PART II: Out of the Wilderness

photo by Billy Espejel

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Back to the concept of live production and that whole sound. Somebody attributed you and your radio show to really turning the consciousness in the music. After the time that Garnett Silk passed away and Luciano started to come along, not only did that machine sound . . . even though they were still using machine production, started to fade out of the music. And I feel like [some] of the stuff the comes out of Jamaica [now], even though it's programmed, has a more human touch to it. Do you perceive that or is that a bunch of . . . Like some of Fatis' rhythms?

Well, the only live thing I see happening is with the musicians who used to record for years, but the tunes that are hitting is machine -- the hit songs, the Beenie Man songs, and dis and dat, Scare Dem Crew songs is machine. I feel that it is going to go back. It's going to return to the live musicians. I feel that way.

Is that feasible, economically?

Yea mon, yea mon, it's feasible of course. It's the best thing that can be done to the music now. I tell you what is happening now in Europe. The old rhythms is what is selling. And they are mixing it again in dub style. And then now you have ska. Ska is prominent again. Dub music is prominent again. And is not new music. Is the same old rhythms used and you go back with the engineer, and you recast it. It's almost like a sequel to an original track. So it going to return to that. It going to haffe return to that, because we're talking about man . . . and the humanness in man, with music. Music cannot be just machine. I can see where the music will return to that level. It's all about the culture of a people and the expression of those people in them culture. Remember that when the men them did start, them never did a ting pon a money ting. Them was just thinking of expressing a culture. And eventually it going to become the expression of culture again. Cause when the big record companies start to drop everybody left and right, man going to realize, say, them cyaan just a sing tune fe suit CBS and Epic and them ting. Them haffe sing songs out of them experience. And then it going to lead back now to what it is all about. What it is all about is reggae music.

So do you have any plans to take someone like Luciano or Everton Blender or somebody who has a real youth pull and then put them on some of these kinds of real rhythms?

I don't know if I a produce it as a producer. Dis ting yah as a producer now . . . No, I don't have no plans fe do dat, but if it come, I wouldn't say I wouldn't dweet, but I don't have no plans. Me and Luciano supposed to go back in the studio and do "Psalms 23." We do "Psalms 24," and it was big. So I plan fe do "Psalms 23" with a different vibes to it. Not like how it is written. Like how you hear Bobby McFerrin sing, 'the Lord is my sheppard, I shall not want. SHE made me to lie down in green pastures. SHE lead me beside still waters.' Well is something like that, but is not basically the same thing, but we plan to dweet. We talk to Fatis already, and is just a matter again fe link (laughs) inna Jamaica. Meanwhile, when I'm am dere, he is out here. When I am out here , he is there. I think that is me next tune, "Psalms 23."

Very good . . .

We just did a tune you know. Me just remember. Ini Kamoze just produce a tune, three tracks. Him, Sizzla, me. Separate, but the same rhythm, so I guess that soon come out.

I wanted to go back again, talking about musicians, early on I associated you with, did Chinna produce your first album?

First album, yes.

And also, Gibby (Leebert Morrison). You had a lot of involvement with those two guitarists.

Yea, alright, Chinna was there with me from the beginning. When I didn't know nothing about music, I was just writing poetry. Chinna is a musician. So how you going to put poetry to music in Jamaica now? Chinna, me. I say the poems, Chinna listen to what I am saying, him fashion the riddims around it. So Chinna did this first album. I started to produce me own album. Chinna have his own company doing other things, so we get Gibby. Gibby now has been with me over the years. He has been involved with a lot of the arrangements that is in the albums coming right up.

What do you think about his rock and roll band?

Alternate . . . yea, 'alternate,' they're called. Well, it's just Gibby expressing himself. Gibby is a lover of Jimi Hendrix and these people. He likes that kind of guitar. Is just rock guitar and reggae. Is just a next way fe play. De reggae music can be incorporated in all different kind of music. So it's just rock guitar . . . is just Gibby a play rock guitar inna reggae music. I guess the die-hearted reggae fans will say, 'wha! Me no like dat,' but is just a next aspect of the music still.

But it's worked for so many bands all over the world . . .

I don't have no problem with it. I don't like rock music, but I don't have no problem with Gibby, cause him used to play it inna my tunes dem. We deh pon stage inna Europe, and we have poems like "Ecology," "Famine Injection" and dem poems, and [I] give him solo . . . As a matter a fact we're going to come for a rock concert yah so is Gibby a play.

