Words by Jesse Serwer
Jonathan Emile is a longtime resident of Montreal, Canada, but his heart lies in Jamaica, where he grew up in idyllic Savanna-la-Mar, Westmoreland. The video for “Moses,” the second single from his sophomore album Spaces In Between, sees the singer, songwriter, actor and cancer survivor return to his roots for some stunning visuals to accompany the track’s poignant blend of folk and gospel.
“‘Moses’ is a song about faith as much as it is about redemption,” Emile says of the track, which follows the release of the album’s first single, “Savanna,” last month. “I honestly can’t even remember composing the song. I was playing acoustic guitar and it poured out of me at an emotional time when I was trying to organize thoughts. The song took on a new dimension after my uncle passed away in Jamaica. He was a Rasta, he gave back to the youth of the community, lead a peaceful life, but he was ultimately a victim of senseless violence. His passing had a deep impact on my family.”
“Moses” is built on a simple chord structure written as a folk gospel, country-influenced hymn. “Country and gospel both have a great presence in Jamaican music and culture. Many Jamaicans who grew up in the ’50s and ‘60s know every hymn and every country song, so exploring the decades of reggae music on Spaces In Between, I wanted to touch on this important connection.”
While the song is weighty enough in its own right, the intimate, naturalistic visuals of Jamaican youth in their element add further heft to the “Moses” video. “For the album, I want every video to reveal a different side of Jamaica,” Emile says. “Shooting this video was sobering and a learning experience. We flew director Jonathan Tremblay and director of photography Martin Bouchard to Jamaica with only a rough treatment of what we wanted the video to look like. The whole crew spent time listening and discussing the song. The concept evolved into a moving portrait of youth in Jamaica — they will be the leaders and yet they still need to be led. Ultimately, the video and song are less about the past and more about the future. I see Jamaica as an example of human perseverance, pride and promise despite all of the poverty in the wake of persecution.”
Watch the video exclusively here. “Moses” is out now on all streaming services.