When: April 24th - 27th
Location: Festival Grounds
General Admission: $10.00
Donavan I-taweh Cunningham was born in the hills of St. Ann, Jamaica to Rupert and Ruby Cunningham. Like most successful artists, he comes from humble beginnings. Raised in the farming community of Prickly Pole, just a few miles from the home where Bob Marley grew in Nine Mile, he spent most of his childhood farming alongside his father and four siblings. As a young child he played music on handmade instruments crafted together from bamboo and sardine tins, only getting the chance to try out proper instruments in church when someone with a real guitar would finally set it down. Realizing her brother's love for music, his sister with combined efforts from their mother, saved her money to buy him his first guitar. For high school he moved from the country to St. Ann's Bay, where he lived on the same street as Burning Spear, and enlisted in the Ocho Rios High School band. They came second in the All Schools Competition in Kingston, giving him the confidence to move to the city to pursue music.
It was his move to Kingston in 1992 that began his musical career. Rarely seen without carrying his guitar, he was given the nickname Danny Gitz. Along with the name, his skill and reputation as an outstanding guitarist began to grow. During the early nineties the legendary Sugar Minott took him under his wing where he eventually became Sugar's band leader. I-taweh attributes Sugar to making him the musician he is today- "Sugar was like a father to me. He was the roughest, but at the same time the kindest, sweetest person. On stage he would let you know in front of thousands of people if you were messing up, but at the same time when you had it he always let us know too and made you feel good. He had a real sense of pride in his music and he was the first real reggae star who as a youth made we feel we were good enough. No matter how good you are, if you don't get the chance to show it – what can you do? He was one of the first people who made me believe in myself as a serious musician."
In 1994 he became part of the band High Symbol and after a tour landed in Australia with them. It was in in Australia that I-taweh began singing lead vocals here and there, and gaining some confidence as a front man. In 1998 I-taweh became the youngest member of Count Ossie's original Nyabhingi group, Mystic Revelation of Rastafari. Until 2007 he extensively toured Europe with the group where they are well known for their traditional Jamaican folk music and workshops which they held at Universities. In France, he began collaboration with reggae group Broussai which led to studio sessions in hotel rooms and the beginnings of tracks that he later used on his first album Overload.
Not only was I-Taweh in demand for live performances, his incredible versatility and precision on guitar and bass kept him in high demand in the studio as well. During the 90's he recorded with artists such as: Sade, Capleton, Morgan Heritage, Sugar Minott, Luciano, Lenky Roy, and Iqulah.
It was with Everton Blender, as the guitarist for the Blend Dem Band, that he came to the U.S. during 2004. After the tour, he went on to be the bassist for the Yellow Wall Dub Squad, a major backing band for Jamaican artists in the U.S. Billed as Itawe and often referred to as the Reggae Lion, he quickly gained popularity as the singing bassist opening for artists such as Sister Carol, Prezident Brown, the Abyssinians, Yami Bolo, Half Pint, the Mighty Diamonds, and the Melodians.
In 2009, after 17 years of being a supporting musician, I-taweh took a hiatus from the road and began to pursue his solo album. In 2011 he released his independently composed, written, and produced first album named Overload under his own label Tap Nat MuziK. In December 2011 I-taweh performed songs from his debut release at his launch party at Wickie Wackie in Bull Bay, Jamaica, as part of a great journey through Jamaica's radio and media landscape. I-taweh formed the band the Reggae Lions for the launch event enlisting veterans Nambo Robinson on trombone along with Everton Gayle on saxophone and Time aka Count Ossie Jr. on percussion. Selections from the Overload album and the Overload single have received significant airplay on numerous stations in Jamaica and both have become a 2011-2012 hit, reaching #1 on the Hot 102 FM chart. In the U.S., the Overload album has been very well-received at traditional reggae radio, college and syndicated programs and was selected to be part of the Direct TV cable network's menu of reggae material where several songs are in regular rotation. There has been considerable attention at radio and TV for Overload and the song has become popular with people of all ages.
With his all-star band, the Reggae Lions, he is currently touring and captivating audiences all over the world with his moving lyrics, confident stage presence, and phenomenal talent. I-taweh's unique and original sound comes from his Jamaican roots influence combined with inspirations from his travels abroad. His music is diverse and reflects his passion for Human Rights and Social Justice. Whether performing acoustic guitar with a stand- up bass, or with his full ten piece band, he is quickly winning the hearts of his listeners everywhere and continuously leaves his audience wanting more!