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Interview: Bambu Station

Interview: Bambu Station

Interview: Bambu Station

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"I don't compare us with the Wailers, but we're influenced by them"


Jalani Horton (Bambu Station)

Jalani Horton wants to make a change

The reggae scene on the U.S. Virgin Islands has been bubbling and thriving for years, in general terms lead by trailblazers Midnite. But these small Caribbean islands offer more and one outfit that has been putting out laid-back, atmospheric and bubbly rhythms in the shadows is Bambú Station. United Reggae had a chat with Jalani Horton, leader of the band, about their fourth album Children of Exodus and his determination to make a change.

In May this year I accidentally stumbled across a, to me, unknown band called Bambú Station and their brilliant fourth album 'Children of Exodus'. I looked up the band on the Allmusic database, and read four reviews jam packed with superlatives.

Bambú Station was founded in 1996 by lead singer, front man, songwriter, rhythm guitarist and producer Jalani Horton. The band has over the last 16 years put out four uplifting and conscious albums as well as three various artist compilations focusing on the VI reggae scene and several side projects, guest appearances and collaborations with other bands and artists.

“Listening to life”

Bambu Station - Children Of ExodusChildren of Exodus is the band’s first album in six years, a bit unexpected since the band and Jalani Horton himself up until 2006 were very productive.

“Listening to life,” says Jalani Horton when I ask him what he has been doing over these years, but he soon gives more details:

“Me and my wife are now divorced, I closed the studio, built a new studio, I had two sons and moved back to the Virgin Islands. Life is what we were doing.”

Now things seem to be in place again and he says he is recording lots of new stuff.

“I don’t see a new hiatus. We’ve five to six projects coming. Various artist compilations, Bambú stuff, a dub album and new artists,” he reveals.

A melting pot of great energy

I reach Jalani on the phone from St. Thomas where he lives. St. Thomas is the second largest island in archipelago of the U.S. Virgin Islands. The main island is St. Croix, an island home to Midnite and producer and label owner Laurent “Tippy I” Alfred of I Grade Records.

“We’ve close ties with Midnite and Tippy on the bigger island, and I met with Tippy the other day to talk business and listen to music. We’ve worked a few projects together, like Yahadanai. We have a good collaboration and a good link,” says Jalani.

These small islands with a population just over 100.000 have produced a huge amount of talent that has had big impact on the reggae scene in the U.S. and to a smaller extent, in Europe.

“It’s a melting pot of the Caribbean,” says Jalani trying to explain the amount of talent coming from the islands, and continues:

“There’s a great energy here and we stand on our own. We produce strong and positive music, and it’s a Godly kind of spirit. It’s a phenomenal thing.”

A positive force

The VI reggae scene is synonymous with the rootsier side of reggae with lyrics concerning mainly cultural topics, and Bambú Station is no exception. Jalani has been praised for his sharp and resonating lyrical content dealing with violence, war, religion, love and politics. He however admits that dancehall and slack lyrics is growing on the islands.

“There’s dancehall on the airwaves and on teenagers’ minds. It’s there for sure, but it has no publicity yet. It’s a different energy. Maybe we outnumber them now,” he laughs, and adds:

“It’s a blessing that so many artists from the VI have been successful. It’s a positive force. We outnumber the negative.”

For Jalani it’s important to have a positive impact on the lives of people and he says he speaks to hope and sings of that hope.

“Songs today are about entertainment. That’s what gets the crowd rocking,” believes Jalani, and explains his goals:

“Thoughts that transcend time and genre, penetrating and thoughtful. Not about jump up and down,” he says, and continues to explain what he would not write about:

“Marijuana, it’s on every reggae album and has been covered already. And I feel no need to cover the Pope. Not off limits, but I don’t feel like cover those topics,” he discloses, and clarifies his favorite subjects:

“I sing a lot about families, it seems to be my passion for writing. Things that might not get a crowd jump up and down. Something that teaches and having people consider making changes.”

Carrying the Wailers’ legacy

Children of Exodus contains plenty of thoughtful lyrics set to a powerful yet smooth roots reggae backdrop.

“The title speaks to our generation. We were youths when Bob Marley put out his album Exodus,” explains Jalani, and continues:

“Exodus has had a great impact on our generation and our perspectives on how to run our lives. I don’t compare us with the Wailers, but we’re influenced by them. It’s a statement, carrying their legacy.”

Bambu Station

Back to the roots

When we talk about the album Jalani gets excited when we speak on the different guest artists, especially two performers seem to have a special place in his heart. And it’s not hard to understand why.

Legendary guitarist Junior Marvin contributes on several tracks. He used to play with Bob Marley & the Wailers in the 70’s, and the first album he played on was – you might have guessed it – Exodus.

“He was on a different mental level, and I did not want to impose the Wailers sound on him, but it blended in,” he says, and adds:

“He played on three or four tracks. One didn’t make it onto the album, and will instead be put on an upcoming dub album.”

A real exodus

Ben Ammi – spiritual leader of the African Hebrew Israelites of Jerusalem – contributes with spoken word on the title track. He’s probably unknown to most people, but has claimed to have received a vision from the angel Gabriel that the time had come for the descendants of the Biblical Israelites among African Americans to return to the Promised Land [Israel] and establish the Kingdom of God.

In 1967 he led 350 African Americans from inner-city Chicago on a journey to the bush of Liberia and from there they would two years later reach Israel creating their own community.

“We wanted those in a leadership position to speak to our audience. We sent him an invitation to be on the album and he accepted,” says Jalani, and concludes:

“He’s a man speaking for a community and a man that has actually been through real exodus, physically and spiritually.”

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