Meet Demaro: The Jamaican Artist Ready to Take Over Dancehall
Being determined and fighting for the life you want takes on a new meaning when it becomes a matter of life and death. Jamaica, a country so beautiful, is still plagued by a hostile attitude towards the LGBTQ community. For Jamaican music artist Demaro, that meant moving to New York not only to chase a dream, but for survival.
We met up to talk more about his life in Jamaica and New York, and how he’s ready to take over the world of dancehall as a gay man and music artist.
Tell me a little about your upbringing.
I was born and raised in Jamaica and I moved here when I was 22 as a gay man that wanted a better life for himself. While I was here I discovered my love for fashion and started styling which led me to designing. I had my own clothing brand for a little minute and I got to work with a bunch of celebrities on projects, but I never got that real breakthrough.
What was life like in Jamaica? You left when you were 22 so you spent a lot of your life there.
I’ve always been into the arts. When I was there, Jamaica didn’t have arts school. It was either doing business or economics, but nothing that directs you to design. I’m from a small town in Jamaica...Westmoreland. For me to pursue the arts I had to move here. It was nice growing up there - a lot of farm and agriculture.
Let’s talk about what life is like for gay people in Jamaica. I know they’re not as accepting as people are here.
Well to be honest, looking back it was so crazy because trying to find other people that are gay back there is dangerous. We have our way of getting around. There’s our chat lines and it’s usually friends of friends who know friends. That was the go-to. You could try to pick someone up in the streets. Someone might give you a look and you may give them a look back, but you had to be careful, you know? Basically all the gays knew each other and it was dangerous to meet someone new. It was a lot of friends linking up.
Wow, that sounds like a lot to navigate. Do you think gay people in America take life for granted?
You don’t have rights as a gay man in Jamaica. The LGBTQ community...the police don't protect us. The stigma is already there in Jamaica. They think you should basically die. To move here and see people live their lives so freely, I was in awe. At first, to be honest, I remember I went to Splash. As crazy as it sounds I remember thinking, all these men can’t be gay. I had never seen that many gay men in one place living their lives, but I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. As a human, you just want to have your basic rights and be yourself. When I saw that I was just like, yea, this is where I belong.
For someone just knowing and having the idea of me being gay, I was attacked. Fortunately I was one of the lucky ones that was able to...it was bad, but it wasn’t that bad. I was able to move on from that, but I still have the trauma from it. My friend lives in Montego Bay in Jamaica and we were riding a public bus and this guy came and called us out. There was a scuffle between him and my friend. We were able to get away before it escalated.
I’m glad you were able to move past that. Let’s talk about life here in New York and how it is being able to fully express yourself.
Moving here for me was for survival. I had to get used to how everything was done. When I first moved here I was styling which led me to designing. I was styling for Francis Henry and discovered my love for designing. Francis Henry has worked with everyone from June Ambrose to Usher. There was a point where I fell on hard times and I became homeless. I had depression and anxiety, but I wanted something better for myself. I went to therapy and I remember 6 months later I just felt that I wanted to turn the page and start my next chapter. I started writing and I wrote this song called, ‘We Killing It.’ It was about me taking control of my life. It’s following up to my second single, ‘Mi Readi’ and I’m at a point where I’ve fully accepted myself as a gay man.
Let’s talk about your new single, ‘Mi Ready.’ I know you’re excited about it and shooting a music video for it soon.
I was hiding a lot of myself and the song is about accepting where I am right now presently. I’m going in! I remember sitting with my therapist and saying I was ready to take my life to the next level. ‘Mi Readi’ is about putting myself in the forefront as an LGBTQ artist. It’s all or nothing. It’s a dancehall song over this afro-caribbean beat. It’s about me going after my dreams.
How would you describe your music? What influences it?
I have a bit of dancehall, afrobeats, soca, hip hop...there’s a bit of everything in there. It’s a fusion because I spent most of my adult life in New York and spent most of my younger years in Jamaica so it’s that gritty, New York edge with that Jamaican softness to it. Living here in New York, I’m influenced by so many different cultures. I want to show people from Jamaica that the community has a voice, we have to stand up, and we are here.
Who are some of your favorite artists?
I love, love, love Bob Marley. His message speaks truth and upliftment of the whole human race. Beyonce of course! Jennifer Lopez, creativity-wise. Jimmy Cliff!
What would you want to say to other queer artists of color, especially in Jamaica?
Go after your dreams and keep it moving. Fight for what you want!