|I first met Jah Bull through a friend of mine in
1994. At the time I was putting together a celebration to honor HAILE
SELASSIE I‘S birthday. I was already familiar with Jah Bull's music from
his collaborations with Augustus Pablo and had heard an
interview he had given on the »Reggae
Beat« radio show hosted by Hank
Holmes and Chuck Foster. Jah Bull comes from the
same line and tradition of DJ's as Prince Fari,
Jah Lloyd and Prince Jazzbo, who are all
known for their conscious and upful records. Although Jah Bull did not
make as many records as these artists, the ones he did make were all
concious and dread. He is as dread as they come. I, being a youth who
loves Rasta is why I chose Jah Bull to perform at the birthday
celebration. So, I give Jah Bull a call to his home in Los Angeles where
he was living at the time, and asked him if he would be interested in
DJing at the celebration. The day of the celebration Jah Bull shows up and
treats the crowd to an awesome display of classic Jamaican DJ style. That
is rare to see these days. From that day on Jah Bull and I became close
friends. We worked together for the next three years lining up shows for
him to perform at in California. During this time Jah Bull produced and
released his debut CD »Press Along
Rasta« on his own Bull Don label. It was a very
happy time for him but it was short lived. One night during a performance
he told me that police had entered his home and found a large amount of
marijuana and some weapons he used for protection. He was tried and
convicted. The judge sentenced him to three years in prison. After serving
his time, Jah Bull was hoping to resume his career in Los Angeles but
instead was deported. After 11 years living in America Jah Bull now finds
himself back home in Jamaica. The following interview took place over a 4
month period in 1999. |
Where were you born?
Kingston Jubilee Hospital, which is now Public Hospital, in October 1950.
What area in Kingston?
My mother was living in Constance Springs back then.
Is that where you grew up?
No, I didn't grow up there I grew up in the Tavern area close by Kintyre in the Kingston 6 area.
What was it like growing up around that area?
It was pretty cool yunno, my mother was always working. She worked fe take care of me. She used to work for uptown people, yuh know. Scrub dem floor, cook their food, and wash their clothes fe to get money fi give me for school.
Was there much rude boy business going on at that time?
No not really. Not back in those days. Yunno rudeness always be around but I always survive. Rudeness not trouble rasta.
How did you get your name Jah Bull?
My niece Patricia who was about 3 years old she wanted to say Woolton but it would come out bull. After that people started calling me »Bull Bull«. But then when I man becomes a rastaman, them say »Jah Bull«. Seen?
Who were your favorite djs as a youth?
Back in those days Daddy Uroy. I used to look to Daddy Uroy, King Stitt, Prince Ruff.
Who is Prince Ruff?
One dj you guys never hear about. He never did alot of records. He used to dj a sound by the name of Sir George.
And you would go to a dance and check him?
Yeah, I be listening to those guys like King Stitt »The Ugly One« (laughter).
What did you like about those djs?
They were pretty cool selecting, playing the music and toasting over the mic. I used to stand there and watch them. I was pretty small, I use to steal away from my home.
How old were you around this time?
Maybe about 5 or 6. (laughter) Yeah man, I used to do that!
How late would you come back from a dance when you would steal away?
Sometimes when I would steal away I would have to sleep under the cellar, man. (laughter)
Would your parents .....
They would beat me man! My big sister would beat me! (laughter)
They would be vexed, huh?
They would beat me yeah, my bigger sister, she didn't want me to go out like that. I'd be at home yuh know and when she's not looking, I'm gone ! Sometimes she'd come around the dance trying fi look fe me. I would see her and I would hide from her.
So back then would a dance be strictly sound system or would they ever feature a live band?
No not in those times it was strictly sound system and listen to the ska music.
Were King Stitt, Prince Ruff and those guys your influence to pick up a mic and dj?
Umm.....I'm not going to say they influenced me....I didn't even know they were an influence on me, I wouldn't say influenced it was from me liking the music...that's what I could say. Cause I could stay in my yard and hear when the sound was playing. So I wanted to go hear this music. I wanted to go see what's happening around there. It was the music not the people. Yuh know, likkle bwoy I be curious cause I used to love the music. When I was seven, I mon love to sing. While in prep school, I would perform for concerts. I recall during that time my thirst for the music was really strong. I would go and make music with a board and pan. My brother, Baron, taught I to sing Nat King Cole songs. At that time singing was like finding gold.
Did you like singing before dj?
Yes, years later Augustus Pablo told me I should sing. He told me that.
So who were your favorite Jamaican singers during this time?
Prince Buster, Derrick Morgan, and Eric »Monty« Morris, he was my favorite singer.
At what age did you start deejaying?
