RELICK: Electronic in the Dance: Alric and Boyd on Jamaica’s eclectic tastes

Since LargeUp posted a big ol’ feature on Alric and Boyd, I thought it might be a good idea to revisit a piece I wrote for the venerable UK zine No Ice Cream Sound  around this time last year. Alric and Boyd are a pile of fun to interview–and their music tastes are pretty fun too. Withut further ado, here’s “Electronic in the Dance”:

Alric and Boyd have a passion for music. They’ve produced dancehall and R&B, working recently with Jill Scott. They’re linked with Max Glazer’s Federation sound, crafting amazing mixtapes. But they really get animated when talking about doing remixes for Acid House creator DJ Pierre and the fact that Carl Cox is slated to perform in Barbados for the second Music Factory Pop, Dance and House Festival in May 2012. Alric and Boyd played the first edition in November 2011.

All in all, it’s been twenty years that Alric Anglin and Boyd James have been in the club scene and on radio, helping to bring electronic dance music to Jamaica. Describing themselves as a team, they’ve worked side by side since 1992. Djing since 88 and 84 respectively, however, they can chart just how house music and other electronic forms have been bubbling in the Jamaican scene. Yes, Boyd admits, “The scene is small, but it is there. There is an awareness.”

The prolific nature of reggae and dancehall production tends to obscure the fact that music lovers in Jamaica have significant variety in their musical diet. “We listen wide, not deep,” laughs Alric, in one sentence exploding any idealized view reggae lovers might have about the island and its music. “That’s where you find that we started to push the envelope with house music, with electronic dance music and found that there is a market.”

“Jamaican music is not just dancehall and reggae,” says Boyd, lowering his voice, “And I will tell you something that might be quite shocking. The UK reggae scene is way deeper than the Jamaican reggae scene.” The thing is, from the 1960s through to the 80s, a lot of reggae music was exported to the UK, because that’s where the money was. “We would get what you might call the ‘what left’,” laughs Boyd. The phenomenon can perhaps be linked to the fact that the Jamaican British population have been interested in music from home. For this reason, and also the fact that reggae music and dancehall was long looked down upon (not even used in tourist advertising until 1984), Jamaicans on the island tend to cultivate a varied taste in music. This has exposed non-Jamaican UK listeners to heaps of Jamaican music, but it has also allowed other types of music to flourish in Jamaica. One only has to look at the rapturous reception to Celine Dion at this year’s Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival to know that there’s a wide audience on the island for other types of music.

“We were always exposed to American and UK music, based on the influences on our culture,” says Boyd. After all, in the 1960s, 70s and 80s, it was mostly international music played on the radio in Jamaica. “It is in our DNA that we have an appreciation for country and western to classical to R&B to rock to hip hop.” Specifically, however, in 1981 there was a radio show on what is now FAME fm, then Capitol Stereo, called “Disco Mania”. “It was almost a five-hour radio show. It was the biggest thing for us,” recalls Boyd. The hits from that show trickled down into the party scene. Rae Town’s still-running party was founded in 1982, and showcased a lot of disco tunes—as it still does today.

Alric remembers sitting, listening with ear to the radio, to “Disco Mania” playing some of the underground sounds from New York. The radio show lasted ten years, and during that time Boyd ended up in New York, at NYU studying audio technology during the day and going out to now-legendary clubs from Studio 54 to Tunnel. He did an internship with Sly and Robbie, and then upon return to Jamaica, he began working with then-DJ Alric in 1992, and was able bring music to the table that was at the time unavailable in the Caribbean. “We started to develop a synergy and started to take off,” says Alric.

They’d drop the bass of pop tracks and introduce underground house and techno music gradually, making sure that the crowd wouldn’t lose interest. Almost like an inverted dubplate, Alric and Boyd would play with the riddim instead of the lyrics. And like all Jamaican selectors, they actively thought of the massive at all times, they were well aware of the fact that they needed to please: “If you can rock a Jamaican crowd, you’re a good DJ,” laughs Boyd, “In a night club where people are paying money, we had to keep the vibes. A DJs job is to convert and make memories. If you can’t remember what a DJ plays, you’re not a good DJ.”

