Cali P ADD

Interview with Cali P

10/06/2016 by Gardy Stein

Interview with Cali P

"I think that work really needs to be done whereby we need a better connection between the Caribbean and Africa, where people get more information from what's happening, from both sides!"

Sometimes, you have to move far from your birth place to find your true home. Child of a Swiss mother and a Guadeloupian father, Pierre Nanon aka Cali P has travelled the globe extensively and is what can be considered a true world citizen. Six years ago, he settled in Jamaica permanently, a decision that obviously brought the artist closer to his spiritual roots. A few days before his fourth release i Thoughts is about to drop and Cali starts with his biggest European tour so far, Reggaeville caught up with the bubbly artist to share his thoughts on his new album, other projects in the making and the connection between Africa and the Caribbean:

Greetings! Where in Jamaica do I catch you?

Right now I'm at Equinoxx Studio, Vineyard Town, in Kingston. This is where I recorded a song like Coconut Jelly Man. We are here with the family, we just came back from a school where we want to do a video shoot.

What kind of school is it?

It's the Haile Selassie I High School in Kingston, a school that King Selassie offered to Jamaica at his visit in 1966. It's downtown, and since we wanted to do a video in a school, we decided to visit and check it out. Now we were there and it's very good.

Which video is planned?
The one with Capleton called Dem Ago Burn Up from my new album i Thoughts.

Which is about to be released... How long have you been working on it?
Basically, from the idea to the final release date it's been pretty much exactly one year. Last year, after the summer tour for Healing Of The Nation, I was thinking about a next project, about different possibilities, different people to work with. Then I met Manu Digital and Alex from Flash Hit Records, and with that whole connection we decided to make an album together. I was really impressed by Manu Digital's work as producer, and when I asked them, they were really up for it.

Are all the songs new material that you wrote during that year?
The oldest song on the album is Coconut Jelly Man which I recorded with Shanique Marie, and when it was released it really got a lot of attention, and I thought it would only make sense to put it on the album as well. But otherwise, it's all new songs, and that's also because me personally, I really look up to this concept of doing albums. Me myself, when I buy an album I would like to have an album where I don't know the songs, where I have new songs from an artist and hear where he is, right now, what's the new stuff that I didn't know, that's why I want to hear an album. I really made sure that I have an album where people don't know the songs! (laughs)
Also, I mean, we recorded a lot of songs and sometimes it's released like three years later, that's also something that I wanted to go around. I wanted an album with a fresh thinking, something to say: 'This is where Cali P is right now, in 2016!', not where Cali P was 5 years ago, you know... All new!

Did Manu Digital compose the riddim tracks for you or did you choose from his catalogue?
I had a selection of tracks from Manu Digital, I got like 40 riddims, and I really took time to select out. Finally I chose maybe 8 or 9, so in my eyes I really took the best, the tracks that I felt the most. I combined them with the songs from Teka and Equinoxx Music, and the song with Capleton is from Seani B from England, that's the only guest producer I have.

How did you link the features? I mean, wow... Capleton?!
(laughs) It's all natural, I mean it's like... Capleton now is somebody that I really respect from a younger age. When I was like 12, 13, my father and his friends were listening to Capleton, that's how I even know about him. A couple of years later, when I was singing in the Dancehall and doing shows and everything, it was Capleton who came to