Interview: Kabaka Pyramid
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Christian-turned-Rastafari, Kabaka Pyramid, is a man deeply in touch with his culture. He uses his music as a platform to articulate his ideas about religion, culture and politics, backed by infectious fusion flavours. Kabaka exudes creativity. Not simply a vocalist and a songwriter, this ambitious artist is learning the fine art of production, receiving mixing lessons from Damian Marley’s sound engineer and teaching himself different instruments in his home studio in Kingston, Jamaica. On stage in the beautiful grounds of Forty Hall Estate in at the 2018 edition of Reggae On The Lawn, Kabaka touched on aspects of current social, political and community-lead conversations through a clever amalgamation of lighthearted reggae beats, tinny instrumentals and audience engagement. A true musical chameleon, Kabaka takes his early influences - his mother’s love for Gospel music and his father’s full collection of Bob Marley records, his favourite childhood records from Shaggy and Wu-Tang Clan - and fuses different aspects of their cultural expression. “Even before I recognised it was something I liked, I gravitated towards it and it ended up being the theme for my whole career...that beautiful fusion of reggae and hip-hop.” Kabaka succeeds in bringing together the very best of hip-hop and reggae to produce provocative, philosophically-engaged music to the masses. Now, the hard-hitting political themes of hip-hop and the feel-good spirit of reggae have culminated in his latest album Kontraband. “[Kontraband] was a great learning experience, because I like to learn from everybody who I work with.” Working closely with Damian “Jr. Gong” Marley on his production techniques and vocal style (from balancing his levels of aggression to sharp lyrical tact) was an eye-opening experience for an artist accustomed to an isolated studio setting. Even moreso when you throw Steve Marley into the mix to work on the album’s arrangement.
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