BYSean P. Feeny
Next month a group of Hip Hop artists from the North West will be taking to the streets of Letterkenny and Derry to distribute 10,000 leaflets in a campaign to educate young people about the dangers of drug abuse.
The leaflets entitled The Truth about Drugs will be distributed by the members of The Special Branch in the lead up to their first concert in Letterkenny on October 6.
The campaign is spearheaded by the group’s founder, Kristian Shortt, son of Frank Shortt who was wrongfully convicted of allowing the sale of drugs in his nightclub back in the early 1990s and was subsequently imprisoned for three years in 1995.
Frank Shortt had his name cleared and he was vindicated in 2007. Earlier this year, Kristian published his father’s story entitled Abuse Of Power. Frank’s daughter Zabrina is another major player in bringing the drug education to Donegal along with Kristian.
Kristian suffered greatly from the resulting prejudice of his father’s case and miraculously survived two attempts on his life in 2008 and again in 2010.
In 2008 he was stabbed 17 times, his throat was cut and he was left for dead. Fortunately, Paramedics arrived on the scene within minutes to fight for his life.
Surgeons lost him twice on the operating table but Kristian pulled through despite all odds were stacked against him. Since the second attempt on his life in 2010 he exiled from Donegal.
He then made huge efforts to change around his life and turned to music, forming the The Special Branch this year and launching two debut albums in June.
Kristian, who goes by the artist name of Capulet, has put a lot of experiences from his personal life into his first album, Underground or Crowned: Political assaults.
He stresses, however, that any references to political corruption or An Garda Síochána is reserved only for the guilty parties and not towards the force as a whole.
“Why shall I stand back and be silent when it’s plain to see that change is so desperately needed and corruption should be exposed,” said Kristian.
His second debut album, The Night That Covers Me, has no political agenda and is more a show of his talent and diversity. Capulet’s aim with both albums, and no less than 33 songs, is to create not just feel good music but music which touched as much different human emotions as possible and reach all corners of society.
Other members of The Special Branch include Argonaut (25), originally from Milford, who made it to the All Ireland Karaoke finals with his talent for rapping; Miss Montague, a young singer from Letterkenny also known as Marli Kerr, who has an incredible singing voice.
The final member is Chubbz, originally from Grimsby, England, John ‘Chubbz’ Gibbins moved to Ireland with his mother when he was five years old. After injuring himself doing sports, Chubbz turned to rap after hearing Eminem and honed his talent further.
Just recently Kristian, Zabrina and members of his group distributed 3,500 leaflets around Letterkenny to passersby and into businesses.
Kristian said: “The Group has even been in with the Gardaí to give them boxes of the leaflets to help with their efforts to stamp out drug addiction in the town.
“One garda told us that heroin has become popular in Donegal in recent years when it never had been before. This proves that something needs to be done about the drug scourge in Donegal and The Special Branch are rising up against it and actively making a difference.”
The Special Branch will be handing out these leaflets in Letterkenny and Derry on Saturday, October 6, before they perform in Letterkenny, at The Greenroom, Voodoo (10pm).
Helping them distribute the leaflets and supporting them on the night will be two Hip Hop artists from Derry called Brendy D Ace and Rick O’Shea.
Shortly after their Letterkenny gig The Special Branch are flying off to Los Angeles and will be meeting with executives of many record labels in the city with the focus on getting a record deal.
Kristian said: “Securing a record deal now is one of our most important objectives, not just to enhance the lives of our group members but also to become opinion leaders, to some degree, which then could act as a powerful stand-point in the fight against drugs.
“Drugs were responsible for ruining my life some years back as I was an addict, but also in the history of my family with regards to my father’s wrongful imprisonment. Drugs were the focal point of that entire struggle. How can I sit idly by and watch the lives of my fellow human beings be destroyed by this pestilence that is drugs.”