(Media Release) Dancehall act KaliHi (Kahlil Esprit) is using the video for his single “Get Better” to shine light on a dark period in Dominica’s history. The video references the 1974 Prohibited and Unlawful Societies and Associations Act (popularly known as the Dread Act), which was implemented to curb the spread and influence of the Rastafarian movement on the island.
KaliHi takes viewers back to that time, where a Dominican could be killed for just his style of hair. Phrases such as “tear gas,” “shootout at Belles,” “Dreads Come Home,” from publications of the day-The New Chronicle, The Star, Twavay flicker across his face in the video.
“Though I may not have been born at the time, as someone who has dreads, it really hits home, that I could have been killed for that,” he reflects. “I can still relate though as this movement to free and defend the Dreads is like the Black Lives Matter movement of my generation.”
The government of the day implemented the Act in response to crimes committed by persons sporting dreadlocks (referred to as “Dreads”). Since Rastafarians wore dreads for religious purposes, they were blanket targeted by the Act, and as ‘Dreads’ were subject to arrest without a warrant, were not permitted bail and could be imprisoned for up to nine months. Under the Act, citizens who killed any Dread, found illegally inside a dwelling house, were protected from civil or criminal liability. Further, security forces were immune from the law for killing members of the Rastafarian movement.
Tensions ran high between 1974 and 1981 and resulted in the death of three security force members and at least 21 Dreads. KaliHi’s own relative, Mal Esprit, was one of several Dreads who found refuge in the islands forests. He still lives a life close to nature in the heights of Belles.
“Right now with COVID-19, people are anxious and filled with fear and I feel that back in the 70s it was the same feeling. The reasons may have been different, but the fear was there. Fear of the present, fear of the future, fear of this new concept of Rasta, you know. I want people to watching the video to know that that is not permanent. Things will get better.”
The Act was amended in 1981 as the Prevention of Terrorism Temporary provisions Act with the repeal of the Dread Act included in Section 18 of the new legislation.
In between the newspaper clippings, local Tai Chi expert Bradley “Iwa” Guye adds a sense of calm and further personifies the progressive theme. Kalihi also shares childhood photos showing himself with his parents at home in Campbell.
He shares, “apart from the broad message I also wanted to touch people on a more personal message with the images of me as a child. Like look how far I have come. Its deeply personal and I hope to connect with them on that level. “
The video was shot by ProducerDlo (Dylan Lowe) of GloSho MultiMedia and Marketing who also produced the song, which is one of seven songs on the Better Days Riddim. This is not the first collaboration for these two. Dlo shot the videos for “Magnum Tonic Wine” and “Putting in the Work.” Both songs were produced by Arnaud DeChabert of CaveMuzik. Dlo also produced the songs “Wine and Come In” and Bartender.”
KaliHi promises several releases in 2020 and hopes to perform for fans before years end.