Arkaingelle - Words from Heaven... A Spiritual Reasoning
09/25/2020 by Gardy Stein
In the Book of Revelation, Archangel Michael (a name that, in ancient Hebrew, means "Who is like God?") leads the heavenly armies against the dark forces and defeats Satan. In our very present times, Mykal Younge aka Arkaingelle lives up to what seems a predestined fate and continues the fight of good over evil - in his very own musical way. Devotion and faith, exceptional instrumental craftsmanship and an engaging voice make his songs a different kind of revelation, as he has proven with releases such as ...And Behold or Tru Da Fyah.
Now, in close collaboration with Jah David Goldfine of Zion High Productions, he delivers Nah Watah Down, an urgent call to stand firm in your beliefs and build a better world. Through the smoke-laden skies of California, Reggaeville has managed to link up with Arkaingelle, finding out not only about his new album, but also about spiritual artwork and Guyana:
Where do I catch you?
I'm in California, Oakland.
Are you affected by the fires?
Yes, generally there is nuff smoke around and in the air, but it started to clear up yesterday, so it's a lot better now. I stay about five hours from here where I live up in the mountains and there is a lot more smoke up there.
Since when do you live in California?
Since longtime! My family bring myself and my brother over here when we were like thirteen. I've been travelling ever since, back and forth.
Originally you come from Guyana, right? Can you tell us something about the country? I'm sure a lot of people don't know what it is like...
It's beautiful, man! Beautiful! If you've ever been to Jamaica, it's very much like that. With the one exception, we don't have the beaches! (laughs) Our coastline is actually on the sea level, but the climate is very tropical. You must know that it is on the continent of South America, considered part of the Caribbean generally speaking, because of the British History there. We have Dutch, British and Spanish history in Guyana, we share that with the rest of the Caribbean community. We have about 70% of jungle in Guyana, it's very sparsely populated, only about a million in total. More people are re-migrating and going there recently because of oil discovery, that's said to become a big economic boom. The people, because of the beaches and everything, they open up natural tours, Eco-tourism, you know. So it's beginning now to open up and see a lot more visitors, and people are starting to discover Guyana. The food, the people, it's the same mix like Jamaica, the accent is very particular though. When you listen to us, you are going to hear the difference (laughs). Beautiful place, beautiful people!
What about the Reggae scene there?
I give thanks for all the ancients who come through because, again, we look to Africa, to Jamaica for that inspiration, that's how I got my inspiration, you know. The Reggae scene in Guyana is now building. There are artists there that embrace Rastafari and expose it in Roots music, as well as Dancehall music, too. But the culture of Guyana music is rooted in African culture, like Kwamena music, folk music, a lot of Calypso. We mix all these things together, a lot of Calypso, and they got music from the West as well, a lot of radio music, so in terms of musical dvelopment in Guyana we have to mention Kwamena called Kwekwe music. That would be a local sound, that's Guyana music. Just drumming, chanting, just in the African style, African tradition. Rigth now, the music and the population embrace everything, from Rock to HipHop to Roots Reggae and Dancehall, you know (laughs).
[daughter interrupts] "Dada I want some bagels and butter!"
"Go inside and get some. Please excuse me, I'm doing some work now."
Oh, is this your daughter?
Yes. I'm surrounded by princesses, really and truly (laughs).
What was your first contact with Reggae and Rastafari? How did you get in touch?
The first Rastaman I know was my neighbor, an elder at that time in Guyana. And the music... it was in the early eighties, I remember particularly in the village, Boxton village, there was one house where they play music loud and you could hear it way down the street. They used to play Bob Marley, I remember hearing Bob Marley every day when I came home from school at three o'clock. It was Coming In From The Cold. Every afternoon that album play, loud! And it really captured me, and I went out to borrow the album but they wouldn't let me borrow it. They lent me a U-Roy album, they give me that to play, as a young youth, and I played it on my... you know what a radiogram is? The old old style with the turntable and the radio everything mixed in one, so I played it on my grandparents' radiogram. It just captured me at an early age, music generally. I went to see cultural performances, and the drums, I remember, was the first thing that really captured me instrumentally, you know. But those albums from youth, they just trigger something in me. And my bredrin that was right across the street, he would bring me in and give me some ital food and ting, starting to reason generally about life, and it just ignite something in me, as a youth, until now. Can't forget that.
And when did you discover your talent for singing?
Not til later down in time, til after I come to California and really discover I-self. In Highschool, I was doing HipHop, chanting and writing some poems and ting, and I discovered myself through Far-I and I found that I was going in the right line all the while, you know, the different things that I established as a youth... So I started with choir and writing, the music just came naturally! Even my grandfather, before I left Guyana, he is a pianist, he gave me a couple of lessons in music, and I have some other relatives who play in Church, so I have that teaching as well, biblically, musically... It just came naturally, seeing that this is what I want to do, what I love to do.
After your debut album O'pen in 2008, there seems to be a break in your musical output for some years. Why?
Well, it's just timing, that's my motto. I don't rush nothing, I don't try to run down nothing, I just hold Rastafari dear, and I don't want to force anything or try to get myself there for personal acknowledgement or recognition. So, the timing between the first one and the next one was adequate, with a lot of growth and dealing with family as well, and dealing with musical entities... it just took time.
