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Interview : Kwabena Nipadadae

Interview :  Kwabena Nipadadae

Interview : Kwabena Nipadadae

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Interview of Kwabena Nipadadae, reggae singer from Manchester, UK who notably released his debut album in 2007.

Kwabena NipadadaeKwabena Nipadadae has been active on the Manchester, UK, reggae scene for many years and has built up a formidable reputation for his live shows. 2007 saw the release of his debut album ‘Ancestoral Vessel’ on the label Unpopular Music; it also marked the 200th Anniversary of the abolition of slavery by Britain. I met up with Kwabena and his manager/ producer/ friend John Turner in late November.

Kwabena, tell me about your earliest experiences in music?

My earliest experience was my gran really, I would say. She always singing about the Lord, singing lots of Christian songs I would say, because she was a practising Christian. She was just a nice lady. It was with my gran really. That was growing up in Jamaica from I young, from as long as I can remember, in Jamaica.

How did you get into reggae?

Believe it or not, although I was brought up in Jamaica, it was when I was here in England actually. I see Harlem Spirit perform, Trevor from the Harlem Spirit, and I see Basil Otis from this band called Massagana, but the biggie, it was Gregory Isaac. I just decided, “I wanna do that! I can do that”. So I imitate Gregory Isaac for a little while, ‘the Cool Ruler’ yeah, and then after some time I start to form my own, to me. Information come and inform, and then I start off.

When did you come to Manchester, UK?

Well, I keep going backward and forward to Jamaica and Africa, but I think it was something like 1980. I finish school here, and then after that I just get into music, just practising music, singing, going out and just get deep into music. Trial and error, just start to do things, backward and forward, back to Jamaica, back to England, just like that and then I get serious into music.

You’ve sung in Africa as well, tell me about that…

Well, this is how it was. I was at the time singing, just around in England, and I remember I was broke as well. Then I heard of this festival in Gambia, and I turned round and I said to my girlfriend at the time, “I want to go out to Africa”. I ring up the organisation, and say, “I want to come down and do something” – she say, “I can’t pay”. I say, “I didn’t ask you for money”. So she say, “All right, come and see me”, so I go round and see her, pay my own money to go down. I pay my own money, I go up there and I just kicked it, you know what I mean! From there, I don’t like politics – they call it politics but I just call it righteous thinking. I see certain flag flying in Africa in this place called Port James and then I licked out against it, I say, “What’s going on here?” and then basically it was on this broadcast on television and whatsoever, and then I perform again and basically get Honorary Citizenship from the President, meet him and everything and it happen like that from there.

Did it feel like a homecoming?

Oh my gosh, yes. Oh, and I do this thing called ‘the foot and pop dance’ as well, go through this initiation which you can’t talk about! You can’t say what you do – is very good though. It is a homecoming really, and from there I don’t bother go back to Jamaica really. If I have a choice I go to Africa. I only go back to Jamaica to show some of my children where I have been brought up. I have my big family still in Jamaica but Africa is my home and that’s where I’m going when I leave from here.

Tell me about your name?

Kwabena mean “born on a Tuesday” and Nipadadae, Nip mean “the vessel” and “the tool”, so it mean I am a vessel and a tool of the Most High, yes.

OK, when did you start recording?

Well, I do a lot of recording but I never put them out, I have been ripped off so many times by trusting people. I record then give them the money to put it out and never seen it again. I know them, I won’t mention their name. I just see it as an experience. They know who they are. So I start record since I was about 19. I put out my first single, I think it was about ’83, and then and so on up to today.

I’ve got a CD you did for Dread Lion…

Dread Lion, yes. That was a compilation album, what was that date, John?

(John Taylor) That was about ten years ago now.

I also do a compilation with a studio in Birmingham. That was like a white label album, I done that one as well.

You do a song with Country Culture on the Dread Lion album…

Yes, ‘Redemption Song’, with my brother on there.

Did you sing together in Jamaica?

Actually yes, we used to. We used to do like singing when we were shelling pimento, like you put in soup. All these pimento we used to sell in the shop, we used to shell them, so we used to see who could remember the most songs, like the Wailers, Marcia Griffiths, any one of those songs, any one of the greats, we used to sing them. We used to do the female actually! We used to like a lot of the female, for some reason the female did have a little knock on us really. My brother – the second, which I follow – he used to like Marcia Griffiths, I used to like Bob Marley wives, and well, Country was a bit more younger then, he used to just run around doing nothing! He used to just join in now and again. At the time Marcia Griffiths was my bigger brother’s favourite and Rita Marley was mine, Country used to just run around, until he get older and he get into the singing. In church as well, we used to… not much in the church as such, but we used to sing mainly just for enjoyment.

What was the reggae scene like in Manchester when you arrived?

It was brilliant. You used to get like Harlem Spirit, used to get Massagana, you used to get reggae like ‘Handsworth Explosion’, my God, those guys from Handsworth (Steel Pulse). All everybody used to come to Manchester from all over to play at Band On The Wall. Sound system, live band, it was absolutely brilliant. Those was the good days. Someone decide to kill it –I wonder who? But it was good.

How do you get the inspiration for your songs?

Normally I wouldn’t say this but it come from the Most High. It can’t come from no-one else. The lyrical content which I get is for free the mind and for food to the soul – so obviously that come from the Most High. My inspiration, also through people and divinely speak to my mind. A lot of that also is through seeing experience with my eyes around me, and things like that, far away from me, behind me, everywhere, and that’s where I get my inspiration, far and wide.

What plans do you have for the future?

Well, I got the label, Unpopular Music – this music is unpopular because they don’t want people to hear it - which is run by my bredrin John Turner, and what he is doing now at the moment, we are doing a lot of promotion on the label. What have you got for the future John?

(JT) We have the website, More streaming, more downloads. More singles coming. We are about a third of the way through the next album, that’s going to be ‘Gift To The World’. That should be perhaps next Summer or Autumn it should be finished. A very good album.

What about live shows?

Live shows, yes. Obviously I’m moving forward, I’m trying to get the records to get the funds coming in. I wouldn’t like it to stop altogether. I’m putting together a reggae workshop to acknowledge all the great artists – not just reggae artists but mainly reggae artists, but artists which contribute to highlight the injustice of slavery of African people and the freedom of African people, which the Bi-Centenary doesn’t really mention at the moment…

The Bi-Centenary has been very quiet…

Yes, this is what I’m saying. It’s a sort of hush-hush thing. The amount of millions of people who died is not acknowledged, but all I am trying to say to them is, “If you are going to do something, you do it and just tell the truth of the way it is – then people will know properly”. So, through music, I am in the process of putting something together – even when they think it’s gone, it’s gone for them but not for me, as a musician, because all the great musician who highlight through music and through lyrical and bring people together from all different walk of life, they have not been mentioned. Nothing at all! No wonder it’s quiet – because you don’t have music which highlight it. If you really want something to bear, you should have the music, bring the music. That’s what I am trying to put together now.

Anything else you want to say?

I just want to give thanks and praise unto the Most High to keep me and to make me know. This music is not for sale. It’s a gift, and if you give to the world, the world will give back to you. I have to live, but I was living right before I started playing music, so money is not the first thing within music. The music is the seed and if you plant it, the tree grows and everyone can eat from it. It’s not just for me. One Love to the world, it is the Most High give that. Give thanks!

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