Multi-talented is the most apt way to describe Francois Sonny Meraki Clarke. He is the leader of Tuk Revolution Barbados, a cultural entertainment group, a skilled trumpeter, guitarist and a songwriter and budding producer. However, by far, his most impressive tool is his voice. The 30-year-old vocalist has a distinctively calming quality which easily captivates his audience.
The father of a three-year-old son told Bajan Vibes that his musicianship was honed at church and through performances at school.
“I’ve always been into music from a young age. I’ve been performing on the music scene since the age of 17. I started out performing as a trumpeter in a calypso tent band.”
With a keen interest in science, the musician toyed with the idea of being a Marine Biologist on completion of his studies at the University of the West Indies. However, an interest in aviation saw him pursuing a career as an Air Traffic Controller.
Though he always had a love for music, he was unsure of where that passion would lead him.
“Initially, it just gradually evolved from school and calypso tent days without any true direction… but within the last few years I started to seriously pursue performing and production as a career.”
The artiste explained how he came up with his stage name. “Sonny was the nickname of my late grandfather. He was one of the few remaining guitar builders in the country. Meraki means to do something with so much creativity and passion, thereby leaving a piece of your soul within your creation.” That is exactly what he does every time he hits the stage.
Music is an integral part of his life. “Music has definitely helped to keep me on a healthier path in life, allowed me to connect with others and opened up travel opportunities.”
However, it has not been without its challenges. One of the major problems he has encountered is trying to secure enough funds for equipment and studio recording. But he perseveres because this is where his passion lies.
Sonny Meraki is effortlessly unique with a keen ability to make a classic tune his own. The singer can capably put his own spin on any genre. Whether it is a well-known hit like John Holt’s Love I Can Feel, Bob Marley’s Redemption Song or even John King’s How Many More, the performer adds his signature touch in some videos on his Instagram page.
There are certain components that he wants his music to possess. It must be soulful, inspiring, extremely diverse and most importantly, must have a positive message. These shape his approach to songwriting.
“I take inspiration from my own life experiences, societal or global situations. I wish I could contribute to the beauty of nature and more. It’s always a blessing when you have a chance to help others. I like to think of my music more as a tool to affect the masses positively: highlighting and encouraging the positives.”
Sonny admitted that the scope of what music can inspire is vast. “It’s a good feeling when your music resonates with someone and they personally tell you that your music helped to calm them or lift them up. Knowing that my art has that effect on people helps to keep me going.”
The artiste credits international stars Sizzla Kalonji, Amy Winehouse, and Chronixx with being his major musical influences. There is a long list of talented musicians that he would love to work with. If he has his way, his two top contenders to collaborate with are Alix Cage and Kalead; he considers them super talented individuals.
The performer has some plans on the horizon. “If all goes well, I’d like to release at least one or two singles within the next six months.” One of which, Never Stray, is one of his favourite songs from his own repertoire. “I love the simplicity and the message within.”
While every performance is special, he recalled: “One of my more recent fondest musical memories would have to be an hour-long performance at the Frank Collymore Hall Sunset Concert in August 2019. Being on stage with a full live band is what I live for!”
Though the restrictions on gathering have placed a crimp in his performance opportunities, he has adapted and was one of the featured performers in the Reggae in Ya House series hosted by fellow performer Peach Bless.
“COVID has significantly affected my income as a performer. However, I have been channelling my energy into other projects, including producing original music from home.”
Being a successful entertainer is an ongoing process so Sonny Meraki advises budding artistes: “Treat practice and gaining more knowledge like breathing – a daily must. Take time to research and understand the business side including the copyright and royalties aspects of the industry.”
He added: “Above all, never let money be your sole motivation. We are merely channels of the music, which in itself is a higher phenomenon. We need more music, which will help guide people or help them to look within more. Use it as a vehicle for change, upliftment and overall spread of good vibes!” (STT)