Dill wishes everyone a reggae Christmas

  • Clinarke Dill (Photograph supplied)
  • Clinarke Dill (Photograph supplied)

After making his way over a string of hurdles, Clinarke Dill put out a song. Appropriately for the time of year, it is a cover of Donny Hathaway’s much-loved 1970 classic, This Christmas.

Chronic vertigo stopped Clinarke from performing as much as he would have liked.

Flying also became tough for the Bermudian musician who moved to the UK 11 years ago. The constant dizziness associated with his condition kept him away from his beloved island.

And then came the news that his mother, Anita Dill, had suffered a stroke.

“One of my cousins texted and told me,” said Clinarke. “I was totally shocked. I haven’t been [back home] in over 5 years and I couldn’t fly because of my condition and, it’s a long flight. I prayed to God and asked the doctors what could I do because it was an emergency.”

Medication and a good travelling partner helped him endure the seven-hour journey in July.

“It was the worst time I’ve had in my life, but as soon as [my mother] saw me her spirits lifted one time,” he said. “Right now, I have to stay close to my mom. She needs a caregiver part time and so I have to stay until that is worked out.

“I said, since I have got to stay here I might as well see if I can ship my studio equipment to Bermuda. I finally found a company that was reasonable, set up my equipment and started working.”

This Christmas is the result of that effort. As the artist describes it, it’s a reggae version of the original song with “my own twist”.

“I said I should make this cultural and ended up doing [the sound of] Gombey drums for the intro,” he said. “My manager in the UK didn’t understand: ‘What’s this weird drumming?’ But Bermudians who know our culture think it’s good.”

It took him about two days to arrange the music. The entire project was completed in about a week. Of course, Bermuda gets a mention. The video was shot here and includes shots of Front Street, local beaches and a Gombey troupe.

Clinarke got his musical start as a child. He received his formal introduction through the piano lessons he received from his late father Wesley Dill, a choir director and lecturer at the Bermuda College.

He later started “fooling around with drums”.

“There was always music in our house,” Clinarke said. “My mom used to sing as well — she was in the Seventh-day Adventist choir and would play piano and organ.”

In the early 1980s he started a band in his garage called Youth Creation.

“We did our first performance at Bernard Park on Labour Day in ’84,” he said. “It was great. We were teenagers just coming out of high school and had on dark shades and straw hats. Everybody was nervous at first, but the crowd response was great.”

Clinarke, who records under the name Clinark, “played reggae, soca and R&B for years” with various bands on the island and was often the opening act for overseas groups.

He noticed the first symptoms of vertigo in 2001. Doctors gave their diagnosis after he moved to London.

“I went to visit in 2004 because I did a song in Bermuda and it did really well in the UK,” he said.

“A music label there, Dread & Unity, said I should come [as did my] manager, Juliet Edwards. I went and they took me to a few studios. I loved the vibe so much I went over there to live.

“At first it was hard because it was a different culture, but I adapted to it easily. I prefer the cooler weather; it’s better for my condition, and I hooked up with [UK production team] Mafia & Fluxy.”

A series of concerts and recordings followed including a cover of The Jackson 5’s I’ll Be There. He also collaborated on projects with British singers Maxi Priest and Brinsley Forde, US reggae band Morgan Heritage and Jamaican artists Richie Spice, Luciano and Fantan Mojah.

“The Jackson 5 was my favourite group as a youngster,” he said. “One day I was fooling around with the song and my manager said I should record it. Mafia & Fluxy did the track for me. Michael Jackson was supposed to come to London that year and do a comeback tour and they were arranging for me to meet him, but sadly he passed away. A lot of fans said I should do a tribute album in reggae to him. At first I said no, but the following year, in 2010, I did my album, A Tribute to Michael Jackson, A Legend and A Warrior.”

He returned to Bermuda after the death of his sister Davon in 2011. “Since then, I haven’t been able to travel,” he said, explaining his five-year absence from the island.

“I used to come home for Cup Match and Christmas but with vertigo, it’s awful. Only very few people have it. It makes it hard for me to perform. It feels like I’m going to fall. I get faint, I get weak and I get palpitations. It’s a very scary thing.”

To supplement his income he started selling natural scented oils, Bob Marley memorabilia and Avon products. That is all now on hold while he helps his mother.

“I’m thrilled to be here for Christmas this year,” he said.

As for his playlist on Monday, Clinarke will “definitely put on the Jackson 5 Christmas Album and Jacob Miller’s Natty Christmas” as well as some traditional gospel songs and a bit of Motown.

Watch This Christmas here: Buy a copy on iTunes, CD Baby and Amazon.