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Jason Bishop - Transformed by Truth

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by Natasha Coker-Jones

guitar resized
Jason Bishop                                                                      Photo by Anson Stone

Jason Bishop is strumming a different tune these days. Two years ago the talented young guitarist who has played for big name soca stars like Faye Ann Lyons and Naya George, converted to Christianity and is now getting ready to release his debut album entitled, Transformed by Truth on December 4 at Christmas Village, San Fernando.

When UpstreamMagazine.com caught up with Bishop, 31, he was winding up a guitar tutorial in the training room of the First Church of the Open Bible, San Fernando. He’s been teaching beginners and intermediates for a year now, together with his friend and fellow musician Dennison Stone. Two classes are held at the church and another two at Grand Bazaar. Dressed in T-Shirt and Jeans, he summons the group together and dismisses them in prayer. This is the new Jason Bishop.

Just over two years ago, Bishop, with his signature dreadlocks, had achieved a measure of success that many musicians would’ve envied. He was playing professionally for one of T&T’s top soca bands and was living comfortably off his talent. Not bad for a country boy from Chatham, Cedros. At nine, Bishop took up his first pair of sticks and experimented with the sweet sound of the steelpan, his first instrument. Five years later, in Secondary school, his interest veered away from the steelpan and he began his new tryst with the African drum. Best Village, a national inter-community cultural competition, was just what he needed to develop his musical skills. Ironically, it was while drumming in best village that he discovered the mystique of the strings.

“That’s when I met Joey Rivers and saw him play. The sound of the guitar is what really captivated me.” Joseph “Joey” Rivers, former guitarist with Xtatik, is counted among this country’s most celebrated guitarists. Rivers invited Bishop to his home and taught him to play. That he had achieved a level of competence was evident when Bishop was invited to play alongside his mentor in Joey’s band titled Rhythm & Mood.

Through practice and dedication Bishop grew in skill and would actively seek out every opportunity to learn from and play with the best. His first guitar was actually a parting gift from his father when his parents split up. Bishop was 11. His mother, who he describes as “the strongest woman in the world,” raised Bishop, his brother and two sisters singlehandedly. But it was only after becoming involved in Best Village and meeting Joey that he fully appreciated the stringed treasure.  

Bishop later linked up with a family-based band called Deep Impact playing mainly in bars around the Point Fortin area. Their repertoire included Baron, Krosfyah, and Machel Montano — anything popular. “At the time music was it for us. I used to sleep over and practice. The band thing was a dream. That was life at the time.” Back then it wasn’t unusual to receive $20 after a hard night of playing.

As fate would have it, Naya George discovered the group and propositioned three of its members to join a newly formed soca band which would have as its drawing card: Naya George, Iwer George’s brother and Faye Ann Lyons, Super Blue’s daughter. The band was called Invasion.

invasion resized
 

“We decided to invade Port of Spain,” he said with a smile. “That was her (Faye Ann’s) dream. That’s where the name came from. Faye Ann really came up with the name.” The band took off. Soon they were on the line-up for all the big name fetes. And for Carnival 2002 they struck gold.

Naya George’s 'Trinidad' was a runaway hit, copping him the coveted Road March title that year. A year later Faye Ann bought the band more bragging rights with 'Display' a second Road March win. That year, Bishop toured with Invasion for Labour Day celebrations in New York and estimates that he would have played in well over 20 parties before moving on to the next big Carnivals event.

Needless to say, “The money got better,” Bishop recalls with a grin. But despite the band’s achievements, he was not at peace.

“I knew that the passion I had for guitar—my joy was not really playing in a soca band,” he confessed. “I would find myself playing and getting emotional about what I was playing and I couldn’t get to do that in the soca band.”  He never grew up in church, but “always loved positive things” and innately knew that his talent was a “gift from God.” In his search for the positive he gravitated to Rapso and occasionally played for Rapso artiste, Shakeela. It was around that time that he met Marge Blackman, daughter of the late Ras Shorty I.

“[Marge] had an album called Songs for the Womb and she wanted me to play for that launch,” he said. “[The Blackmans] weren’t prejudice in terms of their belief; in terms of Christianity. They just find I could play and Christian or not they allowed me to play for that launch. That’s when I met Isaac.” After the launch, Isaac asked Bishop to continue to play for Love Circle. “Again, it sounded positive. I fall in love, I said ‘yeah I could do this’. I didn’t understand anything about Christianity, about being saved or baptised or anything like that.”

