Style Observer

Sharine Taylor — Reclaiming Jamaica's narrative with BASHY magazine

Sunday, July 15, 2018

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Despite producing some of the world's most talented athletes, musicians, actors, chefs, authors and fashion models, Jamaica is still viewed myopically by many people across the world. Instead of being seen as a complete culture with global impact, the people who write about The Rock speak about it with a singularity that is either reggae or jerk or beaches or strife. Having agency over our own narrative has been a part of post-colonial discourse for ages. Yet, the struggle continues. That's why Toronto-based Sharine Taylor decided to launch a magazine that embodies “the outspoken and unruly spirit of Jamaica's ancestors”.

BASHY magazine “aspires to speak to the millennial Jamaican: the one who is bold and is unafraid to stand in their truth”. While reading for a degree in Media Studies at the University of Toronto, Taylor had a class on Jamaican sound systems. “I didn't know that there was space in academia for Jamaica's cultural production,” said Taylor speaking with the Style Observer from Toronto. “The degree was theory-heavy but in my third year it became more practical and it was out of this practical aspect that I got the idea for BASHY.

After a gestation period that included a role as editor-in-chief of a campus newspaper, BASHY was born.

BASHY's first issue, “The Beginning”, features Protoje on the cover, contains moving personal essays, travelogue-worthy photography and articles that show the complexity of being Jamaican. One piece discusses the paradox of being a Jamaican vegan. Another, 'The First Independence', explores how Maroons are “an island within an island” because their history “isn't recorded in the same way that everyone else's is.” BASHY puts “how Jamaica is understood back into the hands of Jamaican creatives, writers, photographers and content creators”.

The quarterly publication is currently comprised of 11 editors and a coterie of well-travelled freelance writers. Each member of the BASHY family has a Jamaican in his/her lineage; however, the magazine enjoys a wide cross-section of readers. The world of print media is not cheap and, as a result, Taylor supports the business with monthly donations received via Patreon (a website that connects patrons with artists and creators) and magazine sales.

Print is however only one aspect of the BASHY experience. The publication recently launched its digital food vertical 'Nyammin' in order to “give some gravitas to the food we interact with every day”. It partnered with Noisey ( Vice magazine's music authority) to produce a play list that's available on SoundCloud, Spotify and Apple Music.

From her regular trips to Jamaica, Taylor mounted a photo exhibit depicting the rich and colourful daily life of Jamaicans. From the Half-Way-Tree bus terminus to late-night eats from the pan chicken man, Taylor's photos show the depth and variedness of Jamaican life, as well as the similarities that Kingston shares with Toronto.

When asked about her wildest dreams for BASHY ,Taylor responds, “To diversify Canadian media to the point that it can't ignore the fact that Jamaicans are a large part of Canada's tapestry.” The first mainstream evidence of this Jamaican influence was Snow's Informer. More recently, Canadian reggae band Magic! had one begrudgingly humming Rude. And the notorious Champagne Papi (Drake) has hip Toronto millennials using “man dem” in daily parlance.

Sharine Taylor wants to see to BASHY offices in Toronto and Kingston. She has big plans. She's a serious cultural advocate and wants BASHY to be “a major competitor in the space of producing digital and print content aimed at millennials”.

BASHY's aspiration is to a first-rate product that has global appeal where “we are writing our own history”. And, if SO is judging by the magazine's first issue, it's well on its way to accomplishing just that.

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