Well I never take up deejaying til about let me see.........65, 66, 67 maybe 1967. I was about 17 years of age when I start messin with the music like deejaying.
Who was the first person to pass you the mic?
Nobody really pass me the mic I never used to be a dj on no sound at the time. I remember that I never used to work with any other dj's, but my nephew, he used to have a sound come around playing music and I would be messin around with his stuff and I became very good at talking and selecting. So then I start to dj for Prince Patrick.
Who was he?
Prince Patrick was a sound system from the Rockfort era in Kingston. Then I use to dj for Prince Norman who use to be associated with Winston Martin aka Emperor Marcus. He was the owner of Prince Norman and they use to come and get me to dj the sound, I used to be pretty good back then. So when Prince Norman broke up, Winston Martin becomes Emperor Marcus and I become resident dj for him. I really loved to do it.
Would you go and buy your own records or would they supply the records?
Well, when I was playing those sounds like Prince Patrick or Prince Norman they would buy the music. But after I was playing Emperor Marcus I was buying the music cause I was responsible for Emperor Marcus, or seeing that I knew the artist and I used to hang around them sometimes I didn't have to buy the music. When they had a new record come out I used to get it from them, know what ah mean? They know I have a sound system so they would want me to play their music on the sound.
Where was your favorite place to buy music?
Randy's, Channel One, Aquarius and Joe Gibbs. I would go to Channel One with the Hookim brothers and cut the dubs, special dub plates.
What were some of your favorite labels to get?
Studio One! I could tear up a sound with Studio One. We used to play other stuff like Bunny Lee's stuff but Studio One was everything in dem time deh. I'd be playing some other record and people would come up to the dj booth and shout, PLAY SOME STUDIO ONE! PLAY SOME STUDIO ONE!
When you would play the record, would you play the version only or.................
No, We used to play the vocal then flip it and toast over the version and that's where I would get my vibes from. That's where I started.
You sent me a photograph dated 1974 showing you playing the sound. In it I noticed there was only one turntable. Did all dj's play with one turntable?
Yeah, Daddy Uroy used to play with one turntable back then. One turntable was used up until about the mid 80's. Yes, I remember also King Tubbys used one turntable, Tippertone, Emperor Marcus, Gemini, Black Harmony all dem sounds used to use one turntable.
So when the record was over you would.........
We could take it off so fast and put it on so fast. Less than a second! We were experts, so while we'd be changing the record to the version side we'd be saying something to the crowd before the record comes on. Seen?
It took alot of practice huh?
Yeah we would do that, just practicing that's what we dj's call serenade. Like I mean we did not play for anybody you would play in your own place. We say serenade, you say practice.
So you would practice flipping it over and getting the needle right at the start?
Right pon top of the start! It takes alot of eyesight, your eye has to be quick!
How often would you put on a dance?
Sometimes every Friday and Saturday, but not me put on a dance. People would pay Emperor Marcus, he would get the date and set up the dance. They would book it like they book up a band. And it could be written up on postcard and everything would be ready to go and I know I got to go play there. I would serenade the sound sometimes thursday night or friday night. As I said serenade means to practice and to play around in the village to let people know where I'm going to be playing.
Sound systems were so important to the people of the ghetto? Right?
Yeah, well that was the only source of enjoyment we had in them time, yuh know? We never really used to have alot of big stage shows. The sound was the main source of music to the people in dem time deh, cause when the dance came on everybody full up.
Was there any kind of radio play at all?
For reggae back then, there used to be something by the name of radio fusion, yes I think that was the only radio show at that time. But the sound was the main thing cause alot of the people of the ghetto would not even have a radio to hear that. You could even hear the sound from your yard so you didn't have to pay to listen to new music. Just like when we ah go somewhere to play,we have fe play a new selection the people don't hear yet, that's every week! But we would'nt play new music too early,we'll play it later, when the dance be jumpin more!. And for the enjoyment we'd play the regular music, and now and again introduce one new song that we call »specials« we play fe de people and let them know this is first anywhere! yunno? (laughter) and sit back and let it go! Sometimes the people dem would come inna dance with a tape recorder and tape what we play inna dance
Were the dances at different peoples yards everytime?
Yes different peoples place, we have 14 different parrishes in Jamaica so sometimes we would be in Westmoreland, sometimes Negril, sometimes in St Mary and all around Kingston. That's how people get to know me.
Was there competition with other sounds?
Yeah! Back in the days I had competition, I played against Tippertone, I played against Black Harmony. Black Harmony used to be played by Jah Stitch. Tippertone used to be played by Jah Wise, we called him artist becuse he can draw. He used to make posters for the dance. Jah Wise, he still have his Tippertone sound in New York right now today.
