As Kabaka gets ready for his highly anticipated tour this June, the reggae artist known for his conscious vibes, spiritual message & uplifting vibrations, opens up on how musicians can become "tools for the revolution."
In a world filled with "distractions" Kabaka lets us know how his upcoming album Contraband will "heal" the people and why Jamaica's debt is "slave owners wanting money for the freedom of their slaves."
Let go back right to the start, what was it like growing up in Jamaica?
I had a really good childhood considering the situation of most Jamaicans, I grew up in a place called Mona, in a Christian a home. And I grew up playing a lot of sports, music was something that always interested me, but I had no serious ambitions to be a musician when I was really young.
When did you become serious about music?
Well you know, growing up in Jamaica, music is a part of the heartbeat of the country, reggae music is all around you. I grew up with a lot of Dennis Brown, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh & George Banton, those are some of the music that my father had.
I used to go up in his room and turn up the CD player really loud, I used to actually change up the lyrics to the songs and make my own version, that was something me and my older brother used to do, just for jokes and fun, I guess we just grew up with the music.
So have you been to Africa?
No, I haven't been to Africa yet, I hope to go real soon.
The name Kabaka comes from Uganda, so where did the inspiration for the name come from?
Well for true Rastafari there's always a yearning to reconnect with Africa, we as Rasta youths tried to, in terms of getting our identity, speaking out our African name. So I was actually looking up African names online, and I found that name and it just resonated, cause I am doing music and I wanted to come with something that evokes Africa within the music.
As Kabaka means king, do you think some people have lost touch with their African royal roots?
Yeah for sure, you know I think it is the way that we are evolving as people, we are becoming less and less tied to our ancestral heritage and becoming more individualised. I guess it is just a part of the process but it is still good to know where you are coming from, so you can direct yourself going forward.
So what can we do to make people more aware of their roots, should the descendants of African people get reparations?
Yeah, I am definitely for reparations, I think that it's a very difficult issue in terms of how it would actually be executed, or ever getting to the point where England, France and Portugal are even willing to deal with it.
I also think that conscious that has been adversely affected by slavery like African conscious, Caribbean conscious, you know places like that, those countries debt that incurred after the abolishment of slavery should definitely be wiped out too. I don't think it's fair at all that these countries have to pay this enormous debt, coming from you know, slave owners, wanting money for the freedom of their slaves.
Jamaica, in particular, I have seen where the IMF deals and the negotiations have negatively affected everything throughout the country and its all based around repaying the debt.
If black people where to get these reparations what do you think they should do with it?
I wouldn't necessarily give it to the people because, people generally, especially in places like Jamaica, and places with large percentages of poverty, people don't have money management. So you would have to give it to like community leaders who have shown a track record of proper money handling and distribution.
Tell us about your latest track 'Can't breathe'?
It's the first single off my debut album called Contraband, the album was done in collaboration with Damian Marley and the Ghetto Youths International label, and the first single is produced by a bredrin from Barcelona named Genis Nadal. Now this track it has a late 90's XTerminator label Fatis Burrell sound, like some of those early Sizzla Kalonji songs.
The actual inspiration for the content came after I was watching 'Lauryn Hill Unplugged' recently and I was shocked by the amount of emotion that she put into her music, you know it's like an emotional release. And I thought that a lot of my music doesn't really have that emotional vibe, it's more like mental, intellectual.
So I wanted to bring out the feelings of suffering that we are feeling in a place like Jamaica, and the economy constraints and I wanted to bring out how it makes the people feel, so that why the 'can't breathe' 'the suffocation' & the 'anxiety', all of those things came out in the lyrics.
So what's the story behind the name 'Can't Breathe'.
There's like so much pollution you can't breathe within the system so it's talking about that metaphorically and literally.
What can we expect from the upcoming album Contraband?
Definitely more hard hitting lyrics, come controversial stuff, some intellectual stuff, some fiery stuff, and you know heavy, heavy beats and tracks. There's not that many light sound & songs on it but it is a Kabaka vibration and my thing is message music.
I talk about things that maybe some other artist don't speak about, but I am okay with that, whether or not these songs play in the club every night is not really the most important thing to me. It is that people listen to the music and get the vibration and listen to it at their homes, play it and let their children listen to it, cause music is one of the ways we are going to change things.
So would you say then that music is what we need to make the world a better place?
It's one of the things, music compliments all of the efforts, I mean we have to salute all of the freedom fighters and the community workers, the people who are giving their resources to people in poverty, we are going to need all of those things, we need people who are going to plan the way forward, for a greener and self-sufficient world.
So it's really for the musicians to highlight these issues and bring them to the forefront and raise awareness. We are like marketing tools for the revolution.
What message are you trying to get across in this album?
Well, the whole message behind Contraband, is that consciousness & evolutionary thinking is treated as contraband, it's treated as something you are not supposed to have or want, so we are playing on that metaphor throughout the whole album. And you know it's really that the music is the contraband, the music is the message, and its good contraband from our perspective, its healing contraband, but they just don't want it, they are not promoting it on the television, so we have to give it in the music.
You are touring Bristol, London & Manchester this June, what are you most looking forward to with this tour?
I love the vibes in the UK, and I haven't been to Manchester, so definitely looking forward to that and all the shows.
London as the biggest city it's definitely something I am very excited about for sure, I am coming with the band Bebble Rockers, so its live music, looking forward to working with Randy Valentine and Marla Brown, they will be on tour with me, so it's going to be nice.
What do you bring that's special?
Well, I think as a reggae artist I am a little bit more diverse than usual, so I do a little bit of rapping, I kinda mix it up a bit, I think the stuff that I talk about tend to be a little outside of the box when it comes to Rastafarianism and reggae music.
Like speaking about yoga, meditation, chakras and reincarnation, not a lot of people touch on those topics so people can expect a different vibration than most artists.
So what ideas changed your life?
Rastafari as a culture and as a bridge to Africa changed my view of life, I think ganja also changed my whole view of life. My whole thought process and the way I analyse things kinda deepens when I use Cannabis and Rastafari came hand in hand with that, as well as a deep appreciation for reggae music.
Music was very instrumental in that whole process for me, learning about Africa, learning about his imperial majesty as a black king, in the mid 1900's rose to prominence, and was one of the most popular people in the world, you know in a time of white supremacy and that was very symbolic for me.
You know so many people live with distraction to distraction, so sports, news, all of these social medias, it's hard to blame somebody when they can't see what really needs to be seen.
What would you fill a swimming pool with if it could be anything?
Naturally, the first thing would be water but I am kinda thinking something like apple juice. Apple juice in one of my favourite things so why not!
So what's next for you?
We are editing the video for 'Can't Breathe' so we are looking forward to releasing that, we are also going to Europe doing a lot of the major reggae festivals and then we are doing Reggae Sumfest in Jamaica, and immediately after that we doing a US & Canada tour all over North America.
I am also producing a track for an artist in Jamaica named Five Star and it is the second single off his upcoming EP, so you can definitely look forward to that. So I am kinda spreading my wings with production a little.
Any last words?
There is this company named Enbois by Maxim who does these wooden bracelets, and each bracelet sold means a tree is planted in Haiti, cause he's from Haiti. So I have done some Kabaka bracelets with him and we are bringing them on tour with us, so people can look forward to that.
Don't forget to get your tickets to see Kabaka live!
Facebook - Instagram - Twitter