Interview with Sister Carol

by Nov 11, 2020Articles, Interview

Sister Carol

SISTER CAROL: “PERFECT LOVE CASTS AWAY ALL FEAR” (THE INTERVIEW)

When: October 31, 2020
Where: New York City (via Zoom)
Reporter: Stephen Cooper
Copyright:  2020 – Stephen Cooper

With a legendary career spanning over forty years – during which she’s toured the world several times, acted in Hollywood movies, and recorded countless hit songs – Sister Carol is a reggae icon; her music is a cultural, intellectual, and spiritual treasure.

SISTER CAROL: “PERFECT LOVE CASTS AWAY ALL FEAR” (THE INTERVIEW)

That’s why I was so excited when Sister Carol released a new album called “Opportunity” in September; I knew I had to get a copy immediately. Then, after listening to the album and being blown away by its quality, I was overjoyed Sister Carol was agreeable to discussing it with me, on Halloween – along with other subjects of interest to music fans and citizens of the world – via Zoom; during the interview that followed, Sister Carol was in New York City, and I was in Los Angeles. What follows is a transcript, modified only slightly for clarity and space considerations.

Greetings!
Greetings. How are you doing, Stephen?

I’m doing very well. It’s very nice to see you again, Sister Carol; it’s always a pleasure to talk to you. And how are you doing –
Are you hearing me clearly?

I am hearing you clearly. Are you hearing me?
Yeah man, mi a-hear you, mi a-see you.

Excellent. How are you doing, Sister Carol?
I’m alright, you know. Just very concerned about myself, my family, and the world at large, you know?

Yeah these are perilous times, truly perilous times that we’re in. Now of course, Sister, you’ve been interviewed countless times throughout your career. But I think that the first time I interviewed you, shortly after you wowed the crowd at the 1st L.A. Reggae Vegan Fest was extremely memorable. That was in 2018. Seems like ages ago now, I know. And because I’m not going to rehash any ground you and I have already covered together, I would simply urge the people that are gonna be listening [to] or [who] read today’s interview, to google up that first interview we did. Because among other things, you may recall, we discussed: veganism, marijuana, Rastafarian beliefs and practices, respect for women, and, we talked about some of your fondest memories, Sister Carol, of late reggae superstars Dennis Brown and Sugar Minott. You told some stories about them that were really beautiful – so I hope that people will go and check that out. Now Sis, when last I saw you, you –
Excuse me. Just a second, are you recording now? Or are we –

We are recording. We’re recording. Everything’s recording.
Okay. Alright.

Now Sis, when I last saw you, you were promoting your ganja-inspired album “THC” (“The Healing Cure”) –
Uh-huh.

– and you told me at that time you had just completed another album – one you were gonna call “Reggae Inna Mi Blood.” Did you ever release that new album?
No.

What happened with that?
Sometimes, just like everything else, plans don’t go necessarily as much as you put them into place, you know? And things happen, just like nobody knew that we’d be experiencing a pandemic right now. Things happen, you know? But my mother always said, “What doesn’t cost life, doesn’t cost anything.” So you know, I’d say that album come to face what we call a gridlock within a traffic jam. And we’re waiting on certain legal issues before it can be cleared for it to be released.

So it’s there – [and] it might still come out?
Yes, most definitely. But not as planned. Just like everything else in life.