Was he the same man who appeared in the Rockers movie?\
Yes, he was the youth who paint up the Lion of Judah pon Horsemouth's bike. Yes, Jah Wise is Cornell Campbell's brother.
How would the winner of these competitions be determined?
We would play hour by the hour. One sound would play one hour the other sound would play an hour and so on. So you got to play the most levelable music in the dancehall and you could come out a winner. The people would tell the next sound to »don't play nomore«, they want the sound who play the best music.
The crowd would be the judge?
Yeah, the crowd is the judge and if you don't want to hear dem they fuck up your speakers. (We both start laughing) (still laughing) There would be some crazy people man!
So, it would get kinda rowdy huh?
Yeah, like when some dj's wouldn't leave, he'd get stoned with bottle and stick. That is how it is in Jamaica it's crazy down there sometimes they'd fire gunshot in the dance and mash up the whole dance!
Was there ever a prize for the winner of the competition?
Well we never used to get no prize but I think it was just to make the people them happy. Maybe the prize I would get..... like maybe a present from the person who would keep the dance. He would ask me what I need and I used to always want some smoke (Jah Bull chuckles) I would always want some smoke,man!
Were you dj and selector?
Yes I was for a time and then I got a youth named Julius Miller. He used to be selecting the sound with me. He was an engineer. He used to do electrical work.
So for Emperor Marcus it was just you mostly?
I was the resident dj, I was like the boss, not the boss but second to the boss next Winston Martin the owner.
Weren't you instrumental in giving Brigadier Jerry his start in music?
Well back in those days 1973/74 Brigadier used to be a likkle youth. He lived at 5 Tavern Ave. and I lived at 14 Tavern Ave. Down the road. Briggy used to come check me before go to school at morning times and listen how the sound be playing, he loved the music just the same way. I can remember the first night he come along while I was rehearsing and I gave him the mic and let him serenade the sound and he sound good. He was very small dem times and we start taking him out with us to the dancehall. We used to ask his mother permission to take him with us. She would let him go with us cause she knew we were good people. So that's how Briggy come up. I'm the first man to give Brigadier Jerry a mic in his hand.
So Emperor Marcus sound is where he started and from there he take off to Jah Love sound,they wanted I to go to »Jah Love« too but I never wanted to be a twelve tribes.
Would you ever have any special guests on your sound?
Yes, special guests like Horace Andy. He used to come in specially in certain dance. Brimstone from Tippertone, Jah Stitch from Black Harmony if he's not playing that night.
When did Emperor Marcus mash up?
Around 1978 Winston Martin lost interest in the sound system and sold it off to start producing artists on his own Marcus label.
Speaking of Horace Andy........
|..Could you tell us something about »Ital Vital«?
»Ital Vital« was my first ever record on the Marcus Label. You see I've been an Ital Rastaman since 1969. The lyrics, the topic is that Ital is Vital! Naturality is beauty. Eating good food, the more you eat natural ting, the better it is for you. Ital is when we are an Ital Rastaman, we don't like to cook our food with no salt, just natrual food, kinda like vegetarian. We don't eat no contaminated foods. This is the main source of inspiration for that song.
Who produced it?
Winston Martin was the man who put up the money for the studio times but I was the one who distribute it and I was the one putting it in the shops. I'm the one who rent to cut the stamper. It was me and Horace Andy was the first artists on that label. Horace Andy aka Sleepy was living in Kintyre at that time and he used to hear me playing on Emperor Marcus sound. At those times he used to come and sell us his records and then me and him became friends. Then one day him say to I, »Man you sound good!« as I used to be freestyling back then. So him say him is going to take me to the studio, he had a rhythm by Freddie Mckay, he did a song called »Rock A Bye Woman« on that rhythm track first. Then Horace Andy asked him for a cut of the rhythm track and we voiced it in the studios of King Tubby.
How long did it take to record this song?
I don't remember how much takes we did, but we did it very quick. But, you see that song. We voice together at one time. We only used one mic.
What was the response from the people, this being your first record?
Well we got a good of response from friends and a lot of radio play.
»Ital Vital« is a very rare single to find but it can be heard on Horace Andy's »Good Vibes«lp that was released in 1997 on the Blood & Fire label. This cut contains the original Horace Andy vocal with version. Although not credited on the lp, Jah Bull's voice can be heard on the tail end of the version side. According to Horace Andy, »Ital Vital« was not as successful as Jah Bull had hoped but it was to be an important step in his recording career.
|During the mid to late 70's Jah Bull began recording for melodica
master/producer Augustus Pablo. While associated with Pablo, Jah Bull
recorded a string of songs that became his best known works. These
included »Jah the Creator«, »Guide I Jah«, »What a Tribulation«, »Free Jah
Jah Children«, »Push Dawta Push«, »Know Where We Are Going«, »Conference
Table« and »Two The Hard Way« with Jah Levi. |
Moving on to »Rockers« time, how did you meet Augustus Pablo?