Their radio show, aptly titled “The Edge” began in October of 1995 and took up where “Disco Mania” left off, Alric and Boyd playing the same format as they did in the club. “We went deeper into the house, deeper into the progressive,” says Boyd. “You would hear jungle, UK garage, 2 step, the new techno, hard house coming out of Germany, we were banging it,” continues Alric. But back in the 90s, there was no quick download of these tracks. Alric and Boyd needed to struggle and BUY these records. Sure, they got some promos, but they’d also get records from visiting DJs and vacationers who would come and play their house parties and club gigs. The show ran strong until April of 2009, when the pair moved on to other projects.

As for the place of Alric and Boyd’s favourite music in Jamaica today? “It still needs a kick. People who put on big parties here are afraid of electronic dance music because in the 80s and 90s it would come with a stigma—it was gay music of white people music or drug music. Now that it has blown sky high, I think they are trying to see how they can reintroduce it into the market.”

And how do they feel about folks like Bob Sinclair and Diplo who have come to Jamaica to draw on local music and enhance their electronic dance music productions? “Jamaicans can be close minded,” says Boyd, “But these people are introducing us to a new market, so don’t fight it. But there are pros and cons. There are producers who do come in and take. But the good side is exposure.”

And with festivals like the Barbados Music Factory receiving the blessing of London dance music stalwart Ministry of Sound, Alric and Boyd don’t think it’s unrealistic to think that there might be some potential for a bit of Ibiza in the Caribbean. After all, the region has the beautiful beaches and amazing weather. But, most importantly, a commitment to music that makes a crowd move. “It must have a vibes,” says Alric. Boyd nods in approval.

2012 in Reggae and Dancehall

In 2012 this annual roundup turned five-years old, but, more importantly, Jamaica turned 50. It perhaps wasn’t the year for brand new moves in Jamaican music, but rather time to freely rethink and review. Maybe that was the reason for so much throwback. Appreciation for Jamaican music has always required an interest in its foundations; relicking riddims and revisiting melodies is part and parcel of reggae and dancehall.

This year, however, the past was closer to the present. The 2010 images of Jamaica presented in Vanity Fair‘s November 2012 issue as present day reportage are easy to point to as misrepresentative of what’s actually going on right now in Kingston, but they also represent a time, but a couple short years ago, when dancehall seemed just a little more vibrant. There are still enough dances to keep Mutabaruka as annoyed in 2013 as he was in 2008, but the scene seems to have popped down a little. Heck, LargeUp even stated that 2012 was a year “where some might say soca surpassed dancehall as the Caribbean’s most vital music genre.”

I know many folks will point to Tommy Lee as an example of something new in the dance, but even though the man has earned celebrity status in JA, the Marilyn Manson makeup and demon image thing seem very 1999 (i.e. the year Manson’s The Dope Show entered the charts). Sure, “Shook” and “Psycho” are catchy tunes. But they hardly represent a new movement–I talked about the spooky strains of what I then called “cinematic dancehall” back in 2008, and Mr. Sparta doesn’t strick me as deviating too much from this model.

With Kartel still languishing in prison and Popcaan, though still cranking out tunes, not quite as hot as in 2011, it seems that there is some space for a non-dancehall type of newness (and niceness). Perhaps another example of everything old is new again, live roots reggae concerts have been occurring on the regular in Kingston. And bubbling throughout 2012 has been Chronixx, Kabaka Pyramid and a whole heap of young folk out there who seem interested in this live, organic sound of reggae–which is key in tapping into international markets for Jamaican music. After all, the Marley movie was released last year to darned-near universal rave reviews worldwide (including my own). It provided yet another reminder of the resonance of roots reggae.

