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Interview: Sizzla

Interview: Sizzla

Interview: Sizzla

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"Africa is my reservoir of knowledge of everything"

Sampler

Since Sizzla dropped 2010's Homer Harris compilation 'Crucial Times' he has attracted media scrutiny for spending 6 months in Africa - including a visit to Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe. Now back in Judgement Yard, he has finally released his followup, 'The Scriptures' - this time without Greensleeves - for King Jammy's son John John. The result is an even more roots reggae oriented record than 'Crucial Times' or its predecessor 'Ghetto Youthology' - using some vintage rhythms from John John's father. Sizzla spoke to Angus Taylor at John John's studio in Jamaica about the album, his travels and his own place in today's reggae scene...

Sizzla and John John

You have a new album out with John John. You've worked with him before on some tunes but whose idea was it to do a full album together?

I would say the Most High. We don't just get up and make the album based on our lifestyles. We've studied the music by going to the dancehall, the club and to stage shows. Listening to the radio, to sound system, listening to people to see what's happening with new Prime Ministers and politics and change. So due to the fact that the people are familiar with old school reggae, if we could take it back to the people with a beautiful message it would be great. So this album is really an ancient album with a present day meditation.

The Scriptures is an ancient album with a present day meditation

There are some old rhythms on the album. As well as Zion Gate there's Jah Fire Will Be Burning from John John's father. Why was the time right to pay tribute to veteran musicians with these tracks?

That is why we called it The Scriptures because it's new but the thoughts are old. It's not just the thoughts of Sizzla but of people before us. The world loves one drop and Jammys has some beautiful rhythms so we asked Father Jammys if we could use them and said "Let's go!". The people want new songs and when I see Bob Marley make great songs and people like Beres Hammond make new  songs I think "You've got to be in this league Sizzla" so John John and me we sat and meditated on all these things and even mediate on people like you yourself. So we just try our best to make it nice and make the world nice with beautiful music naturally and lead them on a path where they can listen to some tracks and be inspired I hope. Because the Most High inspired us to make it without colour, class, race or creed. We as Rastaman have to make sure the hungry be fed the sick nourished the aged protected and the infants cared for. Music has done a lot for me. Not just to make me popular but to help me to feed the people in the ghetto, to help my neighbour, send them to school, send their kids and my kids to school. So I created this album and put a little more spice in it! So it can make some good money so it never stops selling so that when anyone calls on me I can sing that album and help them out.

There's a lot of singing on this album and there are some very nice female backing vocals on the album. Was it in your mind to make a singing album?

Yes sir, because reggae music goes well with singing. Sometimes we like to spice it up with a little more deejay thing and rough it up but let's sing the notes you can hear so the world can sing along and let me know you know music. So I decided to put a lot of singing on this. Singing and deejaying is really different. Deejaying is more harsh and more explicit and more to the point whereas singing is more subtle and smooth and reaches the mind. So I personally use both arts within the vocal with singing to soothe the mind and free the minds of the people. SizzlaTo get the cheerfulness out of them. Sometimes when I listen to a rhythm I try to get the cheerfulness by deejaying or a little rap or something and sometimes I sing to get cheerfulness out of people. That's really the principle and the law of music - to create joy, happiness and help people enter more of a spiritual realm.

You also go even further back to the foundation with Happy Birthday in ska style. Were you wishing anyone specific a happy birthday or just everyone?

Yes sir. Because when I look around I kept a lot of back to school parties for the kids in Judgement Yard and I kept a lot of birthdays for my sons and daughter and a lot of kids who visited. I noticed that the music helps the people to rise up above certain ill feelings and they need the music. We don't just use music for the message. We use music for advertisements and for promotion. That is why you will get a different song at different times from Sizzla. We use music for just about everything. Even the politicians use music to promote to get votes. There is everything in the music. So I looked around and thought the art of the music is to be smart and always be above and be on the tongue of the people in the right way. So if I could make a Happy Birthday song then every day people would sing more Sizzla and I would get more popularity! (laughs) I planned for this album! Father Jammys said "Sizzla, where did you and John John get that album, it bad!" so I said "You know what Jammys I got to promote the Scriptures properly!" Do you know why else it is called the Scriptures?

Why?

Because I wanted to get the Christians and all people that read the bible also. To look and see how people are suffering in the ghetto every day. They are doing their application and their degrees and this and that and still they aren't getting their jobs. So when I call it the Scriptures and make songs like Happy Birthday I want to reach out to more people. So I try to sing a birthday song and make a whole heap of people want that song because I need money  and you must not steal. So you work and get your stuff honestly. I want to make songs not just for the message but smartly. Also to keep yourself in the spotlight and on the radio and in the cameras - not for hype or for boastfulness but for the cause of the people and the nations. 

The minute you disrespect the work of your elders you are disrespecting the nation

What have your six months in Africa last year given you?

It's given me everything I've lost. That I didn't really remember I'd got. It's given me back love, life, strength, knowledge, wisdom and understanding. It's given me blessings. It's given me respect. It's given me smartness to know that all the people in the world should visit Africa and see themselves. Because when I go to America I see the American side of me. I see who I am in America. When I go to Africa I see my roots and my culture. I see my pride and my shame and all the things that keep me down. I see myself free. I see myself as a true leader. I learn a whole lot of stuff. I see who human beings are really. Who they are on the earth. They are specially created on this planet to live in love and help each other. When you reach that realm you'll see other realms but you can't seen them until you reach that realm. Africa is my home. I see where I'm from. I see where all my ancestors are from. I see where all the knowledge is from. Where civilization is from. So I think everyone should visit Africa and see what has happened to Africa and create an Africa in a sense that can lead the world. Same as how people look to Jamaica for spirituality in the music, when I go to Africa I say "Oh gosh. This where we're from". So I as a Jamaican should be looking to Africa to my ancestors my people for more spirituality, more knowledge, more education of who I am really. Not just as an artist singer, but through biology, geography, through maths, physics, chemistry. Sizzla and John JohnThrough just about everything concerning knowledge and inspiration. So Africa keeps me more as who I am as a Jamaican and I know more of how to speak to the people in the world and of who they are. Africa is my reservoir of knowledge of everything.