Hugh Mundell is the one who introduced me to Augustus Pablo. Pablo was living in somewhere Garden Town by Grove during that time, and I was living in Tavern. So that was very close by. We first meet at his house, I didn't know where he lived so Hugh took me there to meet him. I don't remember what occured the first meeting but through the powers of Jah we ignite. We became good friends, we get good vibes from each other right from the start. Then he introduced me to the studio just like that. I used to go by Pablo's house everyday, we used to eat, cook food together, praise Jah together and smoke the hola communion together, which is herb and give praises to the most high Jah Rastafari.
Do you remember what the first song you recorded for Pablo?
My first song for Pablo is »Guide I Jah« then »What a Tribulation«, »Free Jah Jah Children« and so on. Most of the songs were voiced at Harry J's studio.
Can you tell us something about »Conference Table«?
Yes, »Conference Table«was released on the flipside of Tetrack's song »She Loves Me« in JA and was also released by Mango on a 12" out of England. The song is about the gathering of Jah people. That song was pertaining to the father by saying they didn't respect him when he went to the Geneva conference. When Jah was sitting at the conference table they didn't want to give him what him want and Jah say, »Today for me, tomorrow for you.« From that time til this time there's rumors of war. All of these things are happening because they are disobedient to the father and no want to keep up him works. That's why you have alot of catastrophe in the world.
This song, recorded in 1983, had a much different sound than the ones you previously recorded for Pablo. It sounds like Pablo started to experiment with the computer programed sound on this song?
Yes he created that riddim personally for me on a Casio keyboard. The riddim is actually to an old Derrick Harriott tune called »Slave.« Pablo was different than any of the other producers, the way him do tings. When I go to Pablo with the lyrics he would make a riddim around my lyrics. Him don't just put you on any riddim, he would try to create or give you a riddim nobody ever heard you on. That's the way my producer, Augustus Pablo, would do things.
One of my favorite songs you did for Pablo was »Jah the Creator«.
Yes that's true! After me knowing that Jah Selassie I is the creator and I sight that, I had to do that song for him specially. Because it's for the world to know that he is really the person that create us. When I was doing that song is like I get the message, not that I didn't know that he is the creator but he taught me that he is the creator. That's why I did that song.
That one is more chant than deejay?
Yes the difference between deejay and chanting is we do it in a more slower basic style the same as Nyahbingi chant, you chant facts, factual or biblical. Like I would chant something like »Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly«, that would be more like chanting, and with deejay the thing is more like talk sing the lyrics or just talk words like »The girl who me love alot she not love me.« That's more like straight up deejay.
I don't see too many djs on Pablo's label?
Yes , Pablo recorded some djs like my bredren Blacka T who is living in England now, Dillenger and also a bredah by the name of Jah T him in Jamaica right now, him living in the bush inna de hills. He scared of Babylon so him don't come out. Sometime when I & I come out, we just come fe deal with music like studio work, yuh know? Sometime we don't like to see people, we'd rather see the trees. But if Pablo liked djs he had to be concious and don't be dealin with no stupid bullshit. You had to come with some collective lyrics.
Of all the djs, you are the one Pablo used the most?
Yeah? That really true?
But you see that come because we move like companion, I used to stay by Pablo man. Me, Augustus Pablo, Delroy Williams, we have a closeness together, Yami Bolo, Jr. Delgado and even a youth called White Mice. We used to be living in the same house, together, up in Stoney Hills, Jamaica.
Did Pablo ever put on shows with a live band featuring his stable of artists?
No, he never put on a show with a live band. He only have his sound in the dance playing.
His sound Rockers International?
Yeah, Me and Hugh Mundell be deejaying on his sound. Then Pablo would play his melodica live, play it live on stage, live deh! Live in the dancehall!
Can you tell us something about Pablo's sound?
Pablo used to run his sound with him brother Dougie. When I get fe know Pablo I would just be like a guest on his sound. Me not really play on Pablo's sound deh.
So, who was the resident dj on his sound?
Hugh Mundell was the resident dj. And maybe sometimes Dillenger. Pablo's brother Dougie was the selector. You see Pablo was the star, he would just come, say about 10:00 and select. Yuh know, like the special selector, but it was Dougie whose job that.
Then Hugh Mundell was the regular dj on the sound?
Yes he used to dj as Jah Levi and sing as Hugh Mundell, just like how George Nooks would sing as himself and dj as Prince Mohammed, seen? At first Hugh would sing on the sound but because he used to play his own records he would sing less because the version would have some of his vocals, so he start to dj on the sound. After that Pablo record him as Jah Levi.
