IQulah Rastafari – Dossier – Optimism & Holism vs. Alcoholism

IQulah Rastafari – Optimism & Holism vs. Alcoholism

German introduction (Interview in English further down) / Änderungen 21. April 2018 in Rot/Changes 21st of April marked in Red 

Die Schreibweise „IQulah“ ist kein Tippfehler, wie wir im Interview verstehen werden. Der in Europa einerseits nicht mehr allzu bekannte Sänger, Pauken- und Trommelspieler mit seiner Band Gideon Family (früher: I.Q.U.L.A.H. & The Gideon Nyabingi Force, Ras Iqulah & The Gideon Force, Azania, St. Ann’s Band) ist unterschwellig jedem im Ohr, der zwischen 1960 und 1985 geboren ist – und zwar durch die Hiphop-Verwurstung seiner Single „Informer“ des kanadischen Raggamuffin-Toasters Snow und des New Yorkers MC Shan. Diese Version verkaufte sich mit anderem Text, aber der textlichen Idee „Ärger mit der Polizei“ und mit gepitchtem Tempo acht Millionen Mal und belegte den Spitzenplatz der deutschen Charts – der kommerziell erfolgreichste Rasta-Tune der `90er! Teile des Beatmusters, der gerade für Hiphop üblichen Scratch-Effekte und die Kadenz, in der das Wort „Informer“ intoniert wird, sind nach meinem Hörgefühl unweigerlich von Raymond Topping alias IQulahs „Informer“ von 1988 inspiriert – zu wenig Ähnlichkeit, um von einem Sample oder Cover zu sprechen, aber der Einfluss ist da. Snow ist jedenfalls ganz der gegensätzliche Typus Reggae-Musiker zu IQulah, denn Snow wurde wegen Körperverletzung inhaftiert und hatte des Öfteren wegen härterer Delikte mit der Polizei zu tun.

Der Vegetarier IQulah versteht sich gut mit Tieren. The vegetarian IQulah knows well how to treat animals. Quelle/Source: Raymond Topping private archive

Am 30. Juli 2017 war IQulah Rastafari nach sieben Jahren wieder in Deutschland live zu erleben, und auch dieses Mal holte ihn das Reggaejam Bersenbrück. Die Konzerte IQulahs in Europa sind ohnehin recht rar: Eine ausgiebige Internet-Recherche fördert gerade mal das Reggae Geel 2011, das Dennis Brown / Lucky Dube Memorial Afro-Reggae-Festival Hoechstenbach (Westerwald) 2006 und 2008 sowie das schwedische Uppsala Reggae-Festival 2007 zutage. 2004 spielte er auf dem Jamaican Sunrise in Avignon.

Im Sommer 2017 kamen noch ein paar Auftritte in England hinzu, im Sommer 2018 folgen weitere mit den Songs der neuen EP. Dann gab’s ein paar jazzige Gigs in Frankreich und Benelux im Sommer 2015, als er sein Album “Food For Thought” vorstellte. Ein Leser von Irie Ites erinnert sich, dass IQulah in den `90er Jahren mehrmals auf dem Jura Hills Festival in der Nähe von Sulzbach-Rosenberg (Nordbayern) war. Dieses Festival gibt’s allerdings schon lange nicht mehr – und adäquate Spielorte für den Oldschool-Roots-Man auch nur sehr vereinzelt. Insgesamt also ein seltener Gast.

Allerdings hat das auch diverse Gründe: 1. Er wollte den Reggae stets auch woanders hin transportieren, nach Russland, in den Pazifik (Tournee 2006 mit den Abyssinians und Ky-Mani Marley) und nach Afrika (u.a. Uganda, Malawi, Südafrika, Tansania, Sudan, 1 Mal für die Regierung von Mali) – und in Afrika insbesondere nach Äthiopien. Ursprünglich hatte ihn der Bürgerkrieg in Ruanda / Burundi 1994 aufmerksam gemacht, Afrika vor Ort persönlich aufzusuchen. 2. Die Musik war nicht sein Ein und Alles. Viele Jahre verbrachte er mit Erwachsenenbildung, Geschichts-Aktivismus und Entwicklungszusammenarbeit.

