Ras Myrhdak is a pretty aggressive name for this performer, whose soft singing voice allows him to fl uctuate between speedy dancehall and high-pitched, heartfelt serenades. The cover of his debut album The Prince Of Fyah shows the artist in a side profile, scowling and wearing a hooded sweatshirt obscuring his long locks, set against a fi ery chain link fence. It’s almost as if Myrhdak is struggling with an identity crisis—while he wants the fame of his tough-guy posturing dancehall brothers, he really is a man with a beautiful, pure voice and a positive message. Both sides of his personality surface on the 14- track album, produced by Brotherman.
Hailing from the blessed region of St. Ann Parish, Jamaica, the fertile ground that gave birth to famous islanders like Bob Marley, Marcus Garvey, Burning Spear and Barrington Levy, Ras Myrhdak comes off more like a spiritual warrior than a malicious fighter. His low, grumbling, sleepy conversational voice also conflicts with his rough image as the Prince of Fyah, a nickname that was bestowed upon him after touring with Capleton, who is known as the King of Fire. Myrhdak is often cited as a Capleton protégé, and while he looks up to his fellow reggaeman as a father figure, he references a meeting with Cutty Ranks as the true beginning of his professional career. The young artist initially rose to international fame with his No. 1 Jamaican single “Blazer,” and along the way has also worked with King Jammy and Bobby Digital, but he says his love of music and singing all started from going to church with his Gospel-singing mother as a youth.
“Growing up in St. Ann, I was more of a churchman there,” says Myrhdak. “I didn’t even know that so many reggae artists were from there, I only knew that Bob [Marley] and Marcus [Garvey] were born there. When you grow up in church, they don’t really want you to do reggae. But when I became a youth, me start searching for something else, thinking there’s got to be something more than just church.”
Myrhdak found what he was looking for in Kingston, Jamaica’s musical capital. He says he found a lot of people from St. Ann living in Kingston, and began frequenting the studios to get himself known. He also says that people are just starting to identify him as a singer, rather than a deejay. “I don’t see myself as just a deejay,” says Myrhdak, “because when I sing I don’t sound like a deejay. I’ve got multiple sounds and melodies, multiples of voice. We were thinking about doing vocal collaborations for the album, but Brotherman said we don’t need it because the album so colorful and that every track sounds different.”
Myrhdak does have a unique singing voice that works in different ranges and on a variety of levels. His timing is right on, and his phrasing is punctuated by bursts of rapid dancehall yet balanced with a powerful singsong that goes from high to low in the same verse. On “Gunshots Falling” Myrhdak delivers a non-violent message over a classic reggae backbeat, but on “Pre Dem” his voice drops a few octaves and his joy for singing in the dancehall style surfaces. Both work for him, and the alternating approaches liven up the album’s flow. Other key tracks are “Mankind,” “Jah Is The Way” and “Swept Away.”
“When I was young I didn’t want to hear much reggae,” Myrhdak recalls. “In the dance I like to hear maybe one Bob Marley, but I like the boom, boom, boom [dancehall]—make a young guy jump the more I jump the more I dance. But now we try and balance the ting. We sing on one-drops but also on the dancehall. We try to balance the dancehall by bringing positive words into it. We can’t ignore the dancehall because dancehall is music and music is life.”
The negative lyrics often associated with dancehall became a reality for Myrhdak when he moved to Kingston. He says he saw so much pollution and corruption when he moved to the city that he was thankful for his Christian upbr