True. Of course, just last month, you released a genius – I think it’s a genius new album called “Opportunity” on the Tafari record label – and I want to ask you a number of questions about that album that you just released. But before I ask you about “Opportunity,” I would be remiss not to point out that in the last year, in 2019, you were involved in at least three major collaborations. First, as was well reported in the Jamaican press, you were recruited by Michael Goldwasser at Easy Star Records to sing on a ganja-themed song by pop star Jason Mraz – that’s a song called “Time Out,” in case folks want to check that out. But also, in 2019, you chanted and sang on two extremely compelling songs, both of which have really excellent [must-watch] official videos: First, you made a song with reggae icon Marcia Griffiths called “World Needs Love.” And also, just last month, close in time to when you released your new album “Opportunity,” you appear on a really exceptional [and] moving song by your daughter, Nakeeba Amaniyea, that’s called “My Jamaica.” These two collaborations that you did last year, “World Needs Love” and “My Jamaica,” I found stunning. Not only because the songs and the videos are beautiful, but because [of] the subject matter: Violence, and in particular, violence in the form of police brutality and socio-economic inequality, they are front and center in [both of] those songs. “World Needs Love” even came out before George Floyd’s killing by the police. Can you describe how these two collaborations – this one with Marcia Griffiths and then also with your daughter, I guess start[ing] with Marcia Griffiths – how did that come about, you and Marcia getting together?
Okay, so the idea for the song came from our producer, Mr. Noel Alphonso, with the song “World Needs Love.” And Marcia’s long been an inspiration ever since I was a child, to me. And I had the opportunity of working with her many times. So when I asked her if she would sing on the song with me, she didn’t hesitate, she just came on board. So we did the song together, and you can see clearly: the world needs more than love right now.

True. True. The video for “World Needs Love” begins with some clips of violence around the world: police violence at protests, gang violence, school shootings, [then] you [also] have Nipsey Hussle’s killing. And then the scene turns to Jamaica, where a friendly game of dominos turns deadly. Of course, the message of the song – same as the original, the one [that] was sung, I think, by Jackie DeShannon – is unmistakable. But apart from how beautiful Marcia sings the melody, and the depth of what you chant on the tune, I was also struck [by] the scenery in the official video. There’s you and Marcia dancing and singing with some lush mountains – I believe in Jamaica – in the background, and also, there are signs in the video for “Suthermere Road,” “St. Mary,” and then another one [that] says, “Welcome to East Rural Saint Andrew.” I was curious as to whether there was any significance of those signs in the video, and why those locations were chosen. I know that you live partly, I think, in St. Mary, but what was going on with the “Suthermere Road” and [the] “Welcome to [East] Rural Saint Andrew” [signs in the video]?
Well I feel like the producer for the video wanted to capture the more scenic places. And within the scope where we were in Kingston – because I’m living in St. Mary’s, so I came to Kingston to see Sister Marcia Griffiths and for us to, you know, go up in the hills and do the video; so I guess in his own eyes we were in a site fit to shoot there. And to [capture] the essence and just the nature of the people [in Jamaica] every day.

It’s truly a really beautiful video to watch. Now turning very briefly to the collaboration called “My Jamaica” with your daughter Nakeeba, that was released just about a month and a half ago. Like I said, the song and this video are so impressive, and honestly, this song alone has made me a huge fan of your daughter. And frankly, anxious with anticipation to see and hear what she’s gonna do next. Part of what makes that song and the collaboration so cool and successful, is how both you and your daughter are singing about your respective upbringings and your homes in Jamaica; for your daughter, this means [the] south side of Jamaica Queens in New York. And, of course, for your part of the song, you’re singing about your homeland, [the] country [of] Jamaica. Both of you drop devastating lyrics in that tune. I mean, I love it when you chant: “with politicians there came disaster, and all of the guns them start to come in after, colonial slaughter, poverty no laughter.” Correct me if I’m wrong, but you seem to be laying the blame for much of the gun violence in Jamaica at the doorstep of the country’s politicians with these lyrics, true?
Very much true.

Why is that? Why do you blame [Jamaica’s] politicians so much for what’s going on with the gun violence –
Because we actually grow [up] in what they call garrison communities, and we were personal witnesses of some of these things. So it’s not like what we hear about, or we read about, or are trying to know about; we saw these things hands-on, you know? You do this, and I give you that, and things lead to where it is right now. So just like the song says – this song was produced by a man called Kariz [Marcel], along with my daughter. And she asked me to join her on the song. So she asked me: “Mommy, could you spit something on this song?” And I wrote something, and I sang it for her. And she was like: “Nah, you gotta come better.”