You're going to join him?

No, he's going to join me. Yea, we're coming to do this concert inna RFK Stadium deh weh Tibetian thing that the Beastie Boys them do every year. So we're going to do that and we're bringing Gibby.

Tell me about, somebody I never knew about until I went to Jamaica was Louise Bennett, Miss Lou. you even sang a song about her on your last album?

Miss Lou is the keeper of the folk tradition through poetry and songs in Jamaica. Miss Lou is the one who maintain the language of the people in the artistic expression of the people. When people was looking at the Jamaican language as dirty, terrible, Miss Lou used it in the artistic expression to express the feelings and the attitudes of the people. She is rightly where she is. She is a hero to a lot of people. She is one of the women who has kept the African-ness inside of the Jamaican culture and express it through song and poetry. Right now she lives in Canada. You see through we don't worship dead people, now, we say we haffe do a tribute to Miss Lou before any 'pass away' business. So that poem was done years ago. As a matter of fact, we carry Miss Lou to the studio years ago too, to do two reggae tune. This is the first time she ever say a poem on reggae. She used to do it with like the folk music. There is an album name Woman Talk that we produce years ago with female poets. I did it for Heartbeat. That was my second album I produce without it being my album. Well, this album had two tracks on it by Miss Louise Bennett. And she was doing it to reggae, and it was great. And we did that tune "Miss Lou" [on Melanin Man] from the "Peanut Vendor" melody.

Right, the original "Peanut Vendor." I heard it described that she made people proud of the way they speak.

Yea mon, that is what I am saying. She used the language of the people as an artistic expression. That wasn't ever done in Jamaica. We were more English, British, trying to imitate Keats and Shakespeare and ting. She went on the stage 50-odd years ago and talk patois, talked the Jamaican language. And that was not acceptable. Is like you say 'raas clot.' 'Raas clot' is not acceptable. The Jamaican language was like you're saying 'raas clot' or 'bumboclot.'

Just the whole of it?

Yea, the language itself. To speak like a Jamaican was not accepted in the Jamaican society. It was not accepted. You were either uneducated or you was just [considered] stupid to speak that way. Well Miss Lou used that language and make it become something of a gem in the Jamaican society, through her art form.

Yea, she really broke the colonial mentality . . .

Yea man, she brake that terrible.

Let me pause here for a second and look at my notes . . .

. . .

Some people ask stupid questions, like 'how old you is, and how long you start do dub poetry, and why you walk barefoot.' Dem question deh some lickle cliché question, and I start get annoyed.

I haven't asked you any of those yet have I?

(Laughs) No no, that is I tell you say, dem question I get annoyed, 'how long you walking barefoot, why you don't wear shoes?' Dem kinda ting deh . . .

I know why you do that . . .

Yea, well, some people feel them know but is another ting that. Yea.

One question I wrote down today . . . you're very analytical in the way you look at the world. You have a very analytical mind, a very Africentric view of the world, but obviously that had to come into you at some point in your life. Was there a critical moment or a time period that you were in touch with some kind of influence that shaped your Africentric consciousness?

Yea mon, when we going to school, the teacher them that we have round we was Africentric, but them never used to teach we. But we used to gather with them, like Marcus Garvey son.

Marcus Garvey's son?!

Yea, Marcus Garvey son used to teach at Kingston Technical where I used to go. And you did have some others who is around now. I remember one bredren name Makow(?), him never used to teach, but him used to be around.

When you're talking about technical school. . .

Kingston Technical, [I was age] . . 15, 16, yea.

A trade school?

It was a school, but is a technical school where they do the physical things. It's an ordinary high school but they have like woodwork, and the electrical . . .