How did the people you are close to in Jamaica cope with you being away?

The people in Jamaica said "Sizzla? What you doing around here? I thought you were in Africa. You should be in Africa. We heard you live in Africa. What you doing around here?" And I said "Yes! Marcus Garvey did send me fi yard!" Emmanuel I and Selassie did call me and said "You go to the world of people in Paris, France, Europe and sing about Africa" so how can I go to the people of the world and not go to Africa? I sing to the people of the world saying "Africa beautiful". How can I say it is beautiful when the world looks at me and says "Have you been to Africa?" I want to say "Yes! I must come the next time I am going!" And it gives them strength, conviction to the words. Because people would say "Sizzla comes and teaches and speaks on certain matters and we have been following Sizzla singing about Africa and we know everything is from Africa. Yet Sizzla doesn't come to Africa to mark their books? How comes you are coming teaching us about Africa and Rasta and black people and you haven't been here to learn more from your other families?" So yes, I must leave my Africa and come back to the West to everybody and come round. But Africa calls everyone on the island to come around and build and create Africa and live in love and obey the commandments. Nothing else.

Today in the Gleaner there is an article about dancehall music making people depressed. Did you read it?

No, I didn't see it. But music doesn't make anyone depressed. Why should it? Music is being created to raise the spiritual realms of the people. But I would say that they might craft that knowledge based on lyrics. If you've got an office you're not going to degrade the office because the individual in the office is not working up to standard. Remove the individual and add someone who is capable and knows the criteria and beauty and love of the office. So I respect their opinion because that's made me want to go and make a dancehall album now knowing that person made that criticism. I'm going to make a dancehall album and WHIP WHAP WHAP! All over the place! I've just made a one drop album but now that person in the Gleaner gives me my duty now to go and make a dancehall album to make that person say "I like that! That is what dancehall is". We are working for the people so if the people want to cuss and say "Sizzla did this wrong" speak and let me hear.

Sizzla

It's been 30 years since the passing of Bob Marley. As someone who has been compared to him in terms of your impact on the music what are your thoughts on this occasion?

Great thoughts. It is honourable and I send my condolences. And in keeping up this respect for the honourable Robert Nesta Marley I appreciate him very well and I support because a tree without a roots is nothing. A ship without a rudder is vulnerable to the storm. Bob Marley was a great teacher. His daddy was white, his mummy is black and we love him so we don't care. We are going to keep celebrating the king just as we celebrate His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I. Because the minute you disrespect the work of your elders you are disrespecting the nation. Bob Marley has inspired us and taught us very well and the reason being is that he teaches and embraces the name of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I Jah Rastafari. Once you show the nation The King they are going to get out of their punkness and their drunkenness and get out of their kinkiness and say "Oh! I'm a king! Bob speaks of The King. I'm not going to go in front of The King looking like a punk. You gotta look straight and upright." When Bob says Selassie I he is teaching me to break free from all physical spiritual and mental slavery. I have been to Zimbabwe and have kept the 30th anniversary of Zimbabwe independence because the people said "It's been 30 years now since Bob came here and celebrated the independence and we have been looking for you for about 10 years". So I respect that and support it.

I consider myself a messenger, a humble servant, a father, a role model

You have made over 40 albums and now there is a new generation of artists. Do you consider yourself a veteran?

I wouldn't say that. I leave that to you and the people. I consider myself a messenger, a humble servant, a father, as a role model. People are looking unto me. But to give myself titles saying I am a veteran I think is really presumptuous. I leave that to the people and just keep doing my work. I didn't come to claim titles. I came to see the sheep to spread messages! (laughs) I would say I'm a shepherd. I would say I'm a priest. I would say I'm a king. I would say I'm a humble servant. I would very much say I'm a prophet. I'm a teacher. But a veteran? I don't think that's for me to claim. Leave something for the people to decide! (laughs)

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Read comments (2)


Posted by chad on 06.21.2011
Blessed love Sizzla keep seeking.

Posted by RasBen on 09.17.2011
Sizzla, great artist but can't overstand why he went to perform for Mugabe anniversary, as Mugabe is best friend of Mengistu and gave him asylum in Zimbabwe ! Yes Mengistu the murderer of His Majesty Selassie I. The security at Sizzla shows there, was provided by Chipangano thugs that everyone knows are vicious and violent, rapers and murderers feared by all !!
Google Mugabe and Hitler and you will find the speech with Mugabe proud to be considered the Hitler of Africa !

And Sizzla, yes, a real great artist, have no sufficient knowledge to know all these ?

Why spreading a message pro Mugabe ? It is just show ignorance.
Why he runs straight to the arms of this bloody dictator ?
He thinks it is the people choice in Zimbabwe ? A democratic choice?

We are tired of artists that don't have the courage to speak differently ....to speak about the dictators in Africa. Those who steal the wealth of Africa are now Africans ....

Selassie I

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