Wow! (Laughing)
(Laughing) She did. So I went away and came back with that, and she [said]: “Yes! Now you’re talking!” Because she’s brilliant that way, you know, and she’s very multi-talented.

Yeah.
She sings. She raps. She DJ’s. She’s all up into it. And I’d like the massive to look forward to any [of her] project[s] –

[She’s] [k]inda like her mother, right? She performs in much the way her mother does –
(laughing)

– her versatility. She’s like a “chip off of the old block” in many ways, I would say.
Yeah, and reciprocal speaking, I’m a great fan of her. Like when she performs, I would just sit in the audience totally blown away by her presence, her style, her mannerisms, or lyrically, her execution. She’s something else to look forward to. And she’s also involved in the hip hop world; she has done music with some of the guys from Wu-Tang, like Cappadonna –

Sister Carol & daughter Nakeeba (January 2012)

Sister Carol & daughter Nakeeba (January 2012)

Wow!
And she did – she also has a project presently out called “The Roots Project” with another brother called Mike Black. So you might want to check her out over on that side, too. She’s also a school teacher as well.

She is! Wow! Most people, [and] of course, I know, and just to state for the people watching this and reading the interview: Sister Carol was a teacher at the same time she was an entertainer in New York. And [she] got her degree from CUNY in New York. And I believe you were an elementary school teacher, if I’m not mistaken. Is that right? Is that what grade you taught?
Yeah man. I did some student teaching at PS 166 in Manhattan, uptown, and also PS 124, in Chinatown, for about two years. That experience is one I’ll treasure for a lifetime because it now helps me to – to do what I’m doing. Because I’m basically teaching and introducing a different lesson plan pon every song.

You are. I have to agree with that. Now, I want to ask one other thing about that [song and] video that you did with your daughter [called] “My Jamaica.” Another thing that struck me about it is when Nakeeba rhymes about her father having gotten 50 stitches, and her being the only witness (or at least the only witness the police could speak to), and then, in the very next sentence, she recounts how her brother got stabbed on the ave – [or] avenue. Truthfully, I was awed by Nakeeba’s stature when delivering these hard-hitting verses, but also, I was saddened to learn that your family had suffered this violence in New York. How has this violence that your family’s endured – how has it affected your family?
Well give God thanks, we overcome, you know? But it’s just showing you the real experiences of what happens to just about the average family out there – things happen. And it’s not what happened, it’s how you react to what happened, and what kind of message is in it for you. So she’s actually talking about real life experiences that she had, and she’s expressing it through the song: “Let me tell you about my Jamaica Queens that I’m living in; this happened.” We’re about four minutes away from where Sean Bell got killed.

You can see [a Sean Bell] mural in the video –
Yes, right. So these are real life issues, and people can identify with that. Because they’re living with it as well. And see how we seem to be moving forward, but there’s no real progress. There are still no changes in the systematic way of going about things. Brutality, discrimination against one set of people – it’s what she’s expressing.

True. Now since the song begs a comparison between Jamaica [, the country,] and then also Jamaica Queens, New York City, and since you’re very familiar with both – dividing your time between [them] to this day – which location is more violent, more dangerous, in your opinion, and why?
Well, I must say it’s Jamaica, the country, because, in comparison, it is such a smaller place. You know, America is like a continent; Jamaica is a very small, likkle dot-island. Yet our murder rate it seems to be escalating every year. And you wonder how so much things happen on a little island like that. Not to say that there isn’t violence here in New York, but comparatively speaking, Jamaica is way ahead.

Putting aside police brutality for a moment, what is the same and what is different concerning the causes and consequences of violence in Jamaica, the country, as opposed to Jamaica Queens in New York. [Or ] [a]re they the same?
Well in some instances, ‘cause you know, we are just one people and we have the same needs and the same expectations: food, clothes, [and] shelter. Sometimes it’s by the means by which you create, or how your livity is going at the time; you know, you probably run into instances and circumstances that make certain things happen. But, in Jamaica, I would have to say, the colonial mentality that has been the standard-bearer for the people from such time until now, has not caused the people to progress on their own – to function like they’re supposed to function. They’re still being deprived of so many things. And, it’s like a cause and effect.