Yea, so these people was there. Locksley Comrie, I remember him. They used to have the Malcolm X albums and the Autobiography of Malcolm X. All of these things helped fe shape my consciousness plus we used to gather with Marcus Garvey Junior, with Amy [Jaques] Garvey, which is Marcus Garvey wife up at her house, and we used to just read books. We used to just read a whole heap of books and draw off a conclusion. And we start to read and is years after [that] we start to travel. The consciousness that we had carry through until we start to travel, and we start to see more of what we was thinking. Is like you have the theory in Jamaica and then you come [off the island]. We've been to so much place, we see so much things. And it help fe shape we consciousness again, because we believe in change, and we don't afraid of change. Maybe the first time we used to think seh change is something weird, but now we would see, and we understand more clearly what things is all about, but we still maintain that African-ness -- that liberation perspective. That consciousness fe tell we seh, yea is Haile Selassie and the consciousness of Haile Selassie that bring we to here, and we have to even reshape it to suit and to elevate other people's consciousness too. So that is why even the radio program [The Cutting Edge, IRIE-FM, Ocho Rios] in Jamaica is so important. That we can now express what we used to say mongst weself to the wider public. This is the first time Rasta going to be on Jamaican radio that length of time.

When did you go on the air?

Five years ago we started the program. Now we have five hours, four hours, every Tuesday night to express anything that we want to express. That, as you say, rightly, that has helped to reshape a lot of the thinking and influence a whole heap of ones now fe get a clearer understanding of what Rasta was saying all along and what Rastafari is all about.

What do you mean by the Selassie consciousness?

Well, Rasta is saying Haile Selassie I. We nah come off of that. The consciousness meaning that what Haile Selassie did when he was Ras Tafari and what he has done being the Emperor of Ethiopia, we have seen him shaping Africa. And we can look on what he has done as Rastas and see a certain Christ-ness that is what we are searching for. Not as we were taught it, because first of all, to really understand what the Rastaman is saying about Haile Selassie, you haffe go move Jesus out of your mind. This idea, this Jesus concept that was given to us by Rome. You have to totally wipe it out and this God mentality, this God-conciousness. You have to move that out now and reshape it. You have to look within man not in the sky. And I think that is what a whole heap of Jamaicans find difficult. That when the Rastaman say Haile Selassie, he is trying to put what he sees in his mind about God with what we is talking about this Man. And not knowing that what he sees in his mind is what is in man. There is no other concept outside of man. Is man make God. If there was no man, there wouldn't be any concept of God. So you have to look within man to find the reality of life and what life really mean. So when man is him good, him say is God, and when man is him bad, him say is the devil, but is really man still. So all concepts of good and bad is coming from man is emanate from man.

from I&I . . .

Yea, so when the Rastaman says Haile Selassie, because man cannot see man as the Supreme Being. Him trying to look outside of himself fe that consciousness. And the Rastaman is saying, no, that consciousness is here.

Wasn't also just the image of a Blackman as a King, a crucial thing?

Yea, is the connection with history. Haile Selassie is the connection is the Blackman's connection with the past and now.

The line of Solomon you're talking about?

No, even before that, we're not limiting. You see, we're not now limiting Selassie to the dynasty of Solomon and Sheba, because the dynasty of Ethiopia existed long before Queen of Sheeba went to Solomon, seen? There was an Ethiopian dynasty before Israel, seen? What we talking about now is long before Solomon and Sheba. We saying now that Haile Selassie can trace him genealogy three-thousand years before Solomon and Sheba. That is what Haile Selassie say. There was Emperors is Ethiopia before Abraham, before Adam and Eve. So we talking now about the link with our past and our now. And you can choose anybody in Africa fe deal with this, but when we look and we see without any disconnection, we see Haile Selassie a carry that connection with the past and with now. And what we see Haile Selassie do in his time here, is more than what them say Jesus do. So we still say Haile Selassie, but we move Haile Selassie above Jesus and God and all these concepts that has been put into us by Western philosophy and Western ideologies. Cause Western philosophy don't give you the feeling that you can be connected with the supreme. It make you feel like God is an object.

And [like] it's unattainable, short of the impossible . . .

It's possible. So now the Rastaman a say, this nah impossible, because him a show you a man like yourself, and that is very hard to swallow with the concept of the Western world. That 'how can you say a man like yourself is a supreme being? That is unheard of.' The Rastaman a seh, but is only man can be a supreme being, cause is only man can rule man. And is only man can attain that consciousness that man search for in God, because God cannot exist without man. If there is no man, there is no God. If there is no God, there is no devil. If there is a devil, there is a God. The two of them is just the flip side of the same coin.

So you don't see anything beyond, if circumstances came about that all life was wiped off the face of the Earth, there's no consciousness beyond man?