Early in 2012, one of the sons of Bob, Damian Marley, spoke to students at the University of the West Indies. When asked what advice he’d give to upcoming artists, Marley didn’t mince words: “Make one drop reggae and sell it to Europeans.” Check the star students: Kabaka’s been to Europe and back already and Chronixx, hot off his successful Sting performance and mixtape produced by Major Lazer’s Walshy Fire, is set to take on Germany at the annual Reggae Jam festival this summer.

Perhaps it’s just that 2012 was so much about thinking through a whole 50 years of Jamaican music that it made concentrating on the contemporary difficult. After all, Beenie Man’s “Dweet Again” video (see above)–one of the best videos of the year–reaches back to the 90s. In mid-December, a casting call went out to any and all dancers familiar with the 90s for an upcoming Busy Signal video, so Beenie aint the only one interested in the past.

Speaking of Busy Signal, the deejay had quite the year. Arrested in July, imprisoned in the states, Busy was thankfully back in Jamaica in time to perform at Sting. Hopefully he’ll nah go a jail again in 2013. Buju is still jailed in Florida, but each week brings new news that might indicate good tidings for Mr. Myrie. In other prison news, Ninjaman was granted bail in March after three years. This does not bode well for Kartel. Ninja immediately began recording dubplates as well as a solid track with Kiprich, “The Don Gorgon is Back”. Alongside Ninjaman, Kippo won clashes with Merciless and Matterhorn at Sting. He wasn’t quite able to take down his partner in crime, but Ninjaman allowed him to take the title.

As for other musical moments that stood out in Jamaica this year, Quebec’s own Celine Dion kicked off 2012 with an appearance at the Jazz and Blues festival. She aint Jamaican, but she’s certainly dancehall. As I’ve written here in the past, the Rae Town Old Hits dance demonstrates that JA is in love with music that many foreign reggae aficionados might not expect. The complete, all-island freak out that met Celine is evidence of this. And, by the way, she was spectacular. Dropping knowledge of Jamaican food and chatting about the weather, she of the chest beating and multiple sparkly costumes dazzled the audience. Even Shaggy was impressed.

Seeing classic sounds like Bass Odyssey, Swatch, Stone Love and Rennaissance set up at the national stadium in February was a highlight of Reggae Month. Then, in April, after a year’s hiatus, Irish and Chin put on their World Clash event (they keep threatening to end it all, but it keeps coming back). Bass Odyssey took the title in a final showdown against Killamanjaro that ended far too quickly. Joshua Chamberlain and I wrote a piece for Cluster Mag about the seeming renewed interest in soundclash culture in Jamaica as well as foreign. Perhaps it’s part of the Jamaica 50 need to revisit the past, but as a clash fan, it can’t be anything but good news.

At Sumfest, Shabba Ranks returned, showing the yung’uns how it’s done. When introduced, legendary radio man Barry G suggested that there’s a problem that the most recent generation of artists and fans hadn’t yet experienced the showmanship of Rexton Gordon. Proving this statement true, Shabba ran through his deep selection of hits, showing up pretty much every other performer at the fest. I, for one, was pleased to see R Kelly, but his sloppy style and drunken swagger (“I’ve been chilling on the beach drinking”, he announced to the crowd) didn’t exactly win over the crowd at Catherine Hall.

Jamaicans celebrated their nation’s 50th birthday in August as well as the triumph of the Jamaica Olympic team at the London Olympics. The Shaggy-produced, more poppy-less-reggae “On A Mission” Jamaica 50 theme song was heard everywhere. The sheer ubiquity of the song made the controversy over its commissioning fade away. Usain Bolt reiterated his love for dancehall, bigging up Tommy Lee and making sure to indicate his admiration of World Boss Kartel before starting his gold-medal winning 200m.

In September, Sizzla, who hasn’t really been known for terrific live shows in recent years, stunned me (and many others) at a show celebrating Guinness Day. Performing hit after hit, he demonstrated that he can still mesmerize an audience. Everyone in the National Arena sang along to every word and it was hard not to feel sorry for Mavado. As the closing act, it was hard to top Sizzla–even with Mavado’s own catalogue of top tunes.