You appeared on the Rockers 12" version of Hugh Mundell's song »Blackman Foundation« with a crucial toast called »Push Dawta Push«?
»Push Dawta Push«, yes back then I think that was when them first start to deal with abortion, at the time I wrote the song. Push dawta push means the dawta dem must bring dem baby pon the land and not kill off Jah youth or else brimstone and fire going to burn dem.
What is the »pearl« you refer to in this song?
Well you see the pearl is like a device dem put into the womens tubes to prevent them from having baby.
This song has really come to light in these times with the controversy surrounding abortion?
Well, I mon don't deal with them people deh, them say pro this and pro that. There is nothing to argue about, is only life I&I deal with. It is the greatest gift that Jah give to every man woman and child, and that is LIFE! So looking forward I'd say the song »Push Dawta Push« is not realy about abortion, but about LIFE.
This song was also featured on the Hugh Mundell LP »Black Man Foundation« released in America by Shanachie, but Jah Bull was unfortunately omitted from the album credits. Jah Bull explains
...it was very disapointing for me when they didn't credit me for that song because it was a world wide recond, man! This record was big in England and America and still people around the world don't know that it is Jah Bull doing the DJ on »Push Dawta Push«.
So, having your name on this record would have given your career a big push outside of Jamaica?
Yes! It would have given me a bigger go, but that can't stop me still, and I would like to let everybody know who is reading this, know that when you listen to the album »Black Man Foundation« the DJ who comes in after Hugh Mundell that is Jah Bull! Seen!
I thought I had heard every Jah Bull song, but recently I discovered that there is a 12" on the Rocker's label, with Tetrack doing the song »Love and Unity,« followed by »Jah Levi« (Mundell) and Jah Bull song called »2 the Hard Way.« Do you remember this record?
Well I remember we did a combination once, but it was back awhile then. Do you have it ? Play it fe me nuh?
Yes, I have it. (I play a few minutes of it holding the phone up to the speaker. On the song Jah Levi deejays first, sounding very much like Jah Bull, then Jah Bull comes in with »If life was a thing that money could buy, then the rich would have it and the poor would die.«)
Is a long time ago I no hear that song, it bring back nuff memories.
When I hear this song I can hear how close he was and how much he looked up to you. That vibe just jumps out of the song.
Yes! That's the truth! You know that I mon get the same irie vibrations right now too.
His deejay style sounds very much like you, at times it's hard to tell who's who?
Yes mon, that youth there him used to love me mon. You hear the lyrics in that song »I mon school, I mon teacher« I was like a mentor to him. He used to come to my house every day we used to sit down and cook and eat.
When did you meet Hugh Mundell?
I met him around 1975. He was a very young youth at the time but a very serious youth. When I say serious I mean he was like a likkle man, not a likkle boy. When me remember that youth deh some times it makes me feel like... like pain yunno? I felt anger and sadness when they killed Hugh Mundell.
How did he get killed?
Well, Hugh Mundell had finished doing a tour in the states, did good,come home and bought himself a house. The guy who used to work on his yard broke into his house and stole some of his equipment like a tv or something. Somehow Hugh Mundell and Jr. Reid get the guy who stole his things and had him locked up by the police. One day Hugh went to look about some record business, when he was confronted by the guy who stole his things brother. Hugh Mundell tells him »if your brother gives me back my things then I could have them release your brother.« And the guy just pulled out a gun and shot Hugh Mundell in the presence of Jr. Reid. Jr. Reid was there, he could tell you more about it, I wasn't there. The police go and arrest the guy and they only gave him 10 years in prison. By now he is probably out and about. But I know that Jah will take care of it anyway.
|Augustus Pablo was quoted in »More Axe« magazine,
»People are wishing me to build back my sound in Jamaica, and I'll get
Jah Bull to run it.« |
Yeah , we had a plan when I was going to go home, we was going to build up a sound, he say he wanted me to operate the sound. We used to talk about it on the phone when I was living in L.A. And when Pablo would come on tour, yes he would be very excited about it. He wanted I to come home to start this sound. I wanted to call it »Pitbull Hi-Power« Yes me and Pablo had alot of plans but Jah is the man who spins the coin.
It must have been very difficult to hear about Pablo's passing, especially while being incarcerated?