All life cyaan wipe off the face of the Earth. That is man imagination. The Earth was always here and the Earth will always be here, whether it is in the form of man life, woman life, animal life, but there was never a time when there was nothing. Cause if God make everything, where was God when he was making all these things? When them tell you seh God make Heaven and Earth, where did the Heaven and Earth come from that God could a make it? You know, we a say all of these things is concepts that don't have no bearing on how we live with each other. These things divide man. Moses form a concept fe suit the Israelites in the wilderness. I am not in the wilderness. I haffe go find a different god from Jehoviah god now. I a seh now, is Haile Selassie, Haile Selassie to I is where I stop. And I stop now, but evolving within Haile Selassie, not that there's nothing else, but I can see within that concept.

Through that, you see what you need to see . . .

Yea, a wider picture of what is the purpose.

Similar to how an indigenous person in America would look within . . .

Like how a Buddhist would see Buddha. Him look on Buddha and him see that consciousness reveal. Christ is not a man. Christ is a way. Like ya is a mechanic, or an electrician. There is a way to fix the radio. If you follow that way, you fix the radio. But you have to study that way. There is a way to live, that make man be more friendly with each other. That way can be called the Christ way, so if you follow that way, man will attain a certain level of consciousness with himself. But if you start to focus on the man, Jesus, you going to get mixed up, because there is so much things that people say about Jesus: Him born of a virgin; him dead pon cross; him walk pon water. These things is myth.

Last fall when I was [in JA], you played a tape or read something you'd recorded but it was some old scripture . . .

The Gospel of the Nazarene? About Christ, Jesus.

About him being just a man.

But he was a man.

Of course he was.

There was no virgin birth. These things is set by Rome. All of these stories that we hear about Jesus.

You don't have to convince me of that.

Yea, yea, but through we talking for this thing. These things was set there politically by Rome. If Rome did not control Christianity, Christianity would not be what it is today, because Rome was a world power at the time, and they started to adopt this religion; they started to spread it amongst the colonies of Rome, so now all these things did not fit within the context of them, so they used their mythology and mix it up with Jewish mythology, and then come out with Christian mythology. But we now start to look on these mythologies and start to feel that these things is real. Like them tell you say a man walk pon water. If a man believe say a man walk pon water, him just believe say a cow jump over the moon and done! Who believe say a cow jump over the moon? A virgin baby?!

Some people, unfortunately, do believe that a cow jumps over the moon.

(Laughing). Yea, well, unfortunately them believe seh him walk pon de water! But there is a greater understanding to these stories that we don't investigate. Is like a myth. A myth is there to explain reality that we have to look into. There is metaphors, but we stop at the metaphor, and we use the metaphor within our reality. Metaphors cannot suit reality. You have to decipher out these myths to come to a conclusion in your life, ya nuh see't? But we don't come to the conclusion by sticking, what does it REALLY mean when it say, Noah and the Ark. Do you really believe that a five-hundred foot boat could hold two of every animal in the Earth? No, it's impossible. It's ridiculous. Do you really believe that the rainbow inna de sky, because God say him nah going to destroy the Earth again, by water but by fire? We know why the rainbow inna de sky. There is a scientific explanation why the rainbow inna the sky. The religious person him not going to make him mind go deh, so him a go say is God put it deh. God nah go put nuttin deh. Is a phenomenon. Is a natural phenomenon. We can explain it now. These guys four thousand years ago, them couldn't explain it, so them attribute everything to God. Now I am in this modern times. I can't attribute everything to God that I know I can explain. So that is where the myth must be deciphered to make it sensible to an intellectual or an intelligent person who is thinking. If you don't want to think then you can believe anything. Now we can think. We are thinking. Black people a think now. We a read. We a read the same book; we a go a the same school as Europeans now, so we can no longer believe in them lickle illusions deh, cause that going to carry further and further dung inna de pit. That is why Bob Marley say, 'have no fear of atomic energy, cause none of them can stop the time.' People make atomic bombs, but them can't stop the time. Them blow up man, the Earth still there. The environmentalist say man a go destroy the Earth. Man cyaan destroy the Earth. Man a go destroy what it is to make him live on the Earth, but just because him dead, him is not the only life. Man is not the supreme life on Earth, is man believe that. Every life is as important as man life, is just man take it upon him head and feel like him more important than everything else.

You kind of answered my next question and that is, what is the use then of the Bible?

