A DJ and poet was saved by music. Now he’s repaying the favour.

Gav Pauze is a reggae DJ
Steve Topple

A DJ and poet had his life effectively saved by what is one of the world’s most important music genres: reggae. Now he’s repaying the favour, and quickly turning into one of the freshest faces on the scene.

A ‘Unique Mix’

Gav Pauze is a DJ and poet. Having been a vinyl DJ for many years, he’s made a name for himself as the founder of online roots reggae show the “Unique Reggae Mix”, via PauzeRadio. It’s becoming a must-listen in the world of reggae. Pauze spins some of the freshest and most challenging roots/revival tracks going.

Roots/revival reggae is a subgenre, which focuses on ‘conscious’ music – discussing politics and social issues through challenging lyrics and often ingenious production.

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But Pauze is much more than just a DJ. He runs an online record shop, and he’s also a published poet. The Canary caught up with him to talk reggae, the mainstream media, and capitalism.

Reggae: piquing his interest

Pauze’s interest in reggae began at the age of 15. He recalls hearing M Beat and General Levy’s jungle/ragga track Incredible being played on the radio, and it immediately piqued his attention. It was a “big influence” in his developing love for jungle/reggae. Artists like Buju Banton and Dub Judah also influenced Pauze. But as he told The Canary, his DJing began as more of a hobby:

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I first started spinning records around 1995 at the same time I was introduced to Buju Banton’s ‘Mr Mention’ album. Over the years of DJing I had started collecting reggae vinyl on the side… Sometimes I’d play reggae in the clubs and house parties, at the beginning of a jungle set. Or I’d mix the two genres, as they fitted perfectly together – reggae hugely influenced the creation of jungle. Sometimes I’d play an all reggae set in the chill out room or at the end of a night at a house party. Living in the Midlands at the time, there was a vibrant jungle and reggae scene. On top of that, the student scene was incredible. This meant there where lots of house parties and events going on every day of the week.

Gav Pauze Image Two

A devastating accident

In 2004, Pauze had a BMX accident that left him with serious neck, shoulder, and back injuries. The accident left his brain seriously injured, but it went undiagnosed. Pauze now lives with PTSD and post-concussion syndrome. You can read more about his accident here.

It changed his life forever, both physically and psychologically. It also set him on the path that led him to where he is today. Because while drugs and therapy did little, through reggae he found healing and support in his recovery from the accident. He says it helped him so much, he became “entrenched” in it:

I started collecting more roots reggae and edging away a little from jungle. As well as hanging round with a local reggae DJ and sometimes featuring in his radio show. I was learning as much as I could about the genre. There was so much to learn and it was very daunting. The local DJ was more into dancehall but had a really large collection of vinyl and CDs of all different types of genres under the reggae umbrella. Then in 2006, I was offered my own slot on a local pirate radio station.

So, I had a choice. I could go down the dancehall route or explore the roots side. And I chose to explore the roots. It let me give back to the genre that had given so much healing to I by showcasing it in the time I was given on the radio.

Pauze for Thought 

Pauze’s recovery has been about a lot more than just reggae. He’s also an accomplished poet, with his second book, Pauze for Thought, being his standout work. It’s a wonderfully accessible collection of poetry, interlaced with some stunning urban photography. Pauze covers topics including capitalism’s endless wars, meditation, religion, and mental health. But the overriding themes of Pauze for Thought are ones of positivity, self-determination, and blessings for what we have; all the while tinted with karma. Pauze’s words are designed to be of solace for a reader with a low heart and mind. But they also come with a large dose of inspiration, too:

The idea for ‘Pauze for Thought’… was heavily influenced by the music works I do with reggae and again were used as a healing tool. Knowing the power of the lyrics and the benefits it has given me, when writing the poetry I knew that being positive, uplifting and sharing life experiences I had been through was the way forward. I always say the two are closely linked, as if it wasn’t for the music works, I am not sure that the poetry would have been born, especially the way that I write it, as all my words in the poetry can be naturally fitted to beats and are designed to resonate and vibrate with the reader.

So many words…

There’s a telling section on the back cover of Pauze for Thought, which says:

Words…

Swimming in words…

So many spoken,

So few heard,

Even fewer lead us

To pauze… for thought.

