What’s a kid without cable to do?
Adwela Dawes was faced with this conundrum growing up in Culpeper, Virginia. He was raised by his grandparents, who didn’t have cable television. He had to find other ways to entertain himself: his grandmother’s piano and a collection of educational books.
“It was a curse then, but it’s such a weapon now,” Dawes says.
Dawes will perform with his roots reggae band Adwela and the Uprising at Tellus360 Saturday.
Dawes used his expanded vocabulary from reading dictionaries, encyclopedias and college textbooks to impress friends and win lunch money in rap battles at school.
His friends remembered him for it, even after he moved to York to work as an offensive coordinator for the York Capitals of the American Indoor Football League. He studied history in college and recorded music with friends, but largely focused on football.
Dawes got a call from an old friend in 2013. The friend dared him to enter a talent show in Culpeper with a $1,000 prize.
“I was like, I can sing a little bit,” Dawes says. “It’s Culpeper. How much talent could there possibly be?”
A lot, it turns out.
“I’ve never been so underprepared for anything in my life,” Dawes says. “There were real musicians. There were people down there with real talent.”
He performed an acoustic song in the first round, and found a backing band for the semifinals. Dawes didn’t place in the finals, but he was voted a fan favorite.
Dawes was pleased with his run, and was content to return to York and continue his work with the Capitals. But, his phone kept ringing with offers for gigs from people who saw him in the talent show.
“I was like, you know what, there might be something I should pursue,” Dawes says.
At the end of the football season, he moved back to Culpeper to give the music thing a solid shot.
He’s cycled through a few members, but the band’s other vocalist, Rockei Henry, has been with Dawes since the group’s inception.
Adwela and the Uprising played more than 100 shows last year. The band released its first album, “The Road Less Traveled,” Feb. 3.
The band’s sound is distinctly roots reggae, drawing influence from Bob and Damian Marley, Peter Tosh and Jacob Miller.
The sound was born from Dawes’ lifelong connection to reggae music. Of Jamaican descent, he remembers hearing the music often while visiting family members in Jamaica and at home in Virginia.
“That’s my first love as far as music, because that was my first influence and stuff I was introduced to from birth,” Dawes says.
He considers what he performs as “message music,” spreading positivity and starting conversations about real issues. That’s where he has a problem with the term “reggae” being slapped on bands who sing lyrics about partying over an island sound.
“To me, honestly, it isn’t so much about the style as it is the content,” Dawes says.
Dawes believes “message music” is more important now than ever.
“It’s got to be a weapon against the hatred and racism and division that’s going on in the world,” Dawes says.
Although he’s no longer coaching football, Dawes says he still uses aspects of his competitive sports life — like team building — in leading a band. But he knows he can’t address a group of musicians the same way he would a rowdy football team.
“I’ve learned to tread lighter than I would being a football coach,” Dawes says.
Now that he’s devoted himself to music full time, all Dawes wants is to be able to say he gave the band a solid shot.
“We have jumped off the porch and made a leap of faith and said we were going to do this,” Dawes says. “The 9 to 5 will always be there. I can always go back to coaching. I can always go back to teaching. I can always go back to just digging a ditch if I need to. It will always be there.”