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Nathan Sabanayagam



For over two decades, Nathan Sabanayagam has been on a self-guided reggae journey that has taken him around the world, working with the original architects of reggae music as a drummer, producer, and engineer. Nathan began his reggae career in Baltimore, MD, while attending Loyola College. He drummed for keyboardist Joe Cooper, who introduced him to the legendary drummer, Winston Grennan. Nathan was eager to absorb as much as he could from Winston. Extended drum lessons were reinforced by trips to Brooklyn for rehearsals and recording sessions. 

After graduating with a degree in Chemistry, Nathan took a job as a systems developer in Chicago. Again, he hopped on the reggae train, moving walking distance from the famous Wild Hare Nightclub. Boasting live reggae seven nights a week, the Wild Hare was owned by Ethiopian Reggae band Dallol (Ziggy Marley). Within one week of moving to Chicago, Nathan secured a residency with Melaku and the African Elements. In 2000, Melaku brought Nathan to Ethiopia to perform, record and tour.

Upon his return, Nathan was accepted to Berklee College of Music. Ready to pursue music full time, Nathan left his day job and the Wild Hare to move to Boston. At Berklee, Nathan earned an Achievement Scholarship and graduated Cum Laude with a degree in Music Synthesis. He was the first drummer in the Bob Marley ensemble led by Professor Matt Jenson. 

After Berklee, the call to Jamaica was strong. Through the connections he made at school, he began a 6-year commute from Boston to Kingston. 

In Kingston, master guitarist/producer Earl "Chinna'' Smith recruited Nathan to upgrade his home studio. It was here that Nathan produced, recorded, and drummed for some of Jamaica's finest musicians, including Aston "Family Man" Barrett, Jackie Jackson, Leroy "Horsemouth" Wallace, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Lyn, Stephen Stewart as well as the late Winston "Bopee" Bowen, Johnny "Dizzy" Moore, Cedric Im Brooks and Lincoln "Style" Scott. Nathan also played shows with Ernest Ranglin, backing artists Pam Hall and Keisha Patterson. He also mixed live sound for the 12 Tribes of Israel's 40th Anniversary concert. 

Out of this invaluable experience was born Nathan's own independent record label Naya Records. Naya Records has released six full-length albums and a handful of singles, featuring both young and veteran artists from JA and abroad, including Big Youth, Johnny Clarke, Ken Boothe, Bob Andy, Luciano, Micah Shemiah, Sarah Brindell, and Toussaint. Nathan also produced, mixed, and drummed for VP Records, Megalith and PeaceTones. Recently, Nathan has teamed up with trombonist Alex Beram to revive Kings Highway, a horn-driven ensemble devoted to the education and performance of early Jamaican Roots music. Nathan is also the leader of Naya Rockers, an international backing band working with artists including Mikey General, Kiddus I, Andy Bassford, Tinga Stewart, Asadenaki Livingston, Addis Pablo, and Iba Mahr. In addition to running a long-standing reggae residency in Boston, Nathan has recently performed at Afro Pfingsten 2017 (Switzerland), Reggae Jam 2017 (Germany), and the High Sierra Music festival 2018 (California).

Nathan is a founding member of the March for Music Education. This organization engages musicians, record labels, management companies, and fans to support the next generation of musicians in Kingston, Jamaica. In 2019, MME raised $50,000 for scholarships at the legendary Alpha Institute (the birthplace of ska). In February 2020, they hosted a week of workshops and performances at Alpha, then brought 2 of their students and a teacher to Boston. The students toured Berklee and other schools, attended classes, interacted with students, and performed twice. The trip was a successful cultural and musical exchange. 

Most recently, Nathan was enlisted to play percussion on an all-star musical team led by Grammy award winner Stephen Marley and featuring other Grammy winners including Wyclef Jean, Melissa Etheridge, and Koffee, held at the One Love Hotel in Hollywood, at Bob Marley's 75th Birthday Bash, an Amazon Music Grammy celebration.

Nathan continues to carry on the traditions he has learned from the Jamaican and Ethiopian masters, passing them on to future generations and collaborating through music as a cultural ambassador.

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