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Interview: Capleton

Interview: Capleton

Interview: Capleton

By on - Photos by Sam Diephuis - 2 comments

"As a kid I used to love singing more than deejaying"


The last few years have been unusually quiet for stentorian voiced Bobo Ashanti deejay Capleton. His most recent two albums, distributed by VP - early precursors of the trend for roots one drop longplayers by Jamaican dancehall artists - were in 2004 and 2010 respectively.

But this year Capleton was back in the news. There was the incident where he was pushed by a fan onstage in California - prompting speculation as to whether this was a protest against past anti-gay lyrics. Then he postponed his festival in Jamaica St Mary Mi Come From - his manager Claudette Kemp told the Jamaica Observer this was due to lack of sponsorship. The gap in his schedule resulted in him touring Europe in the summer for the first time in nearly a decade.

Angus Taylor was granted an unusual pre-show interview minutes before Capleton was about to go on stage at Sardinia Reggae festival. There they discussed all the above topics and more...


You’re in Europe this summer because your annual St Mary Mi Come From festival is not taking place this year. How does it feel to be doing summer a bit differently?

Well it’s a joy because as you say I haven’t been here for like 8, 9 years for these festivals in Europe because of my festival in Jamaica. I took the opportunity because I’m changing the venue that I have currently to the original venue that it was before. So the original venue is called Clements Park in the heart of the city of Portmore there. It’s not going to be ready for the date of show so I took the opportunity to postpone the show to the next year to come to Europe and come and please my fans.

The roots reggae is the heartbeat of the people

Your 2004 album Reign of Fire was mostly roots one drop and your 2010 album I Ternal Fire was fully one drop. Since that time a lot of artists from the dancehall have jumped on the trend like Mr Vegas and Busy Signal. Did you know you were starting a trend there?

Yeah, definitely, in a way. I’ve seen all these great icons and all these great pioneers – Bob Marley and the Wailers, Burning Spear, Culture, you name it. All of these great icons who spent their energy and their time in terms of promoting the roots side of the music. We grew on the roots and we travelled the world and we realised that it was the roots side. Yeah, people love dancehall because they love the jump, they love to wave, they love to hold the vibe and feel the energy and they get a chance to exercise. But at the end of the day they still gravitate more to the roots because they connect more spiritually and it’s good for the soul. The roots reggae is the heartbeat of the people and the function of the heart so as I said, we got the privilege from the icons and these pioneers so we are contributing 100% right now to the roots and the culture. Because this is what the people need and this is what the people feel. This is what keeps the people going and this what gives the people a sense of hope. This is what brings the message to the people. This is what brings the love and the joy and the happiness and the peace and the unity and the strength.

When is your next album coming and what kind of album will it be?

CapletonStraight roots and culture. I’m in the studio now working on it. We have some nice tracks and we are working with most of the top producers in Jamaica now.

Will it be distributed by VP this time?

Yeah. Maybe this will be my final album for VP.

I Ternal Fire was your first singing album. How long did you have it in your mind to do a singing album?

It’s been a while. Because all of the great singers told me to sing. From Dennis Brown to Beres Hammond. Leroy Smart, Everton Blender, Barrington Levy, Alton Ellis, Michael Rose, Junior Reid – all the great singers. They said “Capleton, sing. You can sing” so I always knew that I had the potential to sing. And even when growing up as a kid I used to love singing more than deejaying. Even in church, because we grew up in the church and we grew up holding a certain kind of principle and certain morals, I was on the choir.

Maybe this will be my final album for VP

The song Mama You Strong could be interpreted as being about an actual mother, about Mama Earth and about Mama Africa.

Well it’s universal but this one was livicated to my mum. Because we have been there. We grew up on the plantation. We grew up with the slave master so we know what the struggle is like. I’ve seen my mum progress and I’ve seen her being strong mentally, physically and most of all, the reason why I love my mum so much and dedicate or livicate the song to her, is because I have seen my mum treat other mothers’ kids like her own. Like her own kids. There are few mothers that do that.

Your song Forward Inna Dem Clothes was sampled on the new Kanye West album – were you happy to be sampled?

Well, you know, it’s the next step to the business. It’s a next notch. It’s good to know that Kanye West recognises my music to that level where he would sample and make a collab with Capleton. And the song is basically telling the woman to be a queen, be a princess, be an empress, “You are the mother of the earth” so you have to uphold a certain principle and attire a certain way. So it’s a great joy and it breaks me in a different market as well. It’s not like I’m new to the market because I’ve been there with Method Man and Def Jam and the whole works – Russell Simmons and the whole Def Jam family so I’ve been there. But it’s a great joy and it’s a blessing and it’s more power to the music. And it still gives some energy to dancehall as well.

I have seen my mum treat other mothers’ kids like her own. There are few mothers that do that

You are a rawist vegan. You don’t eat refrigerated food. How easy is it to get the right food on the road?

It is definitely not easy because it’s not everywhere you are going to get certain food. But I take my chef with me everywhere I go and he knows what I like and he tries to fix something. It might not be the greatest but I am a vegan. I eat naturally and I don’t drink alcohol.

