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Interview: Brother Culture

Interview: Brother Culture

Interview: Brother Culture

By on - Photos by Gerard McMahon - 2 comments

"Bob Marley. He's the only artist as far as I'm concerned"


Brother Culture is one of the UK’s most renowned reggae MCs. From his base in the bustling borough of Brixton, London, he has left his sizeable stamp on the genre across the globe. As part of the festive season’s celebrations Brother Culture hit Dublin town to heat up the tempo, with the aid of the legendary Jason’s Rootical Sound System. In between setting off fireworks in the city’s Grand Social venue - and touching the Atlantic Ocean via a trip to perform in Limerick city the following night - Brother Culture shared his considered thoughts on music and related matters with United Reggae.

Brother Culture

Tell us about your African\Celtic origins?

My mum is from Hilltown, which is in County Down, and my dad is from Nigeria - making me half Nigerian and half Irish.

How did the MC work start back in 1982?

My (older) sister used to MC before me. Her name is Sister Culture. She was a great MC for Jah Revelation Muzik. I went to school in Africa (Nigeria), so when I came back from school - when I was 15 or 16 - I was fascinated that my sister was MC on the soundsystem and I was attracted to the whole music system. So it was through my sister really.

Are you still a member of the 12 tribes of Israel?

Yes ... to a degree. Yes, of course. It’s my foundation, but I’m not a practicing member.

What has given you the greatest satisfaction in music?

The first album I made with Manasseh – the ISIS album was really great.

I've started to work with the Prodigy again

What has been your greatest disappointment in music?

That I haven’t become huge yet.

How did you link up with Kinyama Sounds?

I met them through a good friend of mine called Flex - who used to have a label called Flex – a ‘mash ups’ label. I made a ‘Paragons meets Brother Culture’ track with Flex and we did a lot of studio work 3\4 years ago and they were contacts of his in Switzerland. I done 2 singles for them: ‘Spiritually Equipped’ and ‘Things to See’ and then 2  years later they asked me to make an extended work with them. So I done an album with them called ‘City of Vibes’, that’s been released as a download (in October 2011).

Are you happy with the reaction to your latest venture with them (7 track EP, City of Vibes)?

Brother Culture - City Of VibesYes, very much – very, very happy, because it was actually a project of mine where most of the songs I wrote them 20-26  years ago, that had lots of lyrics I had never really used in my later career. So it was like going back to original Brother Culture lyrics. But people didn’t really know them, they were songs I’d written but never really performed. It’s all roots, no dubstep influences, because for many years I’ve been making lots of tunes that have got different influences. But I wanted to make a more traditional kind of roots reggae, roots rock. So I’m really happy with it.

Is the link ongoing?

Good question. To some extent, yes.

Can you tell us what you’re working on right now?

Well I’ve just completed an album with a producer called Youth, who is a former bass player with a punk band called ‘Killing Joke’ and he’s quite a famous producer. He was the executive producer on ISIS. Most of my stuff is released on Dragonfly records. So we’ve made this new album called ‘Brother Culture Versus Youth’. It’s basically a kind of psychedelic roots dub album with vocals. And I experimented in not writing songs with verses and choruses like I normally do. It’s more like my voice as an instrument and it’s being released in Japan (early 2012) as a prerequisite to a tour we’re going to do in May that’s going to be in Japan and China. Also I’m working with a producer from America called Ras Kush. I’ve just had a release with him this year called ‘Protection’. I’ve done a series of tunes with him, and he’ll be releasing them throughout the year. I’ve started to work with the Prodigy again – I worked with them   about 3 years ago. So I’ve just recently voiced 10 new tracks for them. So hopefully they might use 1 or 2 or even 3 on their next album. There’s other little projects that I’m working on. I’m trying to concentrate a lot on MCing on soundsystems again this year as opposed to doing PAs and stuff like that.

You’ve worked with many sound systems, bands and artists.  What are your happiest memories?