Rounding out the year and underlining the retrospective vibes of Jamaica 50, VP released Reggae Golden Jubilee – 50th Anniversary – Origins of Jamaican Music. A 100 song box set of key tunes as selected by one-time music producer and many-time parlimentarian the Honourable Edward Seaga. The former prime minister threw a big party to celebrate the launch of the package as well as celebrate the last 50 years of ska, reggae, dancehall and everything in between. In the middle of all this bigging up of all things Jamaican, David Rodigan quit the UK’s KISS fm at the end of November, citing “the marginalisation” of reggae at the station. To no one’s surprise, within the first weeks of 2013, it was announced that Rodigan would back on radio, hosting a show on BBC’s 1xtra.

By the end of the year, the industry had mourned a number of its own, losing deejays Ranking Trevor and Captain Barkey as well as producer Winston Riley and keyboardist/producer Lloyd Charmers.

And yes, 2012 was the year that Snoop Dogg converted to Rastafari, became a lion and recorded an album of roots reggae. Perhaps this is yet another example of throwback, and it’ll hopefully provide the payday that Vice Records most certainly expects.

So, after reading numerous rundowns and recollections (along with the last four versions of this here piece), I’ve been led to some conclusions:

1. Every year various commentators complain about the decline of reggae and dancehall.

2. Every year Jamaican commentators bemoan the spread of Jamaican-influenced music and not Jamaican performers/artists themselves. Sure, Matisyahu and Rebelution top the charts in the US, but that doesn’t mean there aint room for music straight from yard.

3. Every year there’s still damned good music (check anything Konshens released this year for details–and don’t forget that Beres is still cranking ‘em out) and Jamaica remains eternally interesting (Lady Saw turning away from slackness and towards the Lord?!?).

This year was no different. To another 50 years, Jamaica.

P.S. And, though my top tens have been posted here and here, I can say that my favourite riddim was one that didn’t seem to catch other critics. I love it. And one of my favourite moments of 2012 was hearing “Street Pledge” (big up Truckback Record’s Adrian Locke) on the fantastic system at Boasy Tuesdays. When we do road, we have fun.

Previous versions: 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011.

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I may live in Mtl, but there’s still a big place in my heart for Toranno.

Just the other day, Les Seaforth posted the following video on his Facebook.

As a kid, growing up in Oshawa, Toronto (or, as we pronounced it, “Toranno”) was always the shining city on a hill. No real NYC mythology existed in my highschool existence, though given Canada’s colonial past, London called a little bit. Toronto, however, was the real attraction, and it was but 45 minutes down the highway–that is, if I could wrangle the car from my parents. One of the things that Toronto had to offer was music. Sure, when I was a teen, there was a lot of taking the piss out of the hip hop scene in the T dot, but it’s nice to know that people have come to realize that there’s so much on offer in the Great White North’s biggest city. I’ve tried to draw some attention to the greatness of Toronto on this here blog, but now, thanks to CBC‘s “Love. Props and the T.Dot”, posted whole hog up on Youtube, I can further help educate the masses on just what Kardi is going on about. Big up T.O. every time.

Rewind #2: Three Piece Suit and Ting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Six years ago this week I did my first ever interview. It was with Sanchez and was in the Montreal Mirror, a paper I still write for. I was terribly nervous, but Sanchez was terribly kind and friendly. The printed piece was rather short, but I did transcribe quite a piece more–I particularly like Sanchez’s focus on the importance of soundsystems. I posted it way back when on my old blog, but given my recent revived interest in all thing Sanchez, I thought I might throw it up here again. I also hope to be updating a little more than I have been so far this year!

Voila:

E: When you first started, you were selecting on a soundsystem, and you still run your own sound, Sexylus. How important do you think the sound system is to Jamaican music?