Well Pablo's death hit me like....I feel it that morning when I was in my cell. I was talking to a bredren about Augustus Pablo, about how we used to live. Then that day I did no go outside to the yard, because I was feeling very cold and strange in my structure. I was feeling a vibration that wasn't right. Later on in the day, I was listening to my radio that I had in my cell, they used to play this reggae show that would play at certain times and they played an Augustus Pablo tune »Blowing in the Winds«. To me this was unusual. After the song, they announced that Pablo passed away. My eyes was full of water. Man, for about an hour I was full of grief. I miss Augustus Pablo very much. May he rest in peace in Mt. Zion.
Do you have any unreleased music produced by Pablo?
Yes, me and Pablo have alot of songs no one has ever heard. When I get to Jamaica I'm going to check with Pablo's brother, Garth. I don't know how we is going to work it out.
I'm sure there are alot of your fans that would love to hear these songs?
Yes we'll try to work something out. I don't know if he is going to want me to voice it over or release them or give them to me or whatever, I don't know.
Is this like a whole album worth of songs?
An album and more. But now that Pablo is gone, who knows if they will ever surface. I don't know because Pablo's brother is not like him, so it's all up in the air.
|While you were recording songs for Pablo you also
recorded some songs for producer Harry J? |
Yes, most of the songs I did for Pablo were voiced at Harry J studios. This is how Harry J heard of me also. But you see the engineer that used to operate Harry J studio, his name is Sylvan Morris, he was the one who built the amplifier for Emperor Marcus.
So he had a big influence of telling Harry J about me. Then he told Morris to record me on some of the rhythms they had in their collection, »Money Man Style« is the first song I did for Harry J then I did »Survival Time«. They were released on the Harry J label around 1978.
Some Jamaican producers had the reputation of not paying the artists what was owed to them and in this case it was no different. »Money Man Style« and »Survival Time« were to be very ironic titles because Jah Bull struggled so to get paid. I asked Jah Bull about this.
Yeah, well at first he gave a likkle change, I really don't remember how much but it wasn't much. Not what we agreed to yunno? One day I went to try to get the rest of my pay and he looked like he wanted to pull his gun on me but that's when I think he start to feel guilt about it and decided to give me more money, he also gave me cuts of the songs. You see he never knew I could ever produce any of the songs myself. Alot of the producers back then would give the artists the tracks as pay but I being so young I didn't know this. That's why I never did alot of songs for many producers because I was scared of being ripped off. Augustus Pablo was the one who told me not to get mix up with Harry J because him like to do work with the artist them, and then put out songs without letting the artist know about it. I remember doing other songs for him that I never get paid for. I even heard one of these songs when I come here to America. But still at the same time he help me make a name fe I cause when he put my name out deh ain't nothing bad he do. He put me out to the world to let people know that this is Jah Bull cause if he never do that nobody would know who is Jah Bull. Years ago I looked at him as a bad guy because he didn't pay me but in another sense him not really a bad guy.
After holding on to these tracks for so long, 15 years after they were originally recorded, Jah Bull, now working on his own terms as producer and writer, included »Money Man Style and »Survival Time« in their original form on his debut CD »Press Along Rasta.«
|What year did you leave Jamaica? |
17th of Febuary 1989 California was my first stop in America.I came here to do the Don Carlos, Garth Dennis, Ruffy & Tuffy tour.When the tour was over I mon stayed behind to settle in L.A.
In 1991 Jah Bull produced & released a double sided 12" on his own Bull Don label »This is reggae music« and the controversial »Fuckerys ah Gwaan«. »Fuckerys« also appeared on the cd »Press Along Rasta« but with a different mix and take from the original 12". This song was never given a chance from the start, because of its title the local radio deejays were afraid to play it and record buyers would pass it up at the shops thinking it was just another slack or x-rated tune. Jah Bull received alot of heat and criticism from people wondering why a concious artist like himself would put out a song containing profanity. But the real problem was that the people criticizing the song had either not listened to it or were judging it based on the title alone. For example, while looking for a company to distribute the cd »Press Along Rasta,« a label from England that deals strictly with roots and culture called and said they liked the cd and would agree to distribute it only if Jah Bull would somehow remove the song »Fuckerys« from the cd. We tried to explain to the person from the label (who was Jamaican) what the song was about but he said, »I know what the song means, I'm from Jamaica, that word is used all the time but I don't want to put out any music with that kind of language on my label.«
Reggae Beat columnist Chuck Foster put it best when he reviewed »Fuckerys Ah Gwaan« and wrote »This one is dread from the get go.« Jah Bull announces at the beginning of the song, »Now hear this! Don't be like Mengitsu who tried to fight against Selassie I, Ca you know you'll go down in a pit, a bottomless pit«
Jah Bull explains »A lot of people misunderstand me in the song »Fuckerys Ah Gwaan.«
See, I started doing »Fuckerys« from the early 80's. I wrote that song from back then. I wanted to do that song for Augustus Pablo but he never did like it. Him a man deh who don't like to hear curse but I did the song because some man want to be the big fish ripping off the people, from my own experience. The leaders of the world do alot of stupid things. As the song goes »Everywhere you go is Fuckerys Ah Gwaan, All over the world is pure Fuckerys Ah Gwaan, The big fish wants to eat he small fish, the rich man wants to use the poor man.« Seen? You have all these millionaires that just sit pon their millions while people are dying for hunger all over the world. Right now in Jamaica and all over is pure fuckerys.
