Kevin Holness says he heard his life’s calling at the age of 5. He was living in farming country in Jamaica and listening to the radio when “Buffalo Soldier” by Bob Marley and the Wailers came on.
“I was like, ‘Mommy, Daddy, I want to do what this dude is doing!’” he says. “I just heard that song and I was blown away. Marley keeps blowing me away 30 years later.”
True to his oath, Holness still does what that dude was doing, having forged a career as Boston-based reggae artist Mighty Mystic, and this weekend he is paying tribute to the man who changed his life.
“It’s a special one because it would have been Marley’s 70th birthday, which is a pretty big milestone,” he says.
He’s sprinkling several Marley tunes into his set, including the one that first spoke to him more than three decades ago. The latest Mighty Mystic release, “Concrete World,” is an album very much in keeping with Marley’s artistic vision. There are feel-good jams and there’s the token song about toking, but there’s also a degree of social consciousness that isn’t always present in contemporary reggae.
On the breakdown of the title track, Holness takes modern society to task, incanting, “Technology is supposed to bring us closer, yet it seems to be pulling us apart you know/We walk past each other we don’t say hi, we don’t say hello.“
Holness says he wanted to put this message forward because he sees society losing focus.
“Everything’s so instant and we’re getting lost in cellphones and iPads rather than slowing things down and becoming a little more natural with everything,” he says.
He says change starts with the individual.
“Each person’s got to say to themselves, ‘You know what? I’ve really got to slow it down and really keep things true and not get so lost in my days and focus on things like family, life and being healthy and paying attention to what’s around you rather than get lost in the screen every second. Each person has to take up that cross themselves.”
Holness is all about doing things himself these days. He says his next release, due this summer, isn’t likely to feature the outside producers and featured guests that characterized his first two albums.
“This one we’re doing everything in-house,” he says. “Myself, my brother and the rest of the guys, we just decided we’re going to produce everything from scratch, without bringing in outside support.”
Brought to America
The Holness family moved from Jamaica to Boston in 1989. With weather such as Boston has seen for the past two weeks, does the Mighty Mystic miss those tropical climates more than ever? Not really.
“I love Boston, man,” he says. “I wouldn’t go anywhere else. I’m glad my mom moved us here to Boston. It’s such a diverse place. I can tough out the cold. I love it. You get to see the seasons change. I’m big into sports, so I love to see such a big sports town and the people of Massachusetts are friendly people.”
And though the past few years have proven challenging to the local reggae scene, with the closure of the Cambridge club the Western Front and the cancellation of the legendary WERS radio show, “Rockers,” there is still a formidable scene here.
“Believe it or not, Boston has got one of the biggest reggae scenes in the entire country,” says Holness. “I think next to California, Boston’s probably the biggest. It’s probably attributed to the large college scene here. We might not have that many reggae artists here, but we’re one of the best touring cities, because a lot of fans come out.”
If you go
Winter Reggae Splash 2015: A Bob Marley Celebration
Featuring Mighty Mystic, New Kingston, Nomad-I
Saturday, 8 p.m.
969 Comm. Ave., Boston