Officers pushed me into the bare empty cell and slammed the door shut. I’d been in the punishment unit for 2 weeks. I was beat up and shook up. There was nothing in the cell but a stainless-steel toilet, a thin mattress and an ancient set of headphones made of Bakelite, hanging on the wall.
I lay down on the bed painfully, my feelings a torrent rushing through my racing heart. I was angry, afraid, outraged and on the edge of a vengeful abyss.
There was a better than even chance that I would battle the first officer who opened the door in the morning, no matter who he was, and be thrown back into the punishment unit for a month. I’d seen it happen a dozen times before with men who came up from the punishment unit.
Then I put those hard, cold Bakelite headphones against my ears, and I heard the voice of Prison Radio’s midnight DJ.
Okay, you convicts, this is a song from a bootleg album by a new band called Dire Straits, and it’s called The Sultans Of Swing ...
The song started. A joy-of-life that had been hiding somewhere came out to play.
The beat kicked along, the guitar licks flowed. I felt the rhythm, the vibe, the groove. And in the joy and wonder of music my pain slowly dissolved, my fury receded, my heart filled with peace and I felt myself reconnecting with my fellow human beings again. Music saved me then, and many times since.
The joyful reconnection of that moment and the river of hope flooding a desert of despair have remained with me indelibly. It was a turning point. Music turned the wheel in a better direction, and since then has often helped me set the compass to my soul’s true north.
Love&Faith are songs born in the consolation that music has conjured for me in the midst of suffering, and in music’s unfailing inspiration to keep going and never give up.
600 people go missing without a trace every day worldwide. I was missing for 10 years, and I wanted to write a song for the missing from my loved ones’ point of view. Never Give Up is a song for them, and all the grieving families.
There’s a song for those who can’t let go of a lost love, Long Lonely Road, and one for exiles who seek redemption, Deliver Me.
There are songs that reference characters in my novels, so that readers can experience some of the same emotional journeys of Shantaram in song, but they make sense, I hope, to everyone.
I recorded some of these songs before my Parents passed away. Mum heard all my rough vocal dubs and some of the mastered tracks. She asked me to write a song for Jesus, to whom she was sincerely devoted all of her life.
I replied that I loved Jesus – who couldn’t love Jesus? – but that my devotion was to His Mother, Mary.
Mum considered this for a while and said: Write a song for both of them.
That song is Beautiful Son, Mother Mary’s last lullaby for her Son, before the soldiers make her leave the tomb.
I also wrote a song for Mum. We both cried when she heard it for the first time. I’m a writer, but I don’t have words for the way we connected through the song, or for my gratitude. I guess the only words were already in the song.
Whether happy or wistfully sad, these songs all come from the constant experience of my life that with love and faith, anything is possible.
It was a mad, often ecstatic pleasure, recording this album. Endless thanks to Executive Producer Andrea Barron, my co-writers, and our all-Jamaican crew: musical co-producer Dale ‘Dizzle’ Virgo, engineer Tandra Jhagroo, our singers and musicians:
Garth 'Duckie' Forrester
Lenford ‘Brutus’ Richards
Big thanks to Geejam Studios: Jon & Steve, Rose-Marie, our silent hero behind the scenes, and to all Geejam staff, their nourishing food made with love, and Naldo, one of the coolest interns in Jamaica.