The Bible is to confuse you, but still it is there to heal you. It is a book written by men of old to express their historical understanding of life. But now you in this time would have to look into it, and see what is best suitable for your existence and what is not. There is no way I'm going to follow God in the Old Testament and sacrifice animals cause I love the scent of it. And if I do something wrong, I'm going to go out there and get so much turtles and so much oxen and burn them. That is primitive thinking. But they say is God say it. I know God nah have nuttin fe do with it. It is man trump up all these thing. So the god of Moses is not the god of Christ, because Christ come and deny everything weh them say him say, 'you have heard that it was said, but I say . . .' So him a show you a higher thing now. But I live inna dis time ya so now. Ya haffe look pon now, wha dem a seh Jesus say. What Paul say? Paul a try gather up some numbers from the Greeks and the Romans fe bring them over to a Jewish form of Christianity. Now, I am not a Roman or a Greek, so a lot of letters that Paul write to these people, the Ephesians, the Romans, the Corinthians. I wouldn't take it upon myself and say is me, because I a come from a different experience. I a come from an African experience. I come from five-hundred years of colonialism and slavery. So I would have to shape God within the context of my life and how can God work for me. I nah work for God. How can God a go work for me? Because is I going to create all of this reality. So I create within my reality a historical figure and a historical person. That is Haile Selassie. I can see how Haile Selassie work for me, because I see him work for Africa. And I see how that linkage link the old with the new and with the now. And I have something to refer to without thinking mythologically. Because when I think pon Jesus, I haffe think mythologically. When I think pon Haile Selassie, I don't haffe think mythologically.

When you talk about him working for Africa . . .

The works that Haile Selassie do for Africa, like the OAU (Organization of African Unity). He was instrumental in forming the OAU. He was the one who went to the Geneva Conference when everybody was thinking that Ethiopia was a primitive country. This eloquent man spoke so eloquently in the League of Nations, yet still he was mocked and jeered. He prophesied the Second World War. Him tell them, 'you have struck the match in Ethiopia, it shall burn Europe. International morality is at stake.' And so many things that we can see within Ethiopia. Ethiopia is the oldest unconquerable country in Africa. Is the only country in Africa that was never colonized. And it has maintained an ancient history, that if you go to Ethiopia, you can link Ethiopia past, and you can see the future. When I go to Ethiopia, Ethiopia to me come like ya inna de Bible. Lalabella. You go to Lalabella, it come like you inna de Bible days. Just like what you [read] about inna de Bible. Yet still there is parts of Ethiopia where you go and it look so modern. So we can see the link. We can see the link. I cyaan see the link inna Europe, because Rome history start at two youth weh dem say wolf. I mean is myth, [but] so them say it start. We have Egyptian mythology, Oros, Isis, these things is what create other religions. Is what create even the concept of what Moses handed down to the Israelites. I mean 'thou shall not kill' is not a new thing. When you hear 'thou shall not kill' it sound like out of the Ten Commandments it come, but the reason why Moses left Egypt is because him did kill. So there must be a law inna Egypt saying 'thou shall not kill' why him did haffe run left Egypt. Because him did kill a man and bury him inna de sand. And them find out him kill the man and him run, but Moses have a law say 'thou shall not kill' and everybody believe this is a Moses law. So a lot of the concepts that Moses came out with came from who him was with. Moses spend 40 years inna Egypt and him spend 40 years amongst an Ethiopian man name Jethro and him married an Ethiopian woman, so is 80 years of Moses life spent developing a political and a philosophical idea to lead the people of Israel out of the wilderness. So when I look pon dat, I a say, I can see how that could a blend with me, but I nah go take it literally. I a go see it as symbols -- symbolism. And and how now maybe I can use it fe relate to me, but then again who need it fe relate to me. Black people inna more shit than Israel of the past, right now. So the Rastaman create this ideology out of an experience, out of a black ideology, out of a black theology. And it may sound ridiculous to some people, but it getting somewhere, because out of that come the reggae music that has influenced so much people inna de world. So when you look pon a lickle country like Jamaica, 144 miles long and fe see a lickle country like that has done so much in Earth, much more than what Jerusalem did then . . .

It's almost unprecedented.

Yes. So I guess we just continue with that. So we haffe protect it by doing these things.

Go to part III

Copyright 1998 Carter Van Pelt

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