Quelle/Source: Salemhouse

Er etablierte ein Gedenkzentrum namens Rastafari Unity Center bzw. Andahnet Center in seiner Heimatstadt St. Ann’s Bay (Nordküste Jamaikas). Er arbeitet die Geschichte Marcus Garveys auf und sammelt Geld für einen Fonds zur Strukturförderung der äthiopischen Stadt Shashamane. 3. Viele Promoter machen einen Bogen um ihn und vermitteln ihm keine Auftritte, wie er im Interview erklärt. 4. Was er 1997 auf einer Bühne erreichte, lässt sich sowieso nicht toppen: Er spielte vor 80 000 Personen im einst von Haile Selassie errichteten Meskal Square-Stadium in Addis Abeba. Das Festival, „Reggae Unites Africa“ hatte er selbst mit organisiert – unter kritischer Beobachtung der staatlichen Hoheiten, da die rot-gelb-grüne Flagge mit dem Löwensymbol dort verwendet wurde, die aber lange Zeit vom Staat nicht verwendet wurde, weil sie für einen antinationalen, panafrikanischen Politikansatz steht. Zu diesem Gedanken bekennt sich IQulah immer wieder und erklärt auch uns Deutschen in der Debatte um Migration, weshalb Panafrikanismus keine Sache nur für nette Sonntagsreden ist.

Aktuelle EP 2018 – “Africa Call EP”

New EP from IQulah (April 2018)

Nachdem ich auf dem Reggaejam bereits warm gelaufen war von fast drei Tagen Interviewmarathon, wagte ich mich auch einmal an diese Ikone heran. Und IQulahs Aufmerksamkeit hatte ich erheblich leichter, als die so mancher Newcomer, die sich gerne hinter Sonnenbrillen versteckten, beim Radio-Interview in sich hinein nuschelten (No-Go) – einer lief sogar mehrmals vor mir davon und bat ein paar Tage später um ein Skype-Interview. Da lobe ich mir doch den älteren Herrn mit seinen Überzeugungen, der die vollendete Höflichkeit in Person war und selbstbewusst sein Wissen teilen wollte.

Zuvor hatte mir ein Besucher des Reggaejam ausführlich erklärt, weshalb für ihn das IQulah-Konzert der Höhepunkt des dreitägigen Festivals sei und warum sich IQulah zurecht als Rastafari bezeichne:

German festival visitor at Reggaejam about why IQulah is a real spiritual rastafari (in German).

Maybe the singer and kettle drum player should be more well-known in Europe, as the commercially most successful reggae tune of the 90ies has been “Informer” of Snow & MC Shan. This tune seems to feature a beat pattern in combination with the text idea “trouble with the police”, with very similar scratch effects and toasting of “Informer” from IQulahs 1st single “Informer”, published in 1988. But maybe a spiritual man, like Raymond Topping a.k.a. IQulah, doesn’t want to be perceived in connection with a supposable murderer like Snow (who’s been in jail during the time when his hit has been worldwide on charts peak position #1).

On 30th of July, 2017, Germany saw IQulah again, for the first time after seven years – and again it was the Reggaejam in Bersenbrueck that engaged him. The fact that his performances here are so rarely, has its reasons: 1. He played elsewhere, too, like in Russia, in the Indian Ocean, in many African countries, for example in South Africa, and especially in Ethiopia times and times again. 2. Originally, it might have been the Civil War in Rwanda / Burundi that caught his attention and intensified his wish to travel to Africa and to play concerts, later to organize new Pan-African movements, to educate people in an Ugandian educational centre and to build up new institutions like a funds that supports community development.

In St. Ann’s Bay (Jamaican north coast) he’s the founder of the Rastafari Andahnet Center which informs about Marcus Garvey and the Pan-Africanism. So there are a lot of other things to do beyond the music. 3. Some promoters avoid him and try not to place him on certain festivals, as he will explain in the interview. 4. What he experienced once will not be boosted: In the “Reggae Unites Africa” Festival in 1997 (of which he was one of the organizers) that happened in the Meskal Square Stadium of Addis Abeba built up by Haile Selassie I. at former times, he provoked the Ethiopian Government by using the (Pan-Africa-associated and in that sense antinational) red-yellow-green flag with the Lion symbol (Lion of Judah) and played in front of 80 000 (!) visitors. Where should such a thing happen in Europe? The flag, by the way, has still been an important symbol and changed from time to time, in 1974, 1987, 1991, 1996 and 2009. So, Ethiopia has a new flag all the ten years…

Current EP 2018: “Africa Call EP”

After some newcomers at Reggaejam mumbled during my radio interviews (no go), believed in being cool wearing sunglasses while being interviewed, and after one newcomer has run away from me several times (sending a messenger text asking for a Skype interview days after the festival), it was a pleasure for me talking to that very polite and respectful legend of Rastafari culture, sharing his thoughts with me and presenting them with self-awareness.

