Finally we are able to publish our interview with the winner of the International section of our Positive Vibration Reggae Awards 2013, the original Ganjah Don from California, the legendary JAH SUN!
A few days to the release of the new album “Rise as One”, Jah Sun tells about himself to Positive Vibration: an interview that goes from winning the contest to his spiritual journey in Ethiopia. Enjoy it!
1) Positive Vibration followers elected your album Battle The Dragon as Best international reggae album of 2012 in our POSITIVE VIBRATION REGGAE AWARDS 2013. What do you feel for this result? This contest, in our opinion, is a provocation to the most important GRAMMY AWARDS FOR BEST REGGAE ALBUM which for more years elects only those artists who have a special commercial power, putting on the back burner the artists who keep the Reggae flag flying. Another defect is that Reggae Grammy Award doesn’t enclose not-jamaican Reggae artists. What is your opinion about this honorary award and its way to select album nominations?
JAH SUN – First I want to say thank you to Positive Vibration for even nominating me and my album for the award! I have so much gratitude for those that took the time to vote and help me to win “Best International Album” of 2012. As for the grammy’s, I guess, I don’t think about that so much. On one hand it is cool that they acknowledge reggae as a genre. I guess that is a start. Maybe they will soon follow in the steps of the MOBO awards and honor other artists that may not be from Jamaica or have had huge commercial success. I was really happy to see Alborosie with the MOBO award as I do rate him as a “REAL” artist who has paid his dues and dedicated so much of his life to Reggae Music and it’s culture. Anyone who does this and can put out good music is deserving of such prestigious awards.
2) Year 2012 seems to be the Jah Sun official launch in the international reggae scene, with the release in January of “Battle the Dragon”, anticipated in 2010 by the big combo “Ganjah Don” with Alborosie that has enjoyed a great success: can you tell us about the album and the ground in which it was born?
(J.S.) – The album concept came to me during a time of great turbulence on our planet. It seemed that there was war and protests happening all over the world. I know that these things are always happening but it seemed to me that, for a moment it was at an all time high. There were riots in England, Spain, Italy, Middle East and in the U.S. was the “Occupy Wallstreet” Movement. It seemed that the well being of the planet and all its habitants were in serious jeopardy and threatened by the Military, Oil, Pharmaceutical and Banking industries. To me these global powers represented one dragon with many heads. Hence the name “Battle the Dragon”. Of course my vision of “battle” is not the typical definition of the word. In the first song on the album, which was produced by Italian label Bizzarri Records “In This Time” says ” if we go to them with weapons, they have more guns, go at them with money, they have more funds, with UNIFICATION their time soon done, we owe it to our daughters and sons”. Songs like “In This Time”, “Manifest”, “Plastic City”, “Jah Children”, from the album all send the message that we can change things but only if we believe in ourselves and each other and unify as one people!
3) “Battle the Dragon” is a new-roots and hip-hop mix, thing which makes it attractive even to those who don’t frequently listen to reggae music. The album is intended to convey through the music a social message of love, peace and spirituality, unattended themes by “same” dancehall artists from Jamaica. What do you think about the violent drift of Jamaican dancehall, that became a model in the rest of the planet?
(J.S.) – Although I do not condone violence or the promotion of it especially through music, I do understand what the struggle and poverty can do to a person and/or a people. It is simply the basic hierarchy of needs. Although ALL humans have the need for love/touch/compassion and a connection to the divine, it is very difficult for one to cultivate and nurture these things when their basic needs, like food, clothing and shelter are not being met. What is happening to reggae already happened to hip hop in the U.S. It was a music that started out in the barrios,gettos and the streets by the people from these places. It was a beautiful expression and a powerful tool in raising awareness, unifying communities and decreasing violence. As it grew in popularity the industry began to promote more the sex, bling and violence side of the music and the “message” music seemed to fade. I see this happening in dancehall too. However “Roots music” is something that cannot be diluted. Maybe that is why it has not become a mainstream genre yet and never will 😉
4) This album is interesting for the cover art too! Jah Sun, microphone armed, is fighting against the Babylon dragon. This is a clear tribute to the “Confrontation” cover art by Bob Marley and the Wailers (1983), in which Neville Garrick (graphic designer of the band) represents Bob Marley riding an horse and he’s fighting against a dragon, armed with a spear, inspired by the iconography of Saint George and the Dragon. How much Bob Marley bore on your musical growth? According to you, after thirty-one years by his death, Reggae music world lost a part of the Bob Marley teachings?
(J.S.) – It’s funny because I really did not have “Confrontation” in my thoughts when I conceived the album art. I called my friend Ras Terms and described exactly what I wanted. Terms being an amazing artist he did exactly what I asked. Afterwards I did remember the Bob Marley album and was very happy to see the resemblance and I thought to myself “Great minds think a like”. As for the world losing Bob Marley teachings, I think not. I feel like his music is still doing what it did for me and reggae lovers all over the world, and that is sparking a flame in our hearts that activates change and raise consciousness. This will continue to happen from generation to generation.
5) Kubla outta Boom Boom Vibration, Lion D, Ras Tewelde, Bizzarri Records: many are the collaborations with italian reggae scene. What do you think about italian reggae reality?
(J.S.) – I have played in many places around the world and I must say that Italy is one of my favorite places. I love the Italian people and culture. What I love about Italian reggae and other parts of Europe as well is the attention to detail in the music. I feel like the artist and producers there really pay homage and respect to Jamaica. Labels like Bizzarri records and bands like BBV really live the music and honor the founders of the genre by maintaining a high level of quality in the production.
6) We know that last year, after a brief stop in Italy, you left for Ethiopia, holy land for Rastafarianism and inspiration for a great part of Reggae discography. What struck you about this land and what is your relationship with Rastafarianism?
(J.S.) – To be in Ethiopia was a great feeling. To be in such an ancient land with such a friendly and kind culture of people was amazing!! It was also the project that brought me there that made my visit so special. I am speaking of the project that is led by Ras Tewelde and Bizzarri Records “YOUTHS OF SHASHA”. The project is a visual and musical documentary and [tell the] story of some of the first Rasta families to repatriate back to Africa and specifically to the land of Shashamane. I felt very proud and honored to meet some of the communities of Shasha and to be involved in the project. As for my relationship to Rastafari, that is an ever evolving path that, I know, I will trod for the rest of my life. No matter the ups or downs, the trials or tribulations I may encounter the words of H.I.M always ring out as truth in my heart.
7) What are your projects for the future?
(J.S.) – I release my new album “Rise as One” in late April and I will be touring many places in the world to promote my new works. I will be Italy this summer working again alongside my friends BBV, Ras Tewelde, Lion D, Get Up Concerti and Bizzarri Family. Other than the promotion of my new release, I plan to continue to write and record music to the best of my ability and share it with the world!!
(Riccardo Passantino, Claudio Azzarello)