Too many, so many. The first time I came to Jamaica to MC, I think it was in 1985 and I was MCing that night with Brigadier Jerry and Ambassador and MCs from all around the world. That’s always been a high point.

... for many U.K. roots MCs in London... I – Brother Culture – led the way and they all follow...

You’ve performed in ~50 countries, any happy memories?

More than 50, again it’s difficult (to say). It doesn’t really work like that with me, because I’m happy MCing. It doesn’t really matter anymore where it is. I forget sometimes where I am. It’s really irrelevant whether I’m in Reykjavik or Brazil.  But it was really good, really exciting when I first went to Brazil, for the fact that it was Brazil and it was quite a unique vibes. But Mexico is my favourite place that I’ve ever MCd in my life, because they’re very warm and they’re on a different level.

Do you want to share any bad memories with us?

I’ve got lots of bad memories. Lots and lots and lots of bad memories. One of them in particular is what’s held me back in my career is that I’ve been too open with a lot of producers. And what always happens to Brother Culture is that I always meet these producers when no one knows them and they approach me when I’ve got a little bit of a name. But the kickback isn’t much. These producers pay you a couple of hundred quid (~€250) and then tell you that you’re going to get publishing and promotion when you don’t really get anything tangible. I’m not an artist that works with lots of agents and managers. I’m very organic. Most of the bookings as Brother Culture I get through contacts developed over the years. I keep the fee reasonable and I’ve opened the way for many U.K. roots MCs in London especially. I – Brother Culture – led the way and they all follow. But I’m very wary of giving my work to producers who I don’t completely trust and respect. The excesses of the music business are also a negative for my career, maybe I’ve taken things I shouldn’t have or drunk too much of stuff. You know, all of these kind of things, I’m human.

Who is your favourite reggae artist?

Brother CultureBrother Culture! No, that’s easy. It’s Bob Marley.  He’s the only artist as far as I’m concerned. In my opinion Marley is almost like Sheeba returned. The level that he reached, no artist has ever reached that. Most of these artists that you see coming nowadays are just feeding off the remnants of what Bob Marley done already. And obviously Lee Perry, King Tubby and Dennis Brown (vocally) are my all time favourites. But there’s many artists, artists you mightn’t even know that well ...  But the big ones, it has to be Bob Marley.

What has been your greatest achievement in life?

Having my children and being married to my wife.

What has been your biggest disappointment in life?

It’s a hard one, because I haven’t had that many disappointments. I’ve enjoyed my life. But maybe my biggest one is that I would have liked to have achieved more at this stage of the game. I learned the rules of the jungle too late and I’m having to play a lot of catch up.

I learned the rules of the jungle too late and I'm having to play a lot of catch up

Have you interests outside music?

Yes, very much. I like religion, studying different religions and their history (e.g. Hinduism, Buddishm) and science and the wonders of the world. I like football. I see it as a spiritual game, a bit like life. But this MC thing has engulfed most of my life.

In life, who has had the greatest influence on you?

It’s interesting. I’d say my mother. Musically, philosophically – it’s difficult to pin it down to one person, because you get inspiration from different people.

Do you have any remaining ambitions in life?

To live  healthy, to stay fit and to achieve some more recognition from the roots community in the U.K., because I feel that I’m being marginalised by roots snobbery by the people who put themselves in the position of gatekeepers and choose who they want to bring through.

I don't want to be in Brixton when I'm in my late 60s, 70s, get a little piece of land in Africa with some chickens and a few goats

Will you live out your life in Brixton?

There’s no way of me saying that. I don’t know. I couldn’t say. But probably not. I don’t want to be in Brixton when I’m in my late 60s, 70s, get a little piece of land in Africa with some chickens and a few goats. That’s basically my ambition, I don’t have no lofty ideas. But I don’t want to grow old in the U.K.

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Read comments (2)

Posted by SIMON FAJEMISIN on 05.29.2012

Posted by Brasil Massive on 05.29.2012
Brother Culture is one of the greatest of all times. I've seen he performing in Brasil and in Brixton and he's just amazing!!!
Nice interview!!!

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