Rondel Holder: Using his talent positively

The multi-talented Rondel ‘Disi’ Holder is a spoken word poet, rapper and conscience singer who has been singing since he was a child and uses his music to sell the message of his faith and to engineer positive change.

The young artiste released his mixed tape ‘Thoughts and Things’ in collaboration with AJ Records back in April of this year.

“I started singing since I was five years old,” the rapper shared with The Scene.

“My aunts were migrating and we were on our way to the airport in a bus. R Kelly’s ‘I Believe I Could Fly’ came on and I was singing and my grandma heard and at that point she was shocked and said ‘you can sing!’ We have singers in the family but she was surprised because I was only five at the time. She told my mom later that I could sing and my mom being a church-goer steered me into singing in church,” was how he described the start of his singing career.

From singing in church, Rondel went on to singing in the school choir while a pupil of the Sacred Heart Primary School. Later, when he passed his Common Entrance Examination and secured a place at the Bishops’ High he sang in school concerts for many years. His passion for music evolved and he took to the rap genre and by second form he had written lyrics for his first song. That one song was his launching pad as he then wrote a song every week.

“At that time I used to like to listen to Flame and the Lecrae [both Christian rappers]. I wasn’t shy in letting my friends know I liked music. They were the ones who introduced me to Flame and Lecrae and Eminem and Drake but although I admired their [Eminem and Drake] skill as rappers I never really liked the content. I preferred more conscience music,” Rondel said.

Performing at different school and church concerts prepared Rondel for bigger concerts but when he finally got on the big stage it was learning experience even though his ‘greenness’ was a source of mirth for others.

“My first major concert was in 2012 at Thirst Park. A friend of mine was performing and he wanted me to back him up as we had co-written the song together. I remember I was about to get onstage and I saw the speakers facing me and I turned to my friend and asked him why the speakers were turned to me instead of the crowd and he replied, ‘Those aren’t speakers, they’re monitors. They allow you to hear your vocals’. They laughed at me, [his friend] and the band members but I didn’t mind; I learnt something. But when I got onstage I was literally shaking in my boots; my knees were knocking together. The good thing though was I couldn’t see the audience since the lights were on us,” Rondel shared. He did manage to pull it off, he said, and this one concert led to bigger ones.

As memorable as that moment is for him there is another that beats that. “My most memorable moment would be having the opportunity to open for Richie Righteous [Christian hip hop pioneer, born in Guyana and raised in Queens, NY] two nights in a row while he was here in Guyana. He’s a very well-known Christian rapper and to know that he asked for me to open for him is nothing short of amazing,” the young artiste said with obvious pride.

For Rondel—as it is for many other local artistes—getting people to respect his craft to a point where they pay for his music is challenging. “I’m a rapper in a country that thrives on everything else but rap. Not many people are willing to buy but I’m grateful for the folks that do.”

As it relates to local artistes like himself he added, “Local artistes don’t have the support they need. Firstly, there is no copyright protection here. Secondly the radio hardly plays any Guyanese music…. We have some very good artistes in our nation with music that’s on par with the rest of the world. Finally, the public doesn’t fully understand what it means to ‘embrace their own’ with regard to music. I guess this why the first response to hearing my music for the first time is, ‘This ain’t sound local at all!’ and not ‘This is really good music. Where can I buy your CD?”

He boasts that his music always has a positive vibe and promises to make sure it remains that way. Being a member of the Church of God of Prophecy, Rondel seeks to share God the best way possible. “I just want people to know that the best thing you could do in life, is live for Jesus. I know it sounds corny and ‘uncool’ but it’s true! When you understand the ways of the creator and what he requires of you, your life is given direction. Many people in this life are searching for answers to many questions but don’t want to admit that all answers reside in Christ Jesus, the risen Lord and King… So why wouldn’t you wanna live your life for Him?”

Meantime, Rondel said being an artiste has bettered and beneftted him in a number of ways. For one he has become more exposed to the different cultures of people. Music, he said, also helped him to understand people and has helped him to improve in his penmanship.

“The best part [of being onstage] is the people; they make the experience worthwhile. When they cheer and clap and dance… as you share your art with them… that there is the best.”

Though he has quite a number of fans already he says his two all-time favourites are his grandparents. Although they may not feel his kind of music they still listen and critique and they’re the ones who help to cover a lot of his expenses just so he can pursue his dream; a dream he hopes will take him on tours worldwide in a few years’ time.

But it is not just music for him as he has not given up on his academic pursuits and is currently a final year student at the University of Guyana pursuing a degree in Medical Technology.

Apart from his music, writing and university Rondel also loves playing basketball. He shared that at one point he dreamt of making it to the NBA as he cracked up. Added to this he enjoys watching Anime (the general name for Japanese cartoons) and “How I Met Your Mother”.

Since his release of ‘Thoughts and Things’ Rondel has been back in the studio working along Paradigm Recording Studios on a brand new album which is scheduled to be released sometime next year.

Rondel is expected to be performing this Saturday at ‘The Way Up’ concert at the Cliff Anderson Sports Hall Tarmac at 4 pm. Tickets are $1,000 and can be picked up at Kester D’s Gospel Music Centre on Charlotte Street.

For a sneak peek into ‘Thoughts and Things’ check out his songs ‘Cast Yuh Cares’, ‘Flow’ and ‘Hallucinating’ on YouTube. You can also find him on Facebook as Rondel Disi Holder or on Twitter: @gyrapperdisi or IG: @gyrapperdisi

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