CapletonYou were pushed twice on stage in California in June. At the time you made a statement but people were none the wiser as to why he acted in this way.

Well music has a way to get to people. To make them overreact. This guy who came on the stage he issued a statement on a website. I don’t remember the website but he said that he is a big fan of Capleton and he wanted to just embrace me and he just wanted to show some love. He had no lethal intention against me. He said he is not aligned to any gay organisation and he is not a gay. He said he took some substance – some form of substance that he took made him overreact.

Strange that it happened just after Toots was hit by a bottle in Virginia.

As I said the music more times makes people overreact. The music gets them so overwhelmed until they get out of themselves. And even when they were throwing him off the stage I was still begging the people not to hurt him. I loved the way I reacted. Because I am on the stage preaching love peace and unity. If a man came on the stage and gave me a push and I started to beat him with the mic or I started to kick him or I started to box him down then that would not show any form of love, any form of tolerance, any form of humility. Maybe it was the devil tempting me to react violently but that never came out because I was in the middle of my performance and I have how many thousand people in front of me fulljoying this music. You have to know how to react.

If a man came on the stage and gave me a push and I started to beat him with the mic then that would not show any form of love

What is your message to the people?

It’s all about love, it’s all about unity, it’s all about strength. As I said, on the road, there will be obstacles, there will be stumbling blocks, but that is part of the struggle. We won’t lose hope, we won’t lose faith, we won’t lose courage. We won’t violent. We won’t get aggressive. Because it’s all about the music. The music is love. The music is here to teach and to uplift and to educate the people and to motivate them. You dun know this is a music that speaks for the less fortunate people that are oppressed and suppressed by the system systematically. This is a music that tells them a greater day is there ahead of you, keep your focus, know what your goals are, reach out for them, don’t worry about the turmoil and the obstacles – it’s a part of it. Just be strong, just be wise, just be courageous. Always remember self-determination is the key. We always tell the youths to go to school, get their education, be educated and re-educated as well. Because we know the youths they are the future. They are the men and women of tomorrow. We have to reassure and ensure that we teach them the right thing so that the right thing can be instilled. Because whatever is instilled and is embedded in the youths, it is not easy to blot it out. So we have to teach them the right thing. It’s all about good over evil. It’s all about life over death. It’s all about love and peace. It’s all about harmony and strength. It’s all about prosperity. It’s all about the blessing. So just be yourself, know who you are, know where you’re coming from in order to know where you’re going. Never be a traitor or a sell out to your heritage or your culture or your philosophy or your curriculum. The system will try to distract you but just keep your focus, know what your goals are just reach out for them. Rastafari.

Never be a traitor or a sell out your heritage or your culture or your philosophy or your curriculum

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Read comments (2)

Posted by Tafadzwa Alfred Bandera on 01.25.2014
I love this lnterview....l love King Shango..he is proud to be African..and he and lnity..juss lyk Kalonji...Queen lfrica etc jahbless!!

Posted by Nat Turner on 02.13.2014
It is not that all White people are racist, for they are not,
there has always been a sizeable majority who are not, at the same time, since
the last few hundred years, there has also been a significant minority or fearful, ignorant and insecure ones who are racists. 
Based only on skin color they along with their (mis-) learned scholars have fooled themselves into believing there is some special quality in so called “White” blood.
I sit and listen to the hypocritical barrage spewed forth by ignorant fools, and ask my self really, how many of them are even blond on blue, 
how many of them know who all 8 of their great grand parents were. 
How many of them remember that when Europe set sail to conquer and crush the world they brought next to no women with them, and of the few many were rendered
virtually infertile because of climate.
The racism I see dished out against the African people is sickening, it is also kith and kin to the racism dished out against others, and in each case the fascistic low life racists have justified themselves. 
The people of Tasmania wiped out to the very last person. 
The Maori & Pacific peoples decimated. The peaceful earth loving mystical
Aborigines almost annihilated, classed amongst fauna & flora. 
The Eskimo and Native peoples of the Americas faced with genocidal war. 
The Gypsies of Europe, almost wiped out and to this day still discriminated against and
treated as 3rd class citizens. 
Then the poor Irish who had the misfortune of having the English as a neighbor,
their hell started some 800 years ago enslaved, brutalized and, like people of color, having every aspect of their existence denigrated and belittled. 
A taste of what was to come for the rest of us. Force of number only caused the people of India, China and Arabia to break the chains a little sooner, from the atrocity. 
The countless millions of Africans shipped to the west is an ongoing story of 
hell even in these “enlightened” times.
It is not just that this or that African does not like White racists, for we have always given the better the benefit of the doubt. 
It is that colonial people have concocted an ideology for themselves, which they teach and have quite often enshrined in law, by which they have become accustomed to view, judge and treat all whom they consider to be inferior by.
Azania – South Africa is the last chance for you guys, don’t force it to kick off, many in spite of the history are prepared to live in peace. 
Don’t let MaDiba’s crying for your safety be wasted.

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