HESTON / Heston Mixtape

I’m no expert on pop. Indeed, I kind of have an instinctive disdain for most pop music because of the high degree of commodification inherent in how pop music is made. The crass pursuit of trying hard to produce a hit. But that’s my bias, and I admit my disinclination to take pop music seriously.

Nevertheless when I hear likable music like this I recognize I am responding to sounds that for the most part I would normally totally ignore. Heston is from the small Caribbean nation of Dominica where as a youngster he heard a mélange of American pop on the limited radio available there.

Heston recalls, “My musical influences are a wide range simply because as a child growing up in Dominica, I was exposed to so many different styles. We had one, maybe two radio stations and they would play all kinds of music from Lionel Richie to Paul McCartney, so there is a little of everything in me. Sunday night’s concert will be a sum of all that’s made my sound what it is today, which is eclectic with a heavy influence from the best of ’70s soul music with a singer/songwriter approach."

A first listen evokes vintage Maxwell, a closer listen reveals deep Marvin Gaye influences in the way he sings, Smokey Robinson in the way the lyrics are written, and pre-Talking Book Stevie in how the music is put together, plus of course all the Caribbean-rhythm influences and subtle harmonic touches, all riding on an acoustic sound of live music.

My man is a self-taught musician, who writes his music on guitar and singing along with himself. Heston is really a soul artist who was born out of place and out of time, or as he notes: “Musically I just wanted to get back to what the Marvin’s and the Smokey’s and the Stevie’s did. Which was to bring musicians into a room and capture the essence of a song, instead of finding contrived, producer-driven tracks to write to - which is something I’m not a fan of at all. You know, I do need the live instrumentation. Because to me sometimes the errors in live music make it what it SHOULD be! The timing mistakes you can make, or being able to intro or outro a song... That’s all stuff that you can’t really capture as much when you’re programming music. And, in order for me to breathe lyrically and musically, I just couldn’t do it any other way!”

His songwriting approach is to focus mainly on the pop focus on the ups, downs, ins and outs of romantic love but one of his major influences being Marvin Gaye on “Good Morning America,” my man also directly addresses the affects of war on young men.

Heston has a big problem in that he is out of step with the prevailing trends in popular music. Although is music seems like it would be an easy sell in the industry, the reality is exactly the opposite. Where is the sexy image, the banging boom-bap, the slightly twisted lyrics? How in the world can this thirty-something working class looking singer/songwriter compete with pierced and tatted youngsters with weird hairdos and video game references? So what’s a man to do?

What has always advanced the music is musicians doing whatever they had to do in order to do whatever they wanted to do. In Heston’s case, it meant he had to literally produce his own music on his own record label.

On this point, my man is articulate when he opines: “Well, one thing I’ve always said is that I always want to be proud of the music I’m putting out. Making timeless music is the most important thing to me, and I’m not gonna sell myself out to some major-label A&R guy to end up making music that I’m ashamed of! And so I ended up HAVING to put my music out on my own! I didn’t have a choice, because - except for maybe my mom and a close friend who thought I could sing and write well - no-one else believed in me enough to finance it! But, though no-one else at the time thought it was worth the investment, after putting it out myself I did end up getting a surprising amount of attention. And, while so far the Worldsoul label has just been an outlet for own music, eventually I do wanna write more for other artists and produce other people’s records. So, if I do find something I feel is worth investing in, I’d love to eventually expand the label so I can release other artists’ material through it too,”

Maybe Heston will make it, maybe he won’t. Regardless he has produced real music, honest music from his heart, and that’s what lifts him past the majority of pop music. He has talent, he has vision, and he has worked hard at developing both an approach and a sound. You might call it pop music for mature adults.

—Kalamu ya Salaam


Heston Mixtape Playlist

Special Edition

01 “If”


02 “Distant Lover” 03 “Your Perfume” 04 “Radio” 05 “Feel Like Dancing (feat. Yahzarah)” 06 “Good Morning America”

 07 “Like Sunshine”

08 “Songbirds”    

Warm Human Cold World

09 “Greatest Lover” 10 “You”

11 “Crazy”

12 “Right Here”

13 “Lonely In My Room”

14 “Oh La La”


This entry was posted on Monday, April 16th, 2012 at 5:26 pm and is filed under Contemporary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

2 Responses to “HESTON / Heston Mixtape”

Cissie Says:
April 27th, 2012 at 11:40 am

Hi Kalamu!

I just sort of stumbled onto your website today, quite by accident, but what a happy accident, indeed! I love the Johnny Dyani mix tape. What albums are the recordings from? Also, Heston is fantastic. Will go on Amazon and purchase his work right now. Thank you for all of the new musical input! Love it all. Cissie

Charles Says:
May 1st, 2012 at 6:48 pm

Hello Kalamu,

I had never heard of Mr. Dyani and Heston, well, I discovered him by accident. Thank you for positing and positing. Keep up the great work.



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