We can never get rid of the violence until we deal with some of these root causes, right? In both places.
Exactly. You nah go prune the tree and cut off the branch and the leaf and expect changing; you have to dig up and uproot the roots.

So well said, Sister. Sis, I’d like to turn now to this dynamite album you released last month called “Opportunity.” You’ve released many albums, but I think the sound quality combined with the depth of your lyrics on this new album make it one of your best albums. Do you agree?
(Laughing) I’d say it’s a very, very good album. I would not say it’s my best album, because – (shaking head and laughing)

Do you have a favorite album of all the ones you’ve released?
Not yet. (Laughing)

(Laughing) Good answer.
But, this album is really an exclusive and it’s a true collector’s item. What happened is, I had the opportunity of recording this incredible album, [working with an] incredible producer –

Glen Adams?
Yes. And [it] was also co-produced by some iconic people in Jamaica, like Lee “Scratch” Perry and Bunny Lee – who just passed away – may his soul rest in peace. And it’s something I couldn’t have refused even if I wanted to.

Now my understanding from the promotional materials I received about the album, is that you actually had many of these tracks on the shelf – that you had produced this album in 2008 or 2009 with Glen Adams – who also sadly passed away in 2011.
He passed away in 2010.

2010, I’m sorry. And you had these tracks already recorded, but it wasn’t until you received a copy of an album, put out again on the Tafari record label, which has Doctor Dread [at its helm]. Many people know [him] as Gary Himelfarb, the longtime producer and record label owner of RAS Records ([or) “Real Authentic Sounds” Records), whom I know you, back in the day, produced many albums with.
Uh-huh.

And that once you received a copy of this album – cause he’s I guess, getting more back into reggae again [after a long hiatus], on this Tafari record label. And that he produced this album with U-Roy [called] “My Cup Runneth Over,” where U-Roy is chanting over some Bob Marley riddims. And my understanding is that when you got a copy of this album and realized that you also had done a similar body of work over a decade ago, that this prompted you to want to get back in touch with Doctor Dread, and let him know: “Hey, you know I have an album that’s similar, ready to go.” Is that kind of how this transpired?
You kinda like about 90 % right. What happened is, we have this album, like I said, since 2008. After Glen’s passing, we thought about how we would release it, and the answers just never came. So we never rushed it, and we never tried to go about it in a manner where it wouldn’t get to the people the right way.

Yeah.
So, earlier on this year, after the success of Jason Mraz’s album “Look For the Good,” [and] the song I did with him “Time Out” was on the Billboard charts, and we were getting a lot of press, and a lot of publicity about that, and we wanted something to ride that kinda wave. Because this is how music is. People look for the most recent thing.

True.
And then, you know, if it’s not followed up by something, then sometimes [that wave will] just fade away. So like I told you before, the album that was supposed to be in that position was really “Reggae Inna Mi Blood,” but somehow that got caught up in traffic. But then, “Opportunity” had an open lane and just came through and made an exit. To the same story you are saying, because, yes, when I heard “My Cup Runneth Over,” I [was] like, wow, I’m on these same riddims. So we just say, “Yo, wah gwan Doctor Dread, and [he] welcomed [me] with open arms and our sisters, and [helped me to get] it out there to the people. And I’m grateful and thankful for the opportunity. Because it’s a great body of work, and I wouldn’t want it to not get to the people. And [Doctor Dread] was of great assistance, so we just welcome the opportunity to release “Opportunity.” (Smiling)

Sister Carol and Writer Stephen Cooper on Zoom, on Halloween, in 2020

Sister Carol and Writer Stephen Cooper on Zoom, on Halloween, in 2020

Had you maintained this relationship with Doctor Dread all of these years? I mean he supported your music way back in like the 80s and 90s. Have you always had this relationship with him, and what’s it like working with him?
Well, earlier on, my first album that came out on RAS Records was an album produced by Jah Life called “Jah Disciple.” And then I [did] my own production after, and I produced an album called “Mother Culture.” And [Doctor Dread] was the first person to actually license one of my records from my own production [company] as Black Cinderella Records. So it’s like you always remember, yeah, that brederin there who give you a solid from way out you know. So you go and throw him back a solid, you know?

