Ricardo McCalla: From dancehall act to promising preacher

Ricardo McCalla was on the cusp of ‘getting a buss’, the Jamaican slang for breaking into the music industry as an entertainer. Many young Jamaicans, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, see this as a route out of poverty and into wealth and fame. But underneath the glitter there is often a life of drugs, violence and lewd living.

At 20 years of age McCalla, then known by his street name ‘Bling’, was the rising dancehall star of Skibo, a deep rural community in Portland, Jamaica.

“Our community is a very poor community, people hardly go out to work. They can barely read, they can barely provide for their families,” says McCalla.

Skibo was thought unlikely to produce anyone noteworthy, so the community was proud of their budding entertainer though he was poor and barely literate himself.

In 2002 he was poised to make a big career move — he was going to start recording his first album. The recording was scheduled for a Monday, and the Saturday night before that he threw himself into his performance at a stage show.

Aside from dancehall, there was another persistent influence in McCalla’s life. His mother, an Adventist, warned him about what she saw as a wild lifestyle and encouraged him to attend church. He did attend occasionally, but had no intention of being baptised. Still, his mother’s influence did help him feel a need for Christ.

He left the stage show that Saturday night drunk. He collapsed into bed but woke up Sunday morning under the bed with no idea how he got there. Badly hung over and vomiting, he overheard his mother praying.

“God, you gave me this boy but I cannot manage him. Take him Jesus,” she prayed.

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