. “No songs about black men killing black men. No songs about selling poison to the people. [Songs] that bend us up”, he asserts.

His playlist remains replete with songs about Jah, spirituality and feel good rhythms. He sometimes has a showcase on Staten Island, Hip-Hop101, and he also travels every couple of months to Minnesota to collaborate with other DJ’s from his station.

His show picked up steam and has been syndicated on a few stations. He realized other people were broadcasting his show on their own. “One time a guy called me and let me know ‘oh yeah we’re playing your [show]’ on some station. I just shouted him out and kept it going. But I was like, ‘what?'” he says, chuckling.

His take on USVI artists/His hopes

The DJ thinks that USVI artists are gaining more light in recent years but says a higher profile of the region on the Caribbean music scene is paramount. He hopes for more support from government and politicians. “The government needs to get involved in presenting and promoting the faces of USVI artists. Perhaps we need to send more people to see the politicians, also to talk with the tourist board, especially in light of the “Virgin Islands Nice” song by Pressure Busspipe being used in tourism commercials. [Using our local artist’s songs] ends up bringing in more tourists. And that influx of people is helpful.”

He points out that Pressure Busspipe was recently criticized by a local politician, Senator Kurt Vialet, for sounding “too Jamaican and not like a Thomian” but believes the politician is incorrect and basing that solely on the fact that the well known artist sings reggae as opposed to other traditional Thomian music like Quelbe; a traditional folk music native to the Virgin Islands that has a soft, swaying rhythm woven by woodwind instruments, triangles, gourds, washboards and more.

Beyond that, he believes artists in the island need to take more control over their career. The Zion Highness radio host finds himself having to provide advice to many young artists whom all too often wholly rely on managers that seem to do more for themselves than their artists. He teaches them to always have copies of their music on them on disc or usb and email, to send out music to the DJ’s as early as possible and to keep a steady flow of singles coming out to build anticipation for their albums.

His thoughts on USVI commerce

Another passionate topic for the DJ is the legalization of marijuana in his homeland. He cites the recent changes in places like the USA and Jamaica as examples. “Seriously, [for USVI] you don’t need a passport to come in from mainland USA, and tourism in general would definitely increase. I mean, that’s a whole other monster [of income]. If you look at places like Jamaica, its needs to be said. They were already known for some of that but now? You know how many Europeans, Americans and others that are flocking down there and spending their dollars… on food, on clothes, on transportation, etc?”

“With that we could have concerts everyday!”, he adds jokingly.

His message:

When asked if there were any words he would like to leave with readers and listeners of his show, Kolaiah speaks in his typical humble yet confident tone, “Listen for the hidden message within the music.” Period.

Where to find him

You can find DJ 3D spinning weekly on the ZionHighness Radio station on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 6am to 8am in the morning. Also on Saturday evenings at 7pm to 10pm and Sundays at 3pm to 6pm.

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