Soon he was straddling two worlds. “I was playing with Isaac and still playing with Invasion at the same time. I was on the soca stage jumping up, drinking, partying and also playing with Love Circle, spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” But without realising it, the Gospel had won. “I actually got closer to God because of the songs and the Psalms I played. Then I decided ‘You know what, I have to make a choice. I can’t do both.’ My love for God started to grow.”

Bishop decided to quit the band. He told his fellow band members that he couldn’t play music in parties anymore. ‘Physically, I just couldn’t do it. My last show I played with Invasion, I plugged in my guitar and I see people drunk and waving and throwing beer on this one and pushing that one and winin’ up on this one and I was like ‘I know what it feels like to play for God now. I don’t want to do this again’.  I just couldn’t play. My hand just couldn’t move. The drummer pelt me with the sticks.” He shook his head at the memory.

“I told Naya George ‘sorry but I can’t do this again.’ I have nothing against the band. We were close eh; we went through real thing as a band. I kind of walked out on the band, but they understand that I was lost. They would see that. They would tell me ‘like this thing really serious boy.’ ‘Like yuh really don’t want to be in this thing again boy.’” 

After that Bishop “zoned in” to the Love Circle and often slept in the band room. But something was still amiss. “I felt like if there was something else I had to do to make things right with God. I can’t just jump in the scene just so. I didn’t know what it was.”

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Comments

2012-08-06
Ashton baksh

The bestest choice ever made bro
2012-07-13
Shelly - Marie Benjamin

God truely keeps you for his purpose..It is truely a blessing to see a young man with the Passion for God's work..May God continuely to bless and keep you..
2012-06-10
Melissa Phillip

Be it Christian or non Christian,..Amazing Grace has kept you, and was looking over you all along,...and praise to Jesus that you have made the choice to turn to him. This testimony is really a blessing, and I pray that others would read this and get to know who is this Awesome God that we serve. God is Great and Greatly to be Praised. Music of this world last for a short period,..but music unto God,...lives for eternity.
2010-12-26
Ronnie Bennett

I'm bless by what God has done for you Bishop.May you continue to grow in Him.
2010-08-12
Dexter Mitchell

God is Great, Keep strumming for His Glory and Honour
2010-04-14
Denzil Ramdass

this man is soooooooooooooooooo humble, continue to spread the gospel Jase, continue as well to b an inspiration to those around you!!!
2010-03-16
Ivy Bishop-St Ange

What an amazing God we serve! The Father has chosen you to serve in His plans and for His good pleasure. He will continue to perfect the good work He started in your life. I can't wait to see how it unfolds. Jason your work is annointed. Peace and blessings to you.
2010-02-10
Joseph "Joey" Rivers

Jason boy, I am really proud and truly moved and inspired. Congrats and feel free to call on me anytime.
2010-02-09
Alicia

It is amazing how God works, all He requires is our will, and He will mould and shape us according to His plans. Trust in God with all your might, He is worthy to be praised!
2010-02-09
Denrica

Everytime I hear storis like this it encourages me that those within my sphre can also come to know the love that is found in Christ alone.
2010-01-10
Julie Crosby

There is NOTHING GOD CANNOT DO.INDEED WE SERVE A TRUE AND LIVING GOD.
2009-12-13
samuel chrysostom

God is a transformer of mind and soul,keep trusting and He will direct thy path.God's blessing to you brother,and may his name be glorified.
2009-12-10
karen

karen Dwarika many are call but few are choosen , and you are one of the choosen one's stay bless always
2009-12-07
Darryl Bodkin

Wow! powerful article. powerful testimony. Thanks upstream! I trust God to keep brother bishop and to enlarge his borders. Darryl Bodkin
2009-11-30
Joanne Noel

We shall know the truth and the truth will make us free. Jason's testimony is going to be a catalyst to transform many lives in the entertainment industry. There are people hungry for truth, but not brave enough to step into it... Bless you Jason.
2009-11-30
Louise Poy Wing

I hear you play every week and especially at Growth Conference this year.Wow,You truly have an annointing from the Lord.
2009-11-21
Maria Diaz

Wowwwww! Isnt God Great!! Great things he has done.
2009-11-17
Euline Peters

Good choice Jason, I am proud of you guy. Don't ever stop serving the Lord.
2009-11-16
Maurice Jones

Hearty congrats to Jason. God bless

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