Yeah, bring it full-circle?
Yeah. And we have always had a good relationship since that time.

You mentioned working with Glen Adams, and I think many people know that Glen Adams is very famous in the reggae community; [he] co-founded The Heptones, [and was] with The Hippy Boys which later turned into The Upsetters. And then, he recorded with Bob Marley; many people think about his organ playing on the song “Mr. Brown,” [and] I believe he was partly responsible for Bob’s song “Concrete Jungle.” He’s just steeped in reggae history. Is it a bit bittersweet to release this album knowing that you worked on it so hard with Glen Adams when he was alive – it was one of the last things he did. Is it bittersweet to see it come out now and not have him be able to enjoy it, too?
Well I wouldn’t describe it as “bittersweet” because I really wish he was here. To see it out and just getting all the love its getting. And get the kind of accolades that he truly deserves. But in my own way, I wouldn’t say bittersweet because we are led to believe that we are human beings and sometimes we have a spiritual experience. But we are really spiritual beings, that have sometimes a human experience. So, yeah, he has made his transition, but for me, he’s here. He’s an eternal soul and he nah gone away. So he knows what’s happening. And he sees what’s happening.

Glen Adams (Photograper unknown)

Glen Adams (Photograper unknown)

Respect, Sister. I want to ask you some questions about the lyrics on the album, but can you say what was the most important thing that you took away from having had that opportunity to work with Glen Adams so closely? What did he impart to you; what was one of the biggest things that you got from this experience, having been able to work with him?
Besides recording the album with him, you know, the experience with him in the studio every day is something I’ll treasure for a lifetime because it’s like – this is not like you’re reading a book, I’m actually living through the pages of history every day. With him telling me all the stories from way back then – who first do this, who first do that, and if you know him, I mean if you’re familiar with the Jamaican music scene, he played on all the [original] tracks that [are] on this album [“Opportunity”], and that’s why he also had access to the riddim tracks.

Wow.
But, a lot of us artists get caught up in what we call “the show.” And we tend to forget about the business. It’s really a hyphenated word: “show-business.” So after x-amount of experience, you tend to want to find out how the business really works. And if you don’t know how it works, then you have to hire someone, like a lawyer, to represent you. [So] that you don’t make the wrong decisions and sign away your rights or, you know, do things that you weren’t supposed to do – [that aren’t] in your favor – because you don’t know the business. So [Glen Adams] taught me a lot about the business.

Nice. Like I said, the sound quality on the album is fantastic and there’s quite a great group of songs – there are love songs, there are fun, up-tempo skanking vibes on the album. There are many also serious cultural messages and songs of protest on this album, “Opportunity.” One of the tracks called “Mother Culture” – after your album [“Mother Culture” in 1991] and one of the many names people have conferred to you as a title of respect over the years – for me, it really sums up what listening to your music is like; on that track, you sing: “When mi say DJ, mi no mean disc jockey, when mi say DJ, me mean a daughter of Jah, chanting the roots, nothing but culture.” Do you agree that that lyric really encapsulates your music as an artist, that you’re “A daughter of Jah, chanting the roots, nothing but culture?”
Exactly so. And in singing that, what I’m actually doing on that particular track, I’m kinda giving you a medley of the different Sister Carol songs over the years. And after spanning a career of forty years, I’m trying to reintroduce some of my old songs on these iconic riddims. And try to bring some new vibes to the new generation that is listening to Sister Carol right now. So it’s like a medley of different, different songs. That particular [lyric is from a] song [that] is called “Mother Culture,” so it came out on probably my first album that I produced back in probably 1991.