So the song is a warning?
Yes I! It's a message, the warner. In Jamaica the messenger we call the warnerman, a man who warns, that's what the song is about.
What does fuckerys mean in Jamaica?
That word in Jamaica means when you are not being treated right by some people or a person. It means not right, like if a man looks at somebody and says your doing fuckerys, yunno? Stop it! Nuff people don't use these words internationally yunno it's more of a ghetto slang from Jamaica.
Now »Fuckerys« is also a song with the message telling the youth to stand up for your rights? Do you think rasta has to be more aggressive in these times?
There is time for everything. I & I humble and I & I a lion. Yes I, just like a lion in the jungle, sometimes the lion roars. The king of beasts in the jungle, right? If you try to trouble him food or try to trouble his kids, him gonna bite you up! Lion always humble, seen? Like His Majesty say, »We Africans will fight if we find it necessary.«
|At the time of this telephone interview Jah Bull was
being held at the El Centro I.N.S. facility awaiting to be deported back
to Jamaica. I asked if he doesn't mind talking about his
Yes I've been held captive for the last three years behind babylon walls for using marijuana, ganja, herb. But babylon will have to pay for what they are doing to jah children, yunno what I mean? I don't see nothing wrong in people dealing with herb cause herb was created by the father Jah, for the use of man. If you could reflect back to Genesis Ch.1 verse 29, Jah say, »Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree in which is fruit of a tree yielding seed, to you it shall be for meat.« So that's why I have been in prison for using herb for my sacramental use, I am no criminal.
I know that babylon give you alot of pressure cause of your natty dreadlocks?
Yes because I mon don't cut off my natty dread, my roots. Babylon calls it the »grooming rule,« but I mon tell them death before dishoner! They can't cut I hair, I don't deserve that, this is my way of life, Rastafari way of life.
What were the consequences of not following this rule?
Babylon said that if I didn't comply with the rules my privileges would be taken away such as , no visitation, no phone calls, no letters and no activities. They had a music room and I couldn't go to it and they moved I to a higher security risk area just because I wouldn't cut my hair. So they spite I like a little child, they are unconstitutional. They say in America that you have religious freedom, babylon is the wrong one. I pray to Jah fe smash down that regime!
At the moment of our conversation there is a brief but strong jolt from an earthquake. Jah Bull is 200 miles southeast from where I am near Los Angeles. I ask Jah Bull, »Do you feel that earthquake?«
No I don't feel it where I am Sal, is Jah shaking things?
Yes the ground is rumbling.
Well, I'm not saying that I'm the righteous one but I & I love the earthquake! Cause when the earthquake shake the weakheart quake! Yunno wha I mean?
Yes I! Shake them Jah!
The earthquake don't bother I mon, I know who is going to feel it, those who disobey Jah are the ones who are going to feel it. Cause Jah come to break downpression and set the captives free. One day it will shake strong enough to break down these walls so that I and all of Jah Jah children will be able to walk free. That's why I & I look to earthquake to shake up babylon plan. They think they are going to build these walls to keep I & I behind bars.
So you didn't find what you were looking for here in America?
Well when I came here to America I was looking for some financial gain, which I had, but you see America will build you up then knock you down. This is no place for I & I to live in this babylon society. This is not America, not so! Asadica! Yes, Merry macka. Asadica, not America.
You'll be transported to Jamaica soon, when you get home are you going to work on some music right away?
Well, first I'm going to sit down a little in Jamaica and reconcile in I self, go up to the hills and jump Nyabingi with my bredrens, give praises to the most high Jah Rastafari, bathe in the river, drink ital roots and things like those. Then after this I have a vision to build a studio maybe with the help of people like my well wishers and fans.
Then be able to record some unfortunate youth that don't have money, but who have talent and I have two nephews out there that are mashing up the place right now, Maximillion and Simpleton. They are my two nephews, I want to start my own label and record them. Then I'm going to check Pablo's brother, Garth Swaby, to see if I can get those tracks that were not released by Pablo. But I'm just going to leave it all the the most high Jah Rastafari.