From 2017 it was definitely building again. That was the year you released Tru Da Fyah, and one year later came ...And Behold. You did a tour as well in 2018 - was that the first time you came to Europe?
The first time I came there was 2017 with Lionheart and then we came back a year later with Habesha. Again, the timing betwen 2008 and 2017 was a particular time, because you have to make sure you resonate with the people, with personal dealings, you grow.
Do you recall any special moments or impressions from that tour?
It was a re-awakening for I personally, because I was checking out the Soundsystem scene in Europe, and I haven't seen it like that since the days I was in Guyana. It just reminded me of that scene, of that roots... because again, I'n'I come from that roots, that Soundsystem culture where you go to a dance and somebody just grabs the mic, all these things. When I first touched down it was in France with Peter Lionheart, and it really gave me a joy to be in that environment. Late night, completely different from the American music scene, because they play music until the sun rise, it was a joy. France was a blessing, and Rototom with Habesha was definitely a joy, the culture, the environment that was created for that time, it was amazing to I to see. I really apprecilove the ones and ones I got to link with, some very heartical bredren and sistren. I love Europe, and I'm looking forward to come again. I was actually supposed to come forward this year, but again, because of everything going on, it was put off. So hopefully, next year it will be a bit clearer and the movement free up so we can fulljoy the vibes with everyone across the world really and truly.
Your new album now is called Nah Watah Down. How long was it in preparation?
I got together with Zion High Productions, King David, years and years ago, even before O'pen, and then he moved on to Florida. We've been talking about doing some work forever! (laughs) When we were working on Tru Da Fyah, we knew that wasn't it. So, the reasoning has been ongoing from the very first time we met, the musical connection. When we got the chance to build this project and this new one, it's been in the making from ever since. We started talking about it last year, and we go together in February in Florida to do the actual recordings.
What is the meaning behind the title Nah Watah Down?
It's just a reinforcement to I personally, and the ones and ones, to just stay firm to what you know as yourself, be true to yourself, don't watah down, don't compromise. Because I'n'I stand firm personally in the faith of Ras Tafari, and in Roots Reggae Music I'n'I puttin forward to share with the folks, so we wannna hold that and keep putting it through, because there are so many options out there. I'n'I are the faith bearers, the roots bearers in that identity, and I apprecilove that. As I said, I am an instrumentalist musically, I play instruments, and I vocalize as well, so I love music, all kind of music, whether it is Rap, Dancehall, every different culture. But for me, what I like to play and chant, is Roots Reggae music. And for that we don't compromise.
That's the feeling that comes across from the album! There is a lot of great great talent there, musicians who really carry these vibes...
... and also you have an Intro and two Interludes of Nyabinghi style meditation, can you introduce the people who have worked with you on those interludes?
The producer, King David, big up anywhere you de, through his connections we were able to get some recordings from the elders, Bongo Isaac, Bongo Cutty and Bongo Nanny. The other bredrin, Wonderful Counselor, he was also born in Guyana. An angel! A majestic warrior angel that trod the earth and is just mystic in this time, a great inspiration to those that know him personally. Myself and King David actually produced an album with Wonderful Counselor in 2001, 2002, and we used some excerpts from that album, righteous warrior Rastafari. We just wanted to share some of his works. He is no longer with I'n'I right now, and, again, it goes along with the theme. You nah watah down the thing, if you know Counselor, he is a serious Rastaman! As a matter of fact, let me tell you seh, Counselor is the one who gave me my name, Arkaingelle, because he had the vision before I did, so I say give thanks. It used to be Ras Mykal, my bredren call me Ras Mykal cause that's the name my mother gave me. Everyone call me Ras Mykal. But Counselor said "No man, you are more than that, you are like an archangel!" So him bless me this name, and due to the meaning personally from him to I and the I-rates it take on to I generally when I check out the personage of the Archangel Michael, I give thanks. Really and truly.
He is not the only feature, though. One of the biggest tracks of the album is Light The Torch with Kabaka Pyramid and Pressure Busspipe. How did you link up with these artists?
Rastafari! Well, this is one big community. It's Zion I Kings family, from Jamaica to VI to Guyana to US, it's one big link. We see a movement, a rootical movement within the youths right now that we truly apprecilove, coming from all nations, not just the ones that I just mentioned. Coming from these nations particularly with inspirational messages and insights. Again, King David made the introduction, he was talking about bringing on a featured artist for this particular album, and we were actually reasoning about some other ones and were ready to go. But the mystic happened and the connection and the reasoning, and it just manifested. And the bredren were so receptive and joyful with the works! Again, we know the works of Pressure and the works of Kabaka, you know, both of them were humble and gave thanks same way. It's a natural connection, a natural livity. Zion High Productions, Bebble Rock, Pressure Busspipe - give thanks! I Grade family, even Tippy I, the whole family, we have to give thanks for all of them, because it's not I'n'I personally alone in this works, it is a whole community infront of I'n'I and even behind I'n'I going forward and spreading the words. The musicians, the producers, the mix, the promoters, everyone, so we give thanks! Because I know personally, and I don't just chant this thing, we work everything, back a di scene, front a di scene, music works, paper works, we see and know every particular position so we give thanks. Including the I, really and truly, we give thanks to Reggaeville as well who share the works and share the songs, let the ones know that Reggae music is bigger than Reggae music! Messenger Selah, he said it's bigger than Reggae music! We are taking it to the world and want to let people know the I-rates we are living in. Rastafari livity is surity, and I want to let people know that and give thanks to the elders who show I the way from time unto now. A lot of ones come to mind right now, but that's a different reasoning (laughs). Nah watah down the thing!