Now I have to say that I think without a doubt that my most favorite track on the album is the last song, the extremely militant song, “GET UP!!!” It’s sung over the riddim of Bob Marley’s “Soul Rebel,” and I don’t think it was an accident – it seems to be very intentional [that] this song title appears in all caps [with] three exclamation points. The song’s lyrics are equally forceful and deep, and really just amazing and so timely now, in 2020, even though you voiced it over a decade ago. I do want to ask a question or two about the lyrics, just because with the speed that you spit the rhymes and with your Jamaican accent, it can be possible for somebody like me to misinterpret or mistake what you’re saying. On that song you sing: “The shape of Ethiopia is Africa turned upside down. The shape of Africa is a Black woman’s profile while crying for her children; she wears a frown.” I want to stop there for a minute. It’s a very provocative lyric, “The shape of Africa is a Black woman’s profile while crying for her children; she wears a frown.” Can you say a little more about that provocative lyric and what you mean?
Alright. If you look at the map of Africa, it’s almost identical to the shape of Ethiopia itself turned upside down – if you look at it on the map. And Africa itself, is the face of a Black woman, and she’s crying, and the tear actually dropped – the tear is Madagascar. You get me?

Sister Carol at Reggae Geel 2006 (Photo: Teacher)

Sister Carol at Reggae Geel 2006 (Photo: Teacher)

Yeah, wow.
And you have the mindset of what our ancestors have been through – it’s mind-blowing. So mi just a-say, “Yo, enough!” We have to start something different. We have to get up! Can’t be passive any more. Have to take it to them the way they take it to us.

Especially now with what’s going on with the protests against police brutality, I thought it was a very powerful song. I mean, you sing on the song: “Enough with the cool down – or the chill down, with the passive, tired of the cool, mi no keep silent, mi no promise dem to be non-violent.” And then you go into, “Imagine when the guys invade Mama Africa, put we in a dungeon, just like animals to the slaughter, stuck we in a ship, so we cross the water. In the Middle Passage…” – and then I couldn’t make out, and I wanted to ask you what you say next. Because these lyrics are so crucial –
“In the Middle Passage lies the bones of my ancestors.” And it’s very passionate to us, you know. There’s a saying in South Africa, “ubuntu,” and it means “I am, because we are.” Without our ancestors we couldn’t be here today. We are our ancestors. So we live it, we feel it. And while we can’t physically defend it, we express it through music how we feel.

And it seems that the pain of oppression, and slavery, and what happened four hundred years ago, it oozes throughout the song, and it kind of – to the people who don’t understand what’s going on right now with the Black Lives Matter movement, it’s a song that could really help to teach people about this struggle and this pain – that’s never really gone away and never been dealt with. Especially in this country. In other countries, too, but in America the sin of slavery – we’ve never really grappled with it as a people, successfully. And this is why I think we see what we see today in the news, in the streets, and then every time an unarmed Black man is killed by the police. There is a weight of oppression that I think a lot of people in our country overlook. But if they listen to songs that really describe this pain that Black people have been going through in this country, and throughout the world, for so long, I really think it could be a useful tool –
Like I said before, we are educating through the music, you know?

Yeah.
And while the walls of bigotry and hate [are] painted everywhere – when I say “everywhere,” in every crevice [and] every corner. It’s hard to just sit and not say anything. So, it is even [a] musical protest. We haffi express how we feel. And that’s what’s coming through on that song. It’s Bob Marley’s [riddim on the] song “Soul Rebel”; it’s the kind of riddim where you have to say something, [and] make it mean something that people can identify [with]. And it can empower their minds. Put on our revolutionary hats.

