“Now in this time it really is a responsibility of artists to be a reflection of the voice of the community that they are in. These days my community is global, and I really try to use my music to help share those stories or the victories, or the struggles or the challenges or the goals of my global community.”
Socially-conscious roots-reggae powerhouse Blue King Brown, have just released a new album, Born Free, and will perform at Red Hill Auditorium on Friday, December 5, supporting UB40 (sold-out), and on Saturday, December 6, at Clancy’s Dunsborough. MUMMA TREES catches up with Natalie Pa’apa’a.
Having spent the greater part of 2014 in Jamaica, Blue King Brown’s new album, Born Free, is heavily influenced by the reggae revival happening in the Caribbean right now and features collaborations with a range of artists and producers from the reggae genre.
“Jamaica, as you know, is just a happening place and especially right now musically it’s very much alive and thriving and so it has been very exciting to be there amongst all that awesome community,” says vocalist, Natalie Pa’apa’a. It’s very, very exciting times.”
Blue King Brown has always had a thread of reggae influence, which is the perfect vehicle for the message their music conveys. Social consciousness, justice and highlighting environmental and political issues, very much following the roots reggae tradition. Australia is far from the West Indies both geographically and culturally, so how did this influence span the globe to reach Blue King Brown?
“It came from my mum, she has great taste in music, and I always big her up for that,” Pa’apa’a says. “My childhood soundtrack included the greats of reggae like Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff and Lucky Dube, but she also listened to Santana, Miles Davis, Ella Fitzgerald and Aretha Franklin, so I had that really broad scope of good music from that era, so I believe that is where it all started.”
A large part of this new album was engineered and produced by world-renowned reggae producer Wayne ‘Unga’ Thompson of Notis Productions, who had a huge international reggae hit with Busy Signal’s Coming Over in 2011, as well as being one of the most sought after session drummers.
“Unga was on tour with Jimmy Cliff almost two years ago in Australia, and we had the Jimmy Cliff band over for a meal and chill out in the yard,” Pa’apa’a recalls. “We opened the studio and Unga started making a beat and then the guitarist came in and started laying down something and the keys came in and before you know it we were singing these ideas and by the end of the day we had written a whole song together just vibing and it felt so great, such a good energy. It doesn’t always happen like that so we felt that we had to explore it. It really feels like it’s just the beginning, we have been working on some really awesome music.”
Born Free is a truly global effort – James Bonzo Caruso from the US (who does a lot of the engineering and mixing for the Marleys) engineered Blue King Brown’s last album and worked on this one, Mister Savona (Australian reggae producer) had a big hand in the production of this album, so did Styalz Fuego, and of course the Notis family in Jamaica.
It’s not just behind the mixing desk that these collaborations appear. Jamaican reggae singers are featured too, such as ’70s reggae legends, The Congos, on Babylon A Fall.
“We had this song that was inspired by them, particularly Row Fisherman, and we linked with them when they were in Australia for AWME (Australasian Worldwide Music Expo) a couple of years ago. We pulled up the song and they started singing, and we recorded it the next day.”
The huge revival of roots reggae in Jamaica is a turnaround from the dancehall that has been running there over the last decade. Spearheaded by Chronixx (touring the east coast of Australia this December) and with a wave of young artists coming up such as Exco Levi, Protege, Dre Island, Jah 9, Raging Fyah, Kabaka Pyramid and another young artist who featured on Born Free, Jesse Royal. “We just vibe really well, and I really wanted to share his talent with Australia,” Pa’apa’a says. Logan Bell (from New Zealand’s Katchafire) also features on the song, One Sign.
The first single from Born Free is All Nations. The video was filmed in Vanuatu. It has a strong representation for West Papua, with their flag flying throughout.
“West Papua has been occupied by Indonesia for over 50 years, and the West Papuan people have been fighting for their freedom and right to self determination,” Pa’apa’a says. “So they are living under this brutal occupation right now, a very horrific reality for our brothers and sisters only 200 km from Australian shores. What we are doing in the All Nations film clip is help to raise awareness of the issues of West Papua, because the Blue King Brown backing singers are West Papuan, that’s how we became involved in their struggle and that’s how we became aware of whets happening.
“Freewestpapua.org is a great site I really encourage everyone to check out what’s going on because these are our closest neighbours and once you know what’s going on there you just cant stay silent.
“Now in this time it really is a responsibility of artists to be a reflection of the voice of the community that they are in. These days my community is global, and I really try to use my music to help share those stories or the victories, or the struggles or the challenges or the goals of my global community.
“The biggest underlying message across the album, Born Free, is to realise that we have been kept in these chains of mental slavery for so long, holding back our full potential as human beings. It’s time to really wake up and shake those shackles away. When we rise up together people power is unstoppable. The sounds and vibration of conscious music, of art, of what we say and what we do is what is going to change the world.”
Blue King Brown – All Nations – http://youtu.be/D1J8t-4MpiE