Moving on, what does Daga stand for?
A Gad! Yeah man, but you know, in South Africa, Daga is the name for herb. So it's a mystic meditation because a Gad is the meditation of the most I. A man who burn herb gives thanks to hold a sakrament, so the Most High bless us with this one for the healing. A Gad, plain and simple.
His Imperial Majesty figures prominently in your lyrics. Can you tell us about the connection you have to HIM?
Rastafari! As I say from a youth I see certain things, I see how people are with one another, I see my Rasta bredrin across the street and I come into myself again through creation and I sight the fulness. When I go seeking within the bible or literature, I'n'I find His Majesty, personally, when I see Ethiopia, the foundation and the cradle, when I look at the Emperor, the personage and the works, I'n'I see 'Yes man, this is his Majesty, August Majesty, the one spoken of from such time unto this time, the King of King, the Lord of Lords, the conquering Lion from the tribe of Judah!' So I'n'I open I heart, open I heavens, open I thinking, because it's black liberation talk all the while, black spiritual meditation all the while, with perfect love for humanity, one perfect love. It's not just talking, it's what we live. Once you live it and you know it and you humble yourself to Rastafari, for me there is no other way! The way I can deal with you, it's Rastafari who show me how to do that, how to deal with my likkle youths, it's Rastafari again, with society and with music, is Rastafari show I that, with my own personal experience and history, everything is there for I. It is done written in the book of life, so we give thanks for the king of kings, he is an inspiration, a joy, like the morning dew. I held my firstborn in my hands and I knew the science that I was taught in school, the egg and the sperm and the womb, and I say that's not just that. Far-I show me a world beyond this world, beyond creation, so I know it. And I share it because I think it can benefit all humanity. So I think we can better our planet, the livelyhood, the education and how we deal with each other through Rastafari.
That conviction pervades your work. Apart from the music, every cover of your albums is an artwork of HIM. Even on your homepage, people are welcomed by the beautiful cover-art of ...And Behold.
A bredrin from California called Knatty Rebel did that. You know, years before my first album manifest, I had a picture of myself that I wanted to use, up in the mountains, by the river. But later I realised it's not about I. When I see the artwork of my bredrin, particularly Midnite at that time, when I see that, it really changed my meditation. I understood that it's not for my benefit or my glory, so I say I rather promote my bredrin works, to help promote Rastafari works. People don't have to see my face to like my music, so we bun the personal imagery and self-gratification, we done with that longtime, so the artwork is very crucial. Ras Ato did that for Nah Watah Down, we give thanks.
I really hope people discover your album, even if it's not the Jamaican Reggae mainstream. It's very unique. It's just a pure vibration and a joy to listen your album from A to Z!
Give thanks. The contribution of Jamaican roots, Jamaican music, is essential though. I was looking around the world for a while, I have seen great Reggae music come out from all over the world, but even these musicians, their inspiration was from Jamaica! And as well is mine! So it doens't matter that I wasn't born there, I just love the Roots music from the foundation elders, Burning Spear, Culture, Joseph Hill, Bob Marley, U-Roy... my mother was the one that gave me a Joseph Hill tape, a cassette of International Herb, she said "Check it out.' and I never leave that yet! And the new generation of musicians right now, it's crucial! I would say Kabaka is one of the foremost lyricists right now, I love that. He does it so well! So we give thanks, we have to really big up the Roots and the Culture of Reggae music.
Last question, the song Substance, can you explain what it means to you, personally?
"Substance of things hoped for, the evidence yet seen..." that is faith! That is the substance of things. It's just that we have to hold on to that substance which is the definition of faith. My faith is Rastafari, but whatever your faith, your calling may be, stand firm in that knowledge! Faith is a kind of knowledge, even though you don't know. It's the knowledge of good over evil. I can't imagine what the faith of a wicked man would be, but the faith for humanity is just to be good, be better than you were yesterday. Be good to one another, be firm, tomorrow is going to be better even though this or that will happen, but the substance within, nobody can buy that or sell that. And this substance is lacking around the earth, really and truly. Within ourselves, for ourselves, it's lacking. People have lost their faith, people have given up on love, on relationships, on this and that... so I say No! You can't give up! You gotta keep on pushing through, you gotta keep developing that substance especially in these times because there is a lot of fear-mongering, a lot of questions, a lot of fake... people need something firm to hold onto, a firm grounding, a firm footing, not from TV or internet, but from within yourself. So that is substance, we need that for one another, for the earth right now, for the 22nd century.