At this time a guard tells Jah Bull his time is over on the telephone. Jah Bull tells me to keep the faith, Jah will prevail.
|I didn't hear from Jah Bull for about a month, I was
starting to get worried. I thought maybe the Jamaican authorities had
detained him. Then one day the phone rings and it is a joyous and happy
Jah Bull, calling from Jamaica. I am so happy to hear that he made it back
home safely. |
It is so Irie down here! Everybody is so joyed to see me again, as for me I feel really good I'm staying at my family's home for now until I can get my own place. I feel good to be back in my homeland again, star! To be away from the misery that I've been in the last three years.
What's going in the music scene in Jamaica right now?
Well in every times you always have negative and positive, just like now you have some deejay messengers like Capleton who is mashing up the place up down here! Hotter fire! Babylon burnin down! Then you have some deejays who is talking about follys and girls and all these things, still going on now. You have people who is doing good music and people who is not doing good music. The devil get the evil to talk stupidness and slackness.
Yeah, I've heard so many deejays come with some silly tunes.
It's devil works mon, I & I is for positive vibrations.
That's what I love about you man, people can say whatever they want about you but you've always, from the beginning, had something concious and good things to say.
Yes I, consciousness, it is something that I have to continue. That's in I blood yunno? I don't want to be saying stupid on no record, I man is for life! Caring for life that's what it's really all about.
Can you tell us something about your latest works, »Press Along Rasta?«
Yes my album »Press Along Rasta« is my first full length lp that I wrote and produced myself. But I have not had a chance to find proper distribution due because I was away for awhile. The inspiration for my album is a message, Press Along means don't give up because people got to go through a lot of trials and tribulations. But no matter the situation, people must always keep striving cause you can't give up in life just because something happened to you. »Pick myself up, dust myself off«, as Peter Tosh said. »I'm going to start all over again.« Seen? That's what my album signifies.
Where was »Press Along Rasta« recorded?
It was recorded at Rough Sounds studios in Los Angeles. Players of instruments are Mike Irwin (bass), Alberto Fernandez (guitars), Eric »Zacky« Bernard of the Twinkle Brothers on keyboards and Sly Dunbar on drums.
Is there some musicians you would like to work with now?
Yes, some people is talking about reggae and dancehall but I don't want to call no name, there's some youth talking about dancehall music but the only difference with the dancehall music now is that it is not properly prepared. I would like to do some music with some original man and not no program drum or drum machine. I want to do it with some live people, live spirit, no computer ting. Cause when you do the music with computer thing, you are taking away the spirit from the music.
When you play the music that is being played by man the spirit of man is in the music. And when you listen you can hear it. But nowadays there's this drum thing still going on, is different vibes from them times deh from when we used to really make music in the studio. From Bob days, from Peter days, from Augustus Pablo days, yunno what I'm saying? Dennis Brown days! Horace Andy days! The vibes is not like them times deh. The computer age try to take over man vibes. I would like to make a complete lp with man playing all the instruments dem.
Who would be some of your choice musicians?
I'd get Santa Davis on drums, Earl Chinna Smith on guitars, Tony Chin on riddims, Sly and Robbie, yunno something like that, Benbow, Horsemouth, all of them ideal musicians.
I guess nowadays the producer doesn't want to pay all them people.
Yes, it's more exspensive to get the live musicians in the studio right now. But it's worth it, you get the human vibration and not the computer vibration. Rubbish truck man nah clean up anymore, it's like a robot pickup the rubbish and throw it pon the rubbish truck.
So the computer make people lazy?
We have machine doing everything man, yes machine! Machine!
Have you had a chance to work on any music?
Yes, I did some work in the studio the other day with Horace Andy. I did a song for him, I think he's going to be mixing it down very soon.
Gussie Clark Music Works studio. Horace is supposed to go back to England next month. If it's possible maybe if everything be alright for the future me and him a go to England.
|Although I miss my friend Jah Bull, I'm glad he is
back home in Jamaica. He continues to struggle with everyday life but I
know he will always pick himself up. Jah Bull is one of the strongest
people I have ever met, he is a survivor in the truest sense. He is one of
the last great chanters left in Jamaica. I hope he puts out a million
records and all his visions come true. I ask Jah Bull if there is anything
he'd like to add before ending this interview. |
Yes I would like to say one love and deal with conciousness, love Jah and run toward your goal, I have not yet reached my goal and I am not perfect but Jah has taken hold of I so I keep running and struggling to take hold of my goal. My friends, I don't feel that I have already arrived but I forget what is behind and I struggle for what is ahead. I run toward the goal so that I can win the prize of being called to zion. This is the prize that Jah offers because of what Jah has done.«
Give thanks to the following people for their help and assistance:
And most of all to Jah Bull, may Jah keep you always, Selassie I Son
/Ras Salvador Navarrete