After years of gigging across Winnipeg’s many music venues, reggae outfit RasTamils is set to launch its debut full-length album.
"It’s been a long time and I’ve been waiting for this for a long time," said front man Franklin Fernando.
For half a decade the RasTamils have lit up local stages with their politically charged rhythm and soul records all the while working towards releasing an album. It wasn’t easy, Fernando said, but finally the pieces have come together with funding secured through Manitoba Film and Music.
"It wasn’t working out properly but none of us gave up and we were in a place where we were working from the ground up," Fernando, an Osborne Village local, said.
According to Fernando, the band’s debut album It’s a Dream is a manifestation of years of introspection and reflection on identity, conflict, and revolution. Growing up in Sri Lanka, Fernando, who is part Tamil and part Sinhalese, was aware of his nation’s civic conflict between the Tamil Tigers and the Sri Lankan government, but it wasn’t until he moved to Winnipeg in 2008 that his own identity would be cause for concern.
"I was pretty lost and everything was new to me culture-wise," Fernando explained. "I wasn’t knowing what to do and I was at a period of time where I was not myself."
While attending high school at Tec Voc, Fernando made sure not to reveal his cultural roots as advised by his mother.
"I feared a lot of discrimination if my friends around school knew I was part Tamil," he said.
Fernando’s struggles with identity and civil unrest found an outlet in music after meeting RasTamil’s co-founder and percussionist Martin Valach during a late-night drum circle on Canada Day in Osborne Village. The two bonded over their shared roots and decided to work towards change through music.
"He was actually teaching me to be inspired by myself, to be happy and to be proud to be Tamil," Fernando said, adding that taking up music has altered his direction in life.
"I feel a person is dead when they don’t know about their roots."
The RasTamils will launch the 11-track It’s a Dream at The Pyramid Cabaret on Sept. 26 before heading out on a Canadian tour. Joining them to celebrate the release are Ismaila Alfa, vocalist Keisha Booker, and Dr. Love.
Completing the RasTamils are Christian DeVoin on bass, J.R. Hill on lead guitar, Andy Castello on keyboards, Jeremy Rusu on keyboards, Matthew Walden on trumpet, and Janice Finlay on saxophone and flute.
For Fernando, the new record is his opportunity to share a bit about himself and his passions with Winnipeg, a community that helped shape him into the person he is today.
"It came from the heart," Fernando said. "When I started to learn about my culture, I felt like I had this opportunity in Canada and I have a chance to make a difference."
Tickets for the It’s a Dream album release party are $15 in advance or $20 at the door and are available at Music Trader (97 Osborne St.) or Into the Music (245 McDermot Ave.). Doors open at 8:30 p.m. Find RasTamils on Facebook for more information.