S: It’s the most vital thing in the music right now. I think the sound system is what really puts an artist on the map because not all of that is stuff that being played on the air. And I’m sure that it’s always being played in the dancehall.

E: Do you think that sound system culture is as vibrant as its always been?

S: Any time the sound systems from Jamaica die out, I think the music will be no more.

E: You live in the US. Do you notice any change from living in Jamaica?

S: A whole lot. It’s somewhat more secure to me. It’s a place where I’m at right now for bringing up families, they’re all about kids. You know I’m a family man straight up. From get go, my family comes first.

E: Your wife is your manager, you’re very proud of your children. What is the role of family in your life?

S: Just to keep me going. For real. Them a greatest support. And I’ve got fans who support me over the years, day in day out, but a family is always there through thick and thin. Things that even my fans don’t know, my family they know about it and they just be there for me.

E: When you perform, you often sing the Jamaican national anthem.

S: That’s a thing for representing. Number one, it’s kinda shows, for me, who is in the crowd. to start off. Whenever you go on stage you say “Hands up all Jamaicans” point blank. You’re among your fellow citizens. It’s very nice because, even a boxer, a team go to play somewhere else, it’s good to hear your national anthem, it give you a boost, a sort of energy.

E:You’re know for not only your own music, but for taking other tunes and giving them a real Sanchez twist. What kind of songs do you look for and how do you think your songs differ from the originals?

S: When I’m choosing my songs I choose songs that has a good composition to it. Songs that can be played on air, a song that even kids would relate to. Something to do with love—I love to sing a song that has something to do with love, bringing people together and all of that stuff.

E: Along with your secular albums, you also have some gospel.

S: Gospel is my first choice of music. I grew up in a church, I grew up on these musics. Overall, without the father, what are we? Yeah, I look into that very deeply and I consider it a lot. You get up everyday and you eat and you visit your friends and it’s all good, but what about the man upstairs? That wakes you up. Do you think you can wake yourself up? Nobody does. So I think, at the end of the day, I’m just giving thanks to the father, man.

E: Are there any other artists that you respect?

S: I respect any artist in the field that is trying to get some positive vibes outta all of this. Not just to go out there to make money or to be famous but to truly go out there and preach on the highways and byways about more love and togetherness. And we need that.

E: You have terrific outfits that you wear on the stage that you and your wife design. How important is it for a performer to have a really strong stage presence?

S: It is number one! I think an artist could be well attired and just go on stage for the first 20 minutes and just take the show right there. Him don’t have to say nothing, just put on something nice and the right coordination.

E: And those who don’t take the time?

S: You will hear critics. You will hear people that are really true fans and they’re saying “man, did he have to come like that, he couldn’t put a suit on? he couldn’t tuck his shirt in?” For real! Some of these artists they don’t care. They think that what matters the most is just money and who is better than who. You have to remember attirement. Because a lot of artists out there could be very good, they could sing, they could write, but the state of appearance is just not there.

E: A lot of your fans are women. Why do you think your music communicates so well to women?

S: As I said before, I try to choose my songs that are really dealing with love, respect for ladies overall, just bringing people together. I love that thing about the music. I mean yes, you have the voice or the power to go out there and say something to the world, so make it positive.

Turboaquawonkycrunk

As I try to get my head around being back at the full time job and all, there’s been a lot of stuff going on. Photo above was taken at what might be referred to as a Turbocrunk reunion party a couple of weeks back here in lovely Montreal. Megasoid joined Ango and Lunice for some live PA action alongside DJs Seb Diamond, Hovatron (best website ever, btw) and Grand Mal. It was darned good fun.

I’ve been quite the fan of turbocrunk folks, and specifically Lunice, for a while now. Apparently the new term is “aquacrunk” (though it’s actually an old term, having been explained by the Guardian’s Lanre Bakare a couple years back), referencing the cross-Atlantic sounds of Glasgow, Montreal, L.A., New York and beyond, as reflected in the work of a whole range of folks like Rustie, Hudson Mohawke, Joker, Lazer Sword, Glitch Mob, our hometown boys (‘cept for Megasoid’s Speakerbruiser, who’s made tracks out west in recent months), Machine Drum and on and on. One wonders whatever happened to “wonky” as a moniker?

