Jabari Browne was born for the stage – literally.
Last weekend, at the Franklyn Collymore Hall, Browne was the first male act to sing on the female-dominated Honey Jam stage.
Born from a family of talented vocalists such as Carolyn James-Leacock, Ricardo Leacock, Stephen Leacock and ‘orange-haired Bajan songbird’ Nikita, Browne grew up harmonizing with his family as they gathered to celebrate Christmas or a bank holiday.
Their musical influence helped to hone his skill, but it was his initial interaction with choir director of the Coleridge & Parry Voices, Marlon Legall, which solidified his love for music. Browne revealed that during his senior year at the Ashton Hall, St Peter institution Legall approached him during lunch and urged him to sing a song. Prior to that, Browne reserved his singing for at home with his family and had little confidence in his vocal abilities. Eventually, every lunch he found himself in the school auditorium asking Legall for assistance.
“I found every lunch time I used to go back to Marlon in the hall where he would play. If it wasn’t for meeting him and him encouraging me to be my own type of singer, I [wouldn’t have] learned I don’t have to sing like my songbird sister Nikita but I could sing for Jabari,” Browne told Bajan Vibes.
Browne revealed that before Marlon Legall suggested he take up singing, he had no interests, goals or ambitions.
“I honestly used to try so hard in my academic life… but it just would not work. I just felt like it was a stage of feeling unhappy. I felt this wasn’t me,” Browne commented.
Although he enjoyed singing, he left secondary school unsure what to do with life and then Janelle Headley of Operation Triple Threat changed his spirit completely. He tagged along with his cousin to audition for OTT and got selected.
“The spirit was like ‘Jabari I think you should go the audition’. I didn’t know what the hell was a monologue at the time so my monologue was a rap from Earl Sweatshirt and my song was a random song that I did acoustic,” he recalled.
For four years he was faithfully involved in the performing arts academy, performing in works such as The Wiz and Into the Woods. Through the academy, he was also given the opportunity to go to New York for auditions.
He also acted as Kermit in Alison Sealy Smith’s 2016 Bajan musical, Mirror Mirror. Not only did he create the character for the play, but he produced the song… for the musical.
On December 8th, he will also lead Handel’s Caribbean Messiah produced by the 1688 Collective’s Dr Stefan Walcott.
“Dr Stephen Walcott is the one person who always believes in me no matter what I try. Every time he would see that [I’m] going wrong with something he would tell me ‘that ain’t working, try it this way’,” Browne explained.
The multi-talented performer shared that he wishes to become a l legend like cultural ambassador Dr Anthony Gabby Carter and imprint his name on Barbados’ creative sector.
“I’m just taking it one step at a time. The spirit moves within me and tells me exactly where my direction should be. My sister used to tell me trust the process and don’t give up because if you don’t believe in yourself, nobody is going to believe in you,” he continued.