INTERVIEW

Your “Food For Thought” Album has some interesting arrangements, it’s soulful, I think, with many instruments, and it’s a slow album that focuses on the lyrics.

Yes, definitely!

What do you try or want to transport with this? It’s a reflective album …

Yeah, what happened now, right?! The “Food For Thought” album:  There are certain things that are in my thoughts, because Rastafari is a way of life, and I wanted to find a formula to give a kind of a message. So, that’s why the instrumentation is conform with a spiritual level, it’s not just a little reggae riff, you know … We put some more flavour, and Empress Sarah, she also plays classical music. So she put some different arrangements in the music, give it something different, you know! Yeah, so we’re trying to make a difference! Yes I, give thanks!

There’s especially one track, “Tormented Souls”, that is charismatic, and in a way, what I observe here – not on this festival, but on other, especially some smaller festivals, you have a youth who are 18, 20, 22 years old, and many of them drink until they tumble down.

Yes, “Tormented Souls”, yes I! Yeah, because right now, that’s why IQulah and Gideon Family we have tormenting  … the roots because what is happening in the music today, even – (Interrupting himself) … I tell you something, my brother, some promoters don’t even want us to come. Because: If we come and educate the youth about stop smoking, stop drinking, they don’t sell their beverages or their liquor. You understand, what I’m saying?

Certain shows don’t call us because we are saying the right things to educate the youths, so what happens most of the times: I put on that on festivals, and we keep it ital, all ital food, no alcohol, … you understand, we keep it holistic, and that’s my message. That’s my message, fighting to see the unification of humanity, it’s not a colour thing, this is a mission that I and I have to fulfill this.

Because, you know, the colonial system invaded our territory, but the rastaman coming this time, right, to teach the people how to live: We are not here to render evil for evil, because I and I the Optimist – stand strong, in physical endurance, mental stability, spiritual grace, we are confident in the victory of Good over Evil, so weather you’re white, black, purple or blue, we all say, we are all Jah Jah’s children, we all have to come together and be a living example.

In the rock music you see that many stars die at a young age. In the reggae… ?

(Interrupting) In reggae, too. They’re going! The same thing! The same thing, because a lot of these people only sing, but they don’t live it. You know, these people like – you have a saying “hear what the Preacher says, but don’t do what the Preacher do”.

They do not practice what they preach?

Right! You understand what I’m saying? You’re right! So, Gideon Family is a family with that “what we say is what we live”. So we gonna keep it in order! And, people can feel our energy! When we are on stage, now that it’s for real, it’s not …

(Interrupting) What I observe, because I was here in the backstage, and so I have a good overview, and they were not moving. There are some concerts where they go back and forth, and it’s always loud and …

(Interrupting) People want to hear what I’m saying! So people stand still. It’s like we command the people to stand still. Yeah, and that’s the way of our musical flow.

It’s a straight atmosphere, and you feel it … I feel it from the first …

(Interrupting) … Song!

IQulah@Reggae Jam 2017, Quelle/Source: Salemhouse

We here in Europe expect to get even more migrating people from Africa. My parents were on holiday, have just been on holiday till yesterday in Italy.

Your parents?

My parents, yes!

Okay, nice, nice!

Italy is a coastal country, people arrive their first, because other countries are already closed. Now, I mean, what you say is a Pan-African idea, but we do not feel this unification: I worked in an asylum accommodation, having the people there – waiting, until it’s proved if they can stay for longer or not …

Okay, the process of immigration, yes, yes, yes …

… And, the Ethiopian people wanted to stay separated from the Nigerian people, the Eritrean people wanted to stay separated from the Senegalese people.

(Interrupting) Oh, you know why is that?!

No. That’s why I’m asking you.

