Gospel reggae artist inspired by Dad
This Father’s Day will probably feel a little different for Raymond “Whopper Benz” Symonds. The gospel reggae artist lost his father, Raymond Symonds Sr, in April.
Although their relationship was not perfect, his dad was one of his biggest cheerleaders — especially when it came to his music.
“My dad isn’t here to celebrate Father’s Day with me for the first time, so I will think of him this Sunday and take a moment to appreciate the good times I had with him and all he did for me,” said Mr Symonds, whose album Lyrical and Spiritual was released this month.
“Still, Father’s Day will mean a lot to me because I will get to spend it with my own son [Raymond III] hopefully creating new memories with him.”
His dad was actually the inspiration behind Lyrical and Spiritual. According to Mr Symonds, he kept asking him to release more music and passed away just days before the album was completed.
“My father was very supportive of me and he just liked to show me off as his son and talk to other people about my songs,” the artist said. “Losing my dad taught me an important lesson: you can’t take life for granted. I never dreamt he was going to die before the album came out. In fact, I kept pushing the release date back.
“This has reminded me to keep in contact with family members when they are there because they may not be around the next moment.”
Mr Symonds started putting Lyrical and Spiritual together last December. The six tracks have one clear message: Jesus is the way.
“My relationship with Christ, that’s what I speak of and the root of this entire album is my relationship with Jesus,” he said. “I have one song on the album called Fearless, which lists a lot of common things people are afraid of, but it says with God on my side there’s nothing to fear.”
He describes the tune as “fresh” and “upbeat”, insisting it is nothing like traditional church music.
“I tell people it’s not your grandmother’s music. I’m not like gospel singers like Hezekiah Walker. I grew up listening to reggae music, so that’s what I sing. The only difference is my lyrics are about my faith.
“That’s why I call the album Lyrical and Spiritual. I’ve always been told I have a way with words from young, so this album I wanted to show my lyrical gift. But I didn’t want to just say anything, I wanted it to have spiritual meaning.”
Mr Symonds found his faith right before going to jail in 2007 for smuggling drugs into the island. He calls that turning point his “job experience”, causing him to lose everything before God was eventually able to build his life back up.
“I’m now a happily married man with a wonderful family and still actively involved in the church,” he said. “I got out of jail in April 2011 and have been walking upright for seven years now. I’m still committed to my music ministry and sing all over the island and go into schools to talk to students and to encourage young people to stay away from drugs.
“All I can say is I’m very blessed — I have a wonderful job at the hospital as a sterilisation technician — and I owe it all to God. I will never stop saying that. And that’s why I still sing for God and build up my relationship with Him daily and trust in Him.”
His advice to others going through a rough patch is not to give up. “No matter what your situation looks like, keep on trusting in God. No matter what the naysayers say or what others think, keep trusting in God because you will be rewarded for it. I’m living proof of that. I didn’t give up.”
Lyrical and Spiritual is available on iTunes. A limited number of hard copies are available at email@example.com. Raymond Symonds will perform on Monday at the Midland Heights Seventh-day Adventist Church Community Fun Day at Shelly Bay Field from 12.30pm until 6pm
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