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Jazz Fest: Exco Levi

“You have to displace yourself and follow the drumbeat of your heart,” says the Canadian reggae king.

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F or one of Canada's most decorated reggae musicians, it's all about singing for the people. "Reggae music—all the music that we do—we sing songs of unification and liberation," says Exco Levi, the stage name of Wayne Ford Levi.

Born in Jamaica, the musician is now based out of Brampton, Ontario and is coming to Halifax Jazz Festival with his High Priest band. He's won five Junos—including four in consecutive years, 2012-15—but that success hasn't changed the way he approaches his craft. "For me, it's no pressure because our message is the same...of liberation, of the freedom and togetherness."

A constant in his music is an upbeat vibe even while tackling subject matter that could easily steer the sound in a different direction. This includes songs that talk about violence or on "Bleaching Shop," the controversy of bleaching skin.

"I think it's an in-born concept," says Levi of how he draws positivity. "I think life is on a scale of negative and positive so you have to displace yourself and follow the drumbeat of your heart. For myself...the positive path is always more highlighted when it comes to Exco Levi."

This will be the first Halifax visit for the reggae king, and chances are he'll leave an impression on those who see him perform at the Marquee Ballroom. The audience can expect a show that's educational, from a band that knows a thing or two about the importance of having a good time.

"I hope they come to my show and leave with a blessing, leave learning something, getting to understand what we are all about," says Levi. "We have to incorporate the good times also with the message, the message of liberation, with the struggle, with the message of togetherness and balance it with good times. That's what we're doing."

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