Personally, I think that if Bob Marley were looking down, as I think he is, on us and the world, that he would have great respect for what you did with that riddim – and I just want to really thank you for that song. Sister, there was a recent article in the Jamaican press about how you had celebrated your birthday in Jamaica earlier this year, and that you were staying positive, but like many people these days, you were “on quarantine.” How has the pandemic affected your ability to promote this new album? [And] [h]ow has it affected you as an entertainer?
I wouldn’t say “entertainer,” you know? Just a human being, in general. Every person, no matter if you play sports, you drive [a] car, you cook food – everyone is in the same boat right now, not knowing where the next move is going to be or what’s going to happen. This is unprecedented. We have a family member, thank God, that is 95 years old, [and] she has never seen anything like this before. Entertainer or whoever you be, we are in the same boat trying to figure out this thing, and trying to stay as safe as possible. And of course, with all that is happening, that has affected your earnings and your livity, but then it just goes to show that, you know, that alone is not it. So, you know, I’m just here. Spending quality time with the family. I was in Jamaica for a while about two months ago. That’s when I had to do the quarantine.

I was fortunate to be in Jamaica myself in the beginning of March, right before the pandemic really blew up in the news, and before they were shutting down the airlines and things like that. And when the pandemic happened, I thought about all those people that are selling their wares on the beach and the tourist industry, and all the people who are trying to make ends meet in Jamaica. And I know you divide your time between Jamaica and New York – you’ve even been back and forth during the pandemic. I wanted to ask: Which country’s government, and which country’s people, are better managing the pandemic in your view? And why?
Well comparatively speaking, again, America is like a continent, [and] Jamaica is a likkle island. And while I was there – I went home in July and I was on quarantine for 14 days. Now when I was there, at that point, you only had 10 people that [had] passed away from the virus. So I felt as if the country was handling the situation in a more serious, effective manner. So that the death rate at that time was very low. It has spiraled since that time, now I’m told it’s a little bit over 200 people who lost their lives in Jamaica. Small island, population probably about 3 million. So 200 people, I think, you have to say, yeah, they have a better grip as opposed to this country, [where] you have over 230,000 people lose their lives. So I implore everyone to continue to wear your mask, and continue to sanitize [at] every opportunity. And keep your immune system intact – [consume] your vitamin Cs, your cayenne peppers, your ginger, and your garlic –

Buju Banton Geel 2019

Buju Banton

I’m only smiling because I learned so much from you at that vegan fest [in Los Angeles, in 2018,] about eating properly, and all the things you need to do to support your immune system. But I really want to ask you Sister about what you said about wearing your mask. Recently, despite even the great Toots Hibbert passing away from Covid, there was a video circulating on social media of Buju Banton saying that he was fed up with wearing a mask. And he was telling people in Jamaica they shouldn’t wear a mask. And now I know that you’re friends, and even collaborated with Buju before – a little bit of reggae history, on your 2003 album “Empressive,” you and he sang a track called “His Mercy Endureth” – so I know you have a working relationship even with Buju Banton. But what is your opinion about Buju making this public statement about how he [doesn’t] think people should wear masks, and he was fed up with wearing masks?
I can feel a strong sense of frustration. And yet, I’m [his] brethren and a friend, but me nah agree with everything [that] everybody say. Me, I say, people have to wear dem masks because we don’t know what we’re up against; you don’t know if you’re passing something or you’re gonna catch something. So me, I say, if people did start wearing their mask from earlier on when we learn about this thing, more lives would have been saved.

True.
So, however people feel, you don’t necessarily have to [agree]. We keep it real, man, we keep it real.

Do you feel the same way about Donald Trump and him making fun of people wearing masks, and disparaging mask-wearing? What do you think about what Donald Trump has done on this subject?
The walls are painted everywhere with hate and bigotry, so there’s nothing positive to look forward to. And that’s all me a-go say.

