Words. Raka Polson.
Away from the hustle and bustle paired with the heat and dust some semblance of tranquility was found nested meters away in a conservative lane which houses Bebble Rock Camp in St.Andrew, Jamaica. Across from the gate is the only sign that indicates where you are, a small neat spray- painted sign baring the studio’s name.
The inspiring and conscious lyricist, Kabaka Pyramid opens the gate with a smile and immediately releases an aura that puts the mind at ease. Clad in matching tee-shirt and shorts completed with rubber sandals my initial apprehension diminished as his humility and warmth permeated the air. I must admit that I was a little taken aback by the quaint and unassuming character of the residence. Then it hit me (or maybe it was a fruit from the tree) Kabaka in his purest form, in his comfort zone.
The well-spoken Campion College alumni spoke freely and profoundly throughout our interview inspiring and provoking thoughts, as he got comfortable. Keron Salmon explained his stage name, “Kabaka is Ugandan for King, so normally people would say King George but in Uganda it’s Kabaka,” he shared with a smile. Pyramid was added, as Kabaka believes it houses the mathematical proportions of Universal Laws that are eminent in the creation of this universe. At 27 years old this young man exemplifies what is needed in the youths today – consciousness, ambition, humility, determination and a positive attitude.
Inspired by lyricism in all forms of music, he studies the way in which fellow artistes compose lyrics intelligently using parts of speech and creativity, which is evident in his own music. His interests are varied but all surround things that are aimed at uplifting the mind such as Africa and spiritualism, herbal healing and reading about issues that will empower the mind. “I read a lot and it is evident in my music the type of material that I read, heavy stuff,” shared Kabaka as he smiles in a reflecting mood.
“I would say my first official break into the industry was in 2011 with the release of the Rebel Music EP,” noted the artiste (preview/download). Like the birth of a child nine months later he was on the Ready fi Di Road (title which bares the same name as one of that hit singles) one of his major musical achievements to date. This tour set a strong foundation for him on the international scene. The tour took the artiste along with some of his counterparts to many countries spreading his message and unleashing what he has to offer to Reggae music. It was during this period that Kabaka saw the opportunities that fusing his hip-hop, reggae and dancehall vibe would create and made a mental note to incorporate this in his style.
Songs like Free from Chains, Ready fi di Road, and War Crime and Violence proved to be major hits on the Ready fi the road tour. “I think I’m a pretty down-to-earth person so most of my songs people will be able to relate to,” Kabaka said in a reflective tone. He continued saying “War Crime and violence is one of those songs that persons from all over can relate to it is something that is happening everywhere.”
As a young man growing up local artiste such as Spragga Benz, Sean Paul Buju Banton and in later years Assassin and Vybz Kartel weaved their ways into his mental space with their lyrical versatility.
Many music enthusiasts are of the notion that hip-hop has infiltrated the current Jamaican music industry however Kabaka dismisses this. He believes that it is the evolution of American music that took a pop direction as mainstream hip-hop artistes rapped over the beats without saying much. The original lyricism is what is lacking in the music industry and this approach is what has taken over the Jamaican music industry.
“It comes from within (obstacles) developing as an artiste of the music, production side, trying to mix and not having the right equipment.” Throughout the years Kabaka has learnt to utilize his various skills to build his career and making himself self-sufficient not wanting to wait around for persons to decide when it will be his time to spread the word. So he started voicing, mixing and producing his own music. At the end of the day he believes that “can’t focus on the obstacles, as an artiste it’s about the craft”. Like many artistes in the early stages Kabaka biggest issue was getting an audience, allowing his potent lyrics to be embedded in the minds of his listeners.
The artiste shared “(it’s) not about being a star, it’s about everyday situation, learning and growing”. His unique style that is currently creating a buzz on the music scene is due him not wanting to be boxed in, his yearning for the music not only be accepted and understand locally but on the international market. Kabaka’s musical prowess has earned him a number of collaborations with like-minded artiste such as Protoje, Chronixx, Sizzla and Dre Island. “I would collaborate with artiste that do dancehall but aren’t dancehall artiste,” said the artiste. Responding to the question of future collaborations he named Busy Signal and Spragga Benz among those he would work with. When asked to describe his music he laughed saying his music has a fiery energy, it’s lyrically complex but it’s up to the listener to determine. “I won’t say my music is conscious, those who listen should be able to determine that based on the feelings that it inspires in them,” said Kabaka.
The age old question, music and its impact on the youths was asked. Sitting up in his chair Kabaka said “Anything that youths spend most of their time doing will reshape their thoughts,” he continued by saying “if they spend time looking at plants and farming that will consume the minds but majority of youths deal with music”.
“Everything starts in the home and parents are, or should be the head of shaping and molding the child,” the artiste noted. He also alluded to the fact that not everyone is fortunate to have strong parents to emulate but it is important to find positive role models. Kabaka went on to speak about the importance of the formative years “if a child sees a parent doing certain things it affects the child’s future relationship”. He believes that the way forward is to listen and respect your parents/ guardians until you are old enough to make your own conscious decisions and by this time you will be able to because of the strong foundation.
He went on to speak about his family and their support for his career “my mother spreading the word to all her friends and my father gives out CD’s, my brother is promoter and producer so he’s also very helpful,” he smiles as he talks about his family.
“Somewhere between Jamaica and Africa is where I see myself situated making music within the next five years,” were Kabaka’s closing words to the interview.