That’s the side effect from … colonialism … and religion has a lot to do with this! Because, what happened is that – Africa has to be ONE Africa, but in the barreling treaty in 1865, they chopped Africa into bits and pieces, and put barriers and boundaries within Africa, and separate the people! So the people started to stay in themselves, they killed the indigenous ways of life. The indigenous way of life was to remove all barriers and boundaries – people live together as one. Seen, so, it’s a side effect from the colonial slave trade. Yeah?! The colonial system created that in Africa, and put the people like this and put them in tribes, this tribe, this tribe, this tribe … yes …

And how to overstand, how to overcome this?

That’s why Haile Selassie the 1st, is the only man, that can direct us, how to go about this, that’s why His Majesty set up the Ethiopian World Federation with a constitution that the people have something as a foundation to hold on to, to say that we are all one, yeah we’re one people, also open for the “extended family”. So the Rastaman is here as a living example that we can live among all people, white, black, African, European, embredded
[comment of the author: think he means fraternized, all being brothers or embedded in a Union]
we can live among human family – that’s the mission!

So, you’re one of the few who explains that to me in a clear language!

Rastafari! Yes, I! Give thanks!

Let me for finishing say that I read about how your name is composed – “Integrity” – “Quality” – “Unity” – “Love for Africa as a home” and there’s is a lot of quality. But, I read it sometimes with IQ in capital letters. Why?

Why? Because, in the capital it’s the “IQ”, you know (laughing), it’s the IQ, makes the IQulah! (laughing out loud). Yes, yes, yes, yes, so when you see it’s in big capital, it’s IQ, IQulah has the “IQ” (laughing out loud). So it’s a vision, it’s a vision of that …

Okay, I do some reggae radio shows as well. And there we have a 30th anniversary, and that’s like for you, because you had your 1st single … was it “The Informer”…?

Yeah, yeah, “The Informer”!

… Yes, it celebrates its 30th anniversary, too, so perhaps you can put this together in a jingle. And, the show is called “Rastashock”…

Right, right, right. “Rastashock”! “Rastashock”, okay … Everything I do them what Jah people me, and in the end back round ya this upon me, tell it today and nah go tell me ri, tell the police and then go tell soldiers – Salute! Rastashock! IQulah Rastafari says so. Blessed!

Give thanks, great voice!

Yeah, man, Rastafari! My brother! Give thanks, seen …

Thank you!

What’s your name again?

Philipp!

Philipp, all right! Rastafari, blessed …

 

Clearly, we did the interview in the green grass. IQulah has lived for a span of seven years in his life planting papayas, yams, sweet potatoes and biologically cultivated rice in the Jamaican interior. He did six albums in 33 years, among them two live albums. The catchy, jazz-inspired tunes “Tormented Souls” and “Judgement”, the beautifully-arranged “Hail Fari” and the elegant, dream-struck ska tune “She’s Always There” are featured on the current studio Album – named “Food For Thought”.

Klar, dass wir das Interview im Grünen geführt haben. IQulah hat sieben Jahre lang ausschließlich vom Anbau von Papayas, Bio-Reis, Yamswurzeln und Süßkartoffeln im jamaikanischen Hinterland gelebt. Von IQulah Rastafari gibt es nur sechs Alben aus 33 Jahren, darunter zwei Live-Alben: „Rastafari Philosophy Vol. 1“, „The Mission“, „Light Of This World / Live In Switzerland“, „Rasta Live / Live In Switzerland #2“, „Rastafari 4 Eva (Vol. 5)“ und „Food For Thought“ mit den angejazzten Songs “Tormented Souls” und “Judgement”, dem wunderschön arrangierten “Hail Fari” sowie der eleganten, verträumten Ska-Nummer “She’s Always There”.

CoverCover

Links:

Reggajam Festival Bersenbrück:
http://www.reggaejam.de/home/

Artist:
http://www.iqulahrastafari.com

German article of the author about the issue of Pan-Africanism:
http://www.radio-z.net/de/programmkalender/gesellschaft-beitraege/toleranz-foerdern-kompetenz-staerken/topic/158651-was-ist-panfrikanismus-und-wozu-soll-ich-das-wissen.html

Foto (Interview): Philipp Kause

Philipp Kause

About Philipp Kause

Philipp hat Musikethnologie studiert und verschiedenste Berufe in Journalismus, Marketing, Asylsozialberatung und als kaufmännischer Sachbearbeiter ausgeübt – immer jedenfalls stellt er Menschen Fragen. Er lebt zurzeit in Nürnberg, wo er die Sendung „Rastashock“ präsentiert, die seit 1988 auf Radio Z läuft.