Determine, known to some as “Meshak”, is a world renowned reggae artist hailing from the small but captivating island of Jamaica. Born Rohan Bennett on March 4th, 1972 in Annotto Bay, a town in the eastern parish of St. Mary. Determine’s love for music developed from a very early age. Ever since he was a kid he would recite songs by old school music greats such as Kenny Rogers, Micheal Jackson, Debarge and much much more. He was drawn to music from all genres by their various rhythms and melodies regardless of whether or not he could even understand the lyrics. It was during his childhood years in grade school where his passion for the musical arts began to manifest into real life works. Determine credits his many school teachers for nurturing his natural aptitude for writing and literature. He spent countless hours in the classroom writing and reading material on various subjects. Over time, his escritory talents transcended into poems and song lyrics that would eventually develop into some of his greatest releases such as “Bloodshed”, “Brick pon Brick”, “Rise Up Youths” and countless others. He believes the diligence and devotion of his school to educating the youth is partly what made him into the excellent musician he is today.
As he progressed into adulthood, he never slowed down on honing in on his craft. He continued writing artistic works of all kinds. Adamant about continual self improvement, Determine would often head out to the local river back home in Jamaica as a youth for a peaceful backdrop to recite and perfect his music. So much so that the average person would think it is the story behind how he received his stage name. Actually, the name “Determine” came from a very popular weekly Television Jamaica (TVJ) program called “Sunday Matinee” which he watched all the time as a child. One particular Sunday while watching the program he stumbled upon a show about a love story featuring a man in pursuit of the woman that he loves. From the very beginning the man was on top of his game; courting her, spending time with her, trying to strengthen the bond between them, etc. These attempts, however, were seemingly to no avail due to the fact that the man was very poor, didn't have a car nor much else of monetary value to offer her. Despite his financial inhibitions, the man was very ambitious and humorous with a good heart. He never gave up hope of making that particular woman his. After some time the young man began to make some headway; his charm and charismatic energy grew on her. She started paying attention to him, noticing how helpful and caring he was. Over time she became more and more open to establishing a relationship with him. One day, the two of them met up and the woman said to the man “You ARE Mister Determine”. Since the man was present but not actually apparent in the scene where she said that line Rohan Bennett believed she was talking to him specifically. Filled with new found inspiration Determine felt compelled to tell his friends all about it. Although they were a bit frustrated at the frequency of his name changes, Determine’s friends were astonished at the power behind the name and how much it fit his aura. Needless to say, the name quickly stuck and would be the name he incorporated into his music and performances that would set the tone for his illustrious career.
The first big performance opportunity for Determine as a young developing artist quickly gaining in notoriety as well as proficiency in artistic expression was the highly anticipated border clash between the parishes of Portland and St.Mary. This event took place in the small coastal town of Buff Bay located in close proximity to the border that separates the parishes. It brought out the best of the best in DJ emcees from all over the island, especially the then music hub of Jamaica, Kingston, the capital city. Headlining some of the biggest names in the music industry of the late 80’s and 90’s such as “Roundhead”, “General B”, “Ninja Ford” and many more, it attracts Jamaican music enthusiasts from all over, domestic and abroad. Determine was ecstatic to know so much talent was coming virtually to his own backyard. He couldn't wait for all the already established artists on the lineup to see him, an adolescent black boy from out the church, graced with the opportunity to showcase his talent on the big stage.
As the day of the border clash arrived, Determine was initially quite excited to perform, but quickly became nervous when witnessing the high caliber of talent from the other contestants in the competition. His anxiety grew to be quite noticeable to where a good friend of his named “Kegzman” had to ask if he was okay. Admittedly very nervous indeed, Determine came clean to his compadre about how he was feeling and Kegzman was able to comfort him. He rolled a special spliff for Determine and reassured him of how talented he was and what he came to this event to do. This spliff calmed the nerves of Determine and put him in a state of zen allowing him to focus on the original task at hand, executing an amazing performance for the audience and all those tuning in. When his turn finally arrived Determine stole the show, performing four tracks that captivated the audience immediately presenting himself as a major threat to the other competitors. So much so that other members of the St.Mary team wanted to clash with him. Even main acts such as “Dugzy Ranks” , originally scheduled just to perform after all the contestants did their stints, wanted a piece of this new young name Determine as well.
As the event was coming to a close, promoters and organizers began rushing Determine asking for more time to record him in action. They were offering to pay Determine a portion of the proceeds of the sales from all the content they were recording from the event itself. Ultimately, team St.Mary won the clash and Determine was the only one out of all the contestants to get a check from the production staff. Elated, Determine walked 30+ miles all the way back to his parish St.Mary very proud of the fact that he was able to put his community Annotto Bay on the map. Aside from the unexpected payout from the competition, Determine also gained the respect and recognition from other already well established artists in attendance which led to future collaborations and performances opportunities throughout Jamaica and beyond.
To keep the momentum going, Determined truly lived up to his name by his devotion to improving upon his craft. He continued to diversify his delivery and draw inspiration from his colleagues like “Shabba Ranks” and “Beenie Man”. This set the tone for his career. He was able to find his niche musically and truly began cultivating the right components for executing an authentic representation of himself through music. Determine is all about being true to who he is. Ultimately, with his music he is trying to convey the importance of creative and individualistic expression of oneself. He believes we as humans are all stars since birth so we should all strive to be a first rate version of ourselves rather than a second rate version of anyone else.
The unwavering commitment to authenticity and creativity is what propelled Determine the legendary status that he has reached today. It also led him to producing some of the well known classics we all grew to know and love. His music has reached virtually every corner of the globe. His social presence is great as well with his works accumulating immense quantities of views. Even in his legendary status, Determine continues to evolve as an artist and is very determined to spread his message of love, authenticity, creativity and self expression. It is without a doubt that Determine a.k.a Meshak is a positive symbol in the music scene that will remain in the mesmerized hearts of his audience for now and many generations to come.