It’s hauntingly accurate, particularly in an age of instant fame via shows like The X Factor. Often the industry dismisses music with any real meaning. It prefers a polished smile, a tabloid ‘journey’, and the latest, mind-numbing production.

Gav Pauze doing a DJ set

A roots revival

This is where Pauze’s conscious work, both as a DJ and a poet, are bang up-to-date. Because the roots/revival reggae scene has seen a resurgence of late; not least this year – with a flurry of conscious artists releasing albums and touring. From Kabaka Pyramid’s Kontraband to Protoje’s A Matter of Time, reggae has made a marked return for listeners who like their music a bit ‘deep’. But Pauze is quick to note that in the UK, we’re a bit slower on the uptake:

There has been a huge resurgence over the last five years especially. I have noticed it; slowly it has been creeping up, especially here in the UK. But it has happened quicker on a worldwide scale. I just think that the UK has been a bit slow on the uptake.

It’s not exactly new, the underlining tone to it has always been there. But in the 11 years I have been working in the roots scene, the current progress is very satisfying to witness. I feel some of it was aided by veteran artists like Sizzla, crossing over. Artists like him and Capleton, amongst many others, really set the path for some of the newer artists that are coming through now like Kabaka, Protoje and Chronixx.

The thing is though, there are so many really good roots artists that are flying the flag for the genre, old and new, UK and abroad. It’s not just solely Jamaican artists that are representing! But only a few ever get the spotlight, especially in the UK – that is something I would like to see change.

The capitalist doctrine…

There’s probably good reason why much of the mainstream press in the UK generally ignores reggae; specifically roots/revival. Take Pyramid’s debut album Kontraband. A lot of the content on it deals with anti-capitalist themes, something that he’s dealt with in the past. There’s the call to Africans to “keep hope alive” against Western powers and internal corruption on Africans Arise, and Natural Woman‘s message of rejecting capitalist norms. Pyramid is musically and spiritually pushing back against the might of individualised globalisation.

… and the mainstream media

With this, and other artists like Chronixx and Natty in mind, Pauze thinks it’s fairly obvious why the ‘MSM’ largely ignore roots/revival reggae:

The capitalist system here is failing on a massive scale. It’s on it’s last legs. So teaching the people about it and raising the awareness, further empowers us. It leads us towards making a change. Not only in the system but also the ruling class – the so-called elite.

The uplifting powers and positive life messages that roots reggae contains… is seen as a threat to the current pecking order; one that has governed the UK for centuries. They want to keep the people in check. The current ruling class are extremely scared of change and people being uplifted. Therefore I feel that not giving roots the airtime and space it deserves is just another way to keep the people down; trapped in a system that is only working for small number of already incredibly rich people.

The music cannot be stopped though. This is evident with the resurgence it has made, especially here in the UK. The growth and age range of people I meet that love the works I do, tells its own story: that the music will continue to keep expanding, until the mainstream media really has no choice but to start supporting the genre more.

Gav Pauze Image One

Reggae: strength and power

Pauze’s radio show perfectly encapsulates the resurgence in roots/revival reggae. Out fortnightly on a Thursday, it’s a potent mix of both established and up-and-coming roots/revival reggae artists. You also get some insightful and intuitive talk from Pauze. But what shines through, from both the show and when speaking to him, is Pauze’s love of the music. He’s clear just why reggae is so special for him:

The healing powers that reggae has bought to my life sets the genre firmly in stone as being extremely special on a personal level. When I first started the Unique Reggae Mix Show, it was a tool to help my healing. It still does help me too. But I also know that it helps many others that listen to it, as the feedback I get tells its own story. The message in the music, the education it gives and also the strength and power it holds lyrically and musically will always set the genre apart from any other in my life.

Just pauze

Gav Pauze is quite a man. From tragedy to triumph; from emptiness to fulfilment, he’s been through a real ‘journey’ – and not of the X Factor kind. Steadfast by his side throughout this has been his main love: reggae. His deep appreciation, understanding and affection for the music shines through, and is infectious and enviable at the same time.

If, on a Sunday, you have a moment – you too should really ‘pauze’ for thought – and let him guide you through one of the most exciting musical periods in modern history.

Get Involved!

Listen to Pauze’s radio show, browse the archive, buy Pauze for Thought and find out more about him.

Featured image and additional images via Gav Pauze and DJ Nights Photography

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