Anyhow, the stuff is damned good, and capable of bringing all sorts of sounds together. Myself and my dancing partner kept it going the entire evening like there was no one watching.

To try a taste of the good ol’ days, way back in 2008, when it wasn’t wonky or aqua or nothing, just darned good music for dancin’, download this excellent Mofomatronix (Seb and Phil/Hovatron) mix. (If you want to be hip to the new stuff, check Lucky Me’s often-updated treasure trove of mix tapes)

Yetiopia muzika bet’am ewedalehu + Rewind #3

Will “Quantic” Holland is always looking for new sounds, in betweens, “soundclashes” that produce interesting results–most recently in Colombia. Back in 2004, however, Holland took a trip to Ethiopia that resulted in a meeting with famed Ethio-jazz man Mulatu Astatke (an interview Holland did with Mulatu was subsequently published in Wax Poetics) and a further love of Ethiopian music of all stripes. It’s a big country with a huge variety of different types of music (that’s what you get from more than 80 different ethnic groups with as many different languages). Mulatu, J Dilla and Arthur Verocai were all celebrated in the Timeless Concert series, “a concert series that was created in homage to the composer/arrangers who have influenced hip-hop in the most literal and profound ways”, which took place in February-March 2009. As part of the series, Holland performed an hour-long mix of Ethiopian music. Get it here.

It’s now being released in advance of the June release of a box set that will include recordings of each concert. The mix is a selection of records Holland picked up in Ethiopia back in 2004. It’s just scratching the surface where Ethiopian music is concerned, but man, it’s damned good.

For a little context, here’s my piece on Quantic from 2006, where he talks about making the Addis connection.

England’s 26-year-old Will “Quantic” Holland is a bit of a wunderkind. He’s prolific as all get out, and he’s consistently bloody good. In advance of a DJ set this weekend, the Mirror asked the Bristol-based eclecticist about finding tunes, links and Mulatu Astatke.

Mirror: I see you as taking the concept of crate-digging to a whole other level. What do you look for?

Quantic: The basic form of crate-digging is where it’s basically looking for drum breaks to loop up or to sample and things. I think that once you do that for a while (laughs), you just get into music a little more deeply. You get into all kinds of music, regardless as to whether it has a drum break in it, or whether it’s a funky record or not.

M: You travel around a lot. It seems like you want to go to the source of the music you like—take, for instance, Ethiopia’s Mulatu Astatke.

Q: [Miles Cleret, owner of Soundway Records] and I were just sitting around one night and he told me he’d gone to Ethiopia pretty briefly, but he’d found some nice records. We just decided to go again, with the premise of trying to track down Mulatu for an interview (laughs). Actually, Mulatu really took us under his wing.

M: Ethiopians tend to be nice like that!

Q: Yeah. You know, all these places, some are heavy places to go to, but people are really friendly. I think it’s like anything, when somebody’s taken an interest in your culture, unless you’re robbing or something, but this is something that we are promoting, and trying to keep the knowledge of this music alive.

M: It seems that everyone wants what’s new, but you’re resurrecting the past. Do you ever feel that you should focus more on contemporary tunes?

Q: I’m interested in real music, and music played in a room with an atmosphere to it. Just because I like Puerto Rican rhumba records from the ’60s doesn’t mean I have to like reggaeton. To be honest, I really like drummers and I really like live music. And I like things nasty, kind of messed up, in a way that gives it character. And I think what you’ve got to remember with these older recordings is that they were made in really unique times.

M: It’s as if you’re looking for links. With Mulatu, you do hear the minor strains so common to Ethiopian music, mixed with other influences. With early calypso, you hear the traditional chanting. It’s almost like being a musical archeologist.