Jah Life - 1983 (Photo: Beth Lesser)

Hyman Wright – 1983 (Photo: Beth Lesser)

Wow. Sis, I only have three last questions for you, and I want to thank you again, you’ve always been so generous to me with your time. Two of the final questions come from diehard fans of yours. When I get the opportunity to interview a great reggae legend like yourself, I like to let the people know, and give them a chance, if they want, if they really have a question that they wanted to ask – or have me ask to you – to let that happen. And there’s a gentleman who’s on Twitter who loves reggae music; you can tell by his posts. He goes by the handle “Brigadier Lion.” And he wanted to know, Sister – he noted first that: “When an artist chooses to work with certain producers, there’s something special about that combination.” (And I think you described that a little bit today talking about your work with Glen Adams.) [Anyway,] this is [Brigadier Lion’s] question: “What did you find in the Jah Life working group to have done so many projects with them? [And] [w]hat do you think Hyman Wright and Percy Chin provided for you [in your career]?
They were the first persons to reach out to me. As an artist, when you start to recognize that you have a talent, you start searching for producers to produce you, and to get you out there; as they say in Jamaica, to “buss you.” So I was introduced to Jah Life by my brethren, Mikey Jarrett. And they recorded my first songs, like “Black Cinderella,” and “Jamaica A Little Africa.” Later on, went on to do the album “Black Cinderella,” followed up by another album called “Jah Disciple” that came out on the RAS Records label. So I’m saying, with the strength and the love that they offered me, to put me out there on their label, to let the world know me, it couldn’t have gone another way, and I’m very grateful for the opportunity. So you can’t really deny the people that got you started. You have to show eternal gratitude and love [the] same way. So ‘nuff love and respect to Jah Life and Percy for the love and the gift of recording me early [on], that the world can know me. And Percy Chin, you know, was also my manager for a good while as well. And he is largely responsible for – he was also the main distributor at Randy Chin’s records and there was a place like the biggest distributing point [for] the music – so my music was sent everywhere, all over the world, through Percy Chin. So me ever-grateful to Jah Life and Percy.

I guess we [in] the reggae community need to [also] be very thankful to them for putting you on the map, and giving you this platform. Sister Carol, another fan of yours is legendary guitarist Tony Chin, who had a long career with the Soul Syndicate, and also has [an impressive] solo career. And I told Tony – I’m fortunate to chat with him every now and then – I told him I was going to be interviewing you. He wanted me to “big up” you for him. And he also said: “Ask Sister Carol if she remembers me from 1986 Tokyo Japan Splash when I was there with Soul Syndicate.” He wanted to know, [do] you remember him?
(Laughing) Tell Tony Chin he needs to stop. How could I forget him? Come on! Nah man, Soul Syndicate! There’s so many times I’ve seen him since that time and he don’t see me, because sometimes I’m in the audience and sometimes I’m backstage waiting for my time to go on. Tony Chin, just go on and big up yourself, man, your contribution is large. And love is the word. Seen? Man like you, and Fully, and Chinna, and Santa Davis – what!? (Laughing) Japan Splash 1986, thank God we are still here. Because five artists went on that Splash, and I’m the only one, the only artist, that is still here. So give thanks for life!

And Sister Carol, I want to give thanks to you. I’m gonna ask you one final question to end the interview.
You did say two [questions] you know, [and] now you added a next one. (Laughing)

(Laughing) I’m sorry. You know journalists, we do that. But this is gonna be my last question. But before I ask it, I just want to give thanks to you, Sister Carol, and I want to wish you all the health, and all the happiness, and every success. And I want – I hope that Jah guides and protects you always. You’re one of my “sheros.” Whenever I listen to your music it brings me such a peace, and understanding, and a love, and so I just want to thank you for that. Sister, do you have any final message for your legions of fans around the world, who, like me, listen to everything you say very closely?
They say faith is the substance of things, the evidence of things not seen. I implore one and all to keep the faith. Whomever you pray to, or whatever domination you’re from, just hold the faith. Because we are in a very, very, very, very peculiar time right now, where not even the next moment is promised. And while we can’t go out and do like we used to do, try your best to make the best of the time. To spend quality time with family, and quality time with friends, and your loved ones. And that is some of what we’ve been doing to help us pass the time, you know? I continue to send each and everyone one perfect love, because without love, there’s no God. You know not love, you know not God. Perfect love casts away all fear, so just continue to love. Even when there’s no love coming your way, same way. And try your best to keep it safe. And have a little bit more patience with everyone around you. So that the love can flow. Easier.