Donavan ‘I-taweh’ Cunningham was born in the lush rolling hills of St. Ann, Jamaica, the same parish where the great Marcus Garvey, Burning Spear, and Bob Marley all rise from . Like many successful artists, he came from humble beginnings. He was raised in the farming community known as Prickly Pole just a few miles from the childhood home of Bob Marley. I-taweh spent most of his early years farming alongside his father and four siblings, and it was there as a young child he learned to play music on handmade instruments crafted from bamboo and sardine tins.
Realizing her brother’s love for music, his sister with combined efforts from their mother, saved enough money to buy his first guitar. When it was time to attend high school, he moved from the countryside to St. Ann’s Bay, where he lived on the same street as Burning Spear and enlisted in the Ocho Rios High School band. After coming in second in the All Schools Music Competition, I-taweh gained confidence that led him to move to Kingston to pursue his love of music.
It was his move to Kingston in 1992 that jump-started his musical career. Living between the communities of Mall Road, Grants Pen, Portmore, and Duhaney Park, I-taweh found comfort in the ghetto at the Community Center of the Mystic Revelation of Rastafari. The community center was extremely influential for his music and his mission, where he was amongst some of the greatest musicians in the industry including Dizzy Johnny Moore, Earl Chinna Smith, Nambo Robinson, and Bongo Herman. During this time he was rarely seen without his guitar, and was given the nickname Danny Gitz. Along with the name, his skill and reputation as a musician began to grow, and the legendary Sugar Minott took him under his wing as his guitarist and harmony singer. I-taweh toured with Sugar until he passed in 2010.
In 1998, he became the youngest member of Count Ossie’s original group, Mystic Revelation of Rastafari, Jamaica’s most influential Nyahbinghi and Cultural group. With Brother Sam Clayton as the leader, they toured Europe with them extensively until 2007, presentin traditional Jamaican music and educational workshops. While in France, he collaborated with the reggae group, Broussai, which led to recording sessions for tracks later used on his album “Overload”.
Not only was I-taweh in demand for live performances, his incredible versatility and precision on guitar, vocals and bass kept him busy in the recording studios. As the guitarist for Everton Blender’s band Blend Dem, he traveled to the U.S.A. and went on to work as the bassist for the Yellow Wall Dub Squad, a major backing band for Jamaican artists in the U.S.A. He quickly gained popularity opening for artists such as Sister Carol, Prezident Brown, the Abyssinians, Yami Bolo, Half Pint, the Mighty Diamonds, the Melodians, and many more.
In 2009, after 17 years of being a supporting musician, I-taweh took a hiatus from the road, and in 2011 he began his own singing career. He independently composed, produced, and launched his debut album “Overload” under his label Tap Nat Muzik. Selections from the Overload album have received significant airplay on stations in Jamaica. The single “Overload” was a 2011-2012 hit, reaching #1 on the Hot 102 FM chart. In the U.S.A. the album has been very well-received at traditional reggae radio, college and syndicated programs. Overload was selected as part of the Direct TV cable network’s menu of reggae for regular rotation. Overload has become popular with people of all ages, and continues to be a cultural anthem for the struggle of liberation.
I-taweh released his second album, Judgement, in Kinston, Jamaica in February 2017. The single, Never Fade Away, and the album charted on Jamaica’s Top Ten Reggae Charts. Following the release, I-taweh was one of seven international reggae acts chosen to showcase their talent at one of the largest music industry conventions in the world, the South by Southwest (SXSW) music conference in Austin, Texas. He was invited to perform at he historical Nelson Family’s Arlyn Studio, for an intimate Tribute To The Legends, where he shared the stage with the legendary Billie Joe Shaver and Marcia Ball.
I-taweh took his solo acoustic act to Europe and the UK in the fall of 2017 where he captivated audiences with his moving lyrics, confident stage presence, and phenomenal talent. His unique and original sound stems from his authentic Jamaican roots combined with inspirations from expansive travels abroad. His music is diverse, reflecting his passion for human rights and social justice. Whether performing acoustic guitar, or with his full band, he wins the hearts of listeners everywhere, continuously leaving his audience wanting more.
I-taweh released a new single, No Mediocre Vibe, in June 2018, and in October he released a tribute single, called Danger Zone, in honor of his elder, Brother Sam Clayton. Another great single from his upcoming album, Rolling Stone, was released in November 2018. Make sure you don’t miss a chance to see and listen to I-taweh, and watch out for his upcoming third album scheduled to release in January 2020!