Q: Definitely. I think it’s just looking to see what spices were turned into pop along the way. With Mulatu, you can hear Chinese music in there, and you can hear all the Puerto Rican rhythms that he picked up in New York. And you can hear the fact that he was in London playing with jazz guys. I love going on trips because you hear just the strangest music.

UPDATE: If you want to hear more (like I do!), follow @AddisTunes on twitter and check out an awesome mix here.

Rewind #1

Here’s an interview I did with Capleton five years ago this month. A couple years after this somewhat awkwardly written interview, I was in Kingston and spoke to the Fireman at his yard. After pleasantries were completed, he asked me if I was from Montreal. I said yes, and then he said “You interviewed me over the phone a couple years ago. I remember you.” Lucky guess or is Capleton just that perceptive? I’d go with the latter…regardless, he still remains on of the most exciting and energetic acts out there. The following is a director’s cut of a piece originally published in the March issue of the now defunct Heads magazine:

Capleton’s powerful voice has made him one of the most popular deejays today. Rarely, if ever, at a loss for words-the man released about 50 singles within the first three months of 2005-and blessed with sharp reasoning skills, there’s a reason why Clifton Bailey III was dubbed Capleton, the name of a well known lawyer. Fiercely and controversially committed to his Rasta principles, the Prophet, as he’s also known, has no plans on quenching or cooling his fire anytime soon. Capleton, or Uncle Shango (as I like to call him), was a whole lot calmer when I spoke to him after a recent show in Burlington, Vermont than when I saw him decked out in sparkly gold lame at Luciano’s record launch party in Kingston. His clever anti-Bush rants made me love him then, and though my personal thoughts on a few topics are probably miles away from his Bobo Ashanti views, he further endeared himself to me during this interview.

E: How do you find the concerts in the US different than concerts in Jamaica?
C: Jamaica is home, it’s where it started. So of course, in foreign it’s going to be totally different. But outside Jamaica you have white people, Chinese people, different kind of people, relating to the music. They don’t speak the language but they still sing the songs word for word. It’s good. It’s wonderful. There’s a good vibe, you know, there’s no limit to the music.
E: Given that dancehall has been getting more popular in the US, would you ever think about doing any more hip hop collaborations like you’ve done with Q-Tip and Method Man?
C: Nothing is wrong with a one or two crossover. But you still cannot stray from the roots, from the culture, from the tradition, you know what I’m saying? You cannot get to commercialized because it is a tradition. Me know. I’ve been there because I’ve been to BET, I’ve been to MTV, I was on DefJam. It’s not like a new thing. Capleton has been there and done that. But there is no limit to the music. The music is so expansive, we’re going to always have new experiments, so nothing is wrong with one or two crossover. Basically, music is a message. So whether it is soul, calypso, hip hop, whatever, as long as the message is good, it’s music.
E: What artists do you think are good now? Do you think it is a new day for conscious, cultural music in Jamaica?
C: Fanton Mojah, Bascom X, a whole heap of upcoming artists right now. I wouldn’t say a new day, nothing’s changed. There is no limit to the music and we always have upcoming artists. I know say most of the music spread through Capleton, from in the early days, even from when Buju Banton, Bounty Killer, Beenie Man, Ninjaman, it was Capleton until now. So it’s not new. Artists have new experiments, new vibes.
E:And the women?
C:Yeah, yeah. Macka Diamond. I’m grateful for her right now. She’s doing well. We have Lady G, one of the best cultural woman artists. Give thanks because this is not a man’s world and this is not a woman’s world. This is a man and a woman’s world, that’s how it’s supposed to be. We come into the earth through our mother and father. It’s 50/50 between man and woman, the king and the queen. The woman bring good vibes.
E: You’re from St. Mary, and every year you host a concert, “St. Mary Mi Come From”. Through that you’ve been able to raise money to give back to the community.
C: For real. Like hospitals and schools, cause you know that health and education is really the ultimate. You know what I mean? It is very important to give back because the youth they emulate and want to look up to you. The youth relate to us more than the government, you understand? So it is very important both to me and other artists. The attitude is also very uplifting for upcoming artists as well so they will give back to the community as well.
E: In your tune “Invasion”, you stalk about how “Babylon coral my place it look like dem wan overthrow me.” Sizzla’s Judgement Yard studio has reportedly also been targeted. Why do you think this is happening?
C: Invasion is a reality song. The police dem raid my place and jump over di gate and ting…But they will have attitude towards certain artists, certain artists who are involved in certain things. Every man have his own idea, his own opinion, sometimes people get involved in things that they’re not supposed to do and the system will have an eye on dem. On the next level again, you done know a Rastafari always have been terrorized by police. It’s a problem for the system. When you’re uplifting righteousness, and when you’re uplifting heritage and culture, and Selassie I, picking out in the system in terms of the injustice and the inequality, manipulation and exploitation. So therefore, when I and I chant the message and burn the fire, Babylon will terrorize us.
E: For a lot of people in North America there is little understanding of what Kingston or areas that artists talk about such as Hope Tavern or Papine or August Town are actually like.
C: Papine is a real ghetto. A real garrison area. There’s political violence. There’s where we fit in. We kind of protect the youth dem, help the youth dem. For I and I and certain other artists it’s real important to be amongst the youth dem. To keep them circumspect and keep them focused and keep them in awareness of Rastafari and righteousness.
E: You are a Bobo Ashanti rasta. What does this mean to you?
C: I wear a turban because the turban represents royalty. Bobo’s all about salvation, redemption, black international repatriation. But Rastafari is really one. So whether Bobo or Twelve Tribes or Nyabhingi, Rasta is all one, because everyone is saying death to black and white, equal rights and justice for all. Salvation, redemption, repatriation, restoration, Ethiopia, Africa, all should be honoured.
E: In terms of repatriation, do you have any plans to go to Ethiopia?
C: Most definitely. We go wherever Jah leads. Whatever the most high says should happen, we have to discover it and then carry out the works. Restoration and repatriation don’t literally mean, it’s not just on a physical term, you have to mentally repatriate before you make a physical choice. If you are not ready for it, then there is no benefit to go. But definitely I need to go sometime.
E: Marijuana is a sacrament for rastas. Do you have any thoughts on legalization?
C: All we need to do all over the world is tell the system that marijuana should be decriminalized. We know it is the healing of the nation. Have people smoke marijuana instead of coke and other hard drugs and the world would be a better place. That’s why they fight the weed because them know how spiritual the weed let the people get. They’ll stay away from crime and violence, be humble and maintain their humility and be tolerant instead of hurting themselves and the people. Them know the rastaman, his sacrement is weed, from which comes inspiration and belief. It’s an offering. It is a natural thing. If we decriminalize the weed, we have a better society, a better economy.
E: Recent controversy over your music has led to a lot of discussion about the violence in your lyrics.
C: When we burn a certain fire, it is not all about what they are saying. It is all about message. This is political. They know that the music aint promoting no violence or advocating no violence because Bob Marley said “I shot the sheriff” and he didn’t use a literal gun or a bullet, he used words, it’s metaphorical. So why is Capleton literal and not metaphorical? Babylon set up dem ting, and designed a method to fight the music. Bob Marley said “I feel like bombing a church.” It wasn’t a literal bomb, he is telling that the preacher is lying and when the church get bombed, it’s with words, power and song.
E: Many people separate your music from earlier reggae. Do you see a difference?
C: There is no difference. The fire never change. Burning Spear burn the fire, Bunny Wailer burn the fire, Bob Marley burn the fire, Toots burn the fire, name them. Dennis Brown, every man burn the fire, it’s the same thing. Bob Marley said death to Babylon, chant down Babylon, burn down Babylon; Bob Marley said kill, cramp and paralyze the wicked. Him never tell a man to literally go out there and kill a man. It’s with the words and the message and the music and the livity.