It started as a few lines in a collaborative project bringing together seven artists for the Stop the Bleeding campaign. It became a personal mantra and the title of a new album by Crucian reggae singer Mada Nile.
Nile was excited when she talked Wednesday about her new album, “Dream Big” which she said should be available for purchase by Saturday. “Dream Big” is her fourth album, and in it she encourages listeners to be positive in the face of adversity.
“Right now, not just on this island but in the world, we’re suffering,” she said. The economy, political intolerance, health care and other issues require people to dream big. “We have to dream big, to think outside the box.”
Mada Nile is the stage name of Mariesha Maynard, who began singing in junior high school, then turned professional about a dozen years ago. In stateside appearances she has drawn favorable comparison to some of the elite of the reggae world.
A year ago she took part in a collaborative effort to sing out against the rise of violence in the community. She was teamed with Rena Faith, Pressure, TSR, Elijah Vegas and Verse Simmonds. The song, “Believe,” encourages young people to find ways they can positively affect the community.
“We wanted to send a positive message,” Nile said. “There’s nothing you cannot achieve if you believe in yourself.”
Faith has the biggest part on the song and the accompanying video, but it is Nile’s contribution in the last minute of the song that really stands out.
Dream big, never small, even when your back against the wall.
Dream big, never small, sometime you got to stand tall.
The “Dream Big” refrain was an instant hit and soon Nile was hearing her words all over – not just on local radio but from friends and on the street.
“My two kids are in a lot of sports and sometimes when we show up at the games, the whole bleachers start singing it,” she said.
She said it dawned on her that maybe that was the universe’s way of telling her she wasn’t done with that phrase, with that idea.
“It’s like I don’t have a choice.”
So she wrote a song around the concept and that became the title song of the new album, which she aimed for a June release to inspire local high school graduates.
“Dream Big” contains 13 songs, all of which Nile wrote. It was produced and recorded locally, using a lot of Crucian musicians, mixing them to get different flavors.
The album will be available at Riddims Music in Christiansted, Galloway Music at Sunny Isle, and probably at other venues on the island, though she didn’t have complete plans available. The album will also be available online at the iTunes store, she added.
Meanwhile, she is looking forward to a release party, but her fans will have to be patient. July is a busy month for musical events in the territory and she didn’t want to butt heads with any other musicians. So she and her management are looking for a date in August to celebrate the release of the album.
“This summer has a lot of events going on, and there are only so many promoters,” Nile said. “I don’t think we should be competing with each other if we can help it.”
She is also looking ahead to a tour to support the album, having just returned from a performance on Tortola in the British Virgin Islands. She has performed in the states fairly often, with a performance at the Sierra Nevada Music Festival after which critics compared her to legendary reggae artists Queen Africa and Queen Omega. Another tour, the Roots V.I. Reggae tour included 14 dates all up and down the California coast.
For this album, she’s hoping to be able to “cross the water” and arrange some performances in the United Kingdom, France and maybe Brazil.
Touring is difficult for a mother, but her children are getting older now – her son is 14 and daughter 12 – "They’re not babies," she said with a laugh.
If you only see her in performance, you get an impression of this giant figure, striding the stage, dominating, in total control. But then she comes offstage and you suddenly realize she’s diminutive, not taller than 5 feet 4 inches, and quiet spoken. She’s at a loss to explain how she does that.
“It’s the crowd, the feedback, the energy I receive from the crowd,” she said after taking a couple of stabs at describing what performing is like. “When I’m up there I’m like in my own zone with nothing but energy. It’s just feeling out of this world … to be able to open your mouth and actually make people cry, or make people get up and dance, or get up and want to change the world. Nothing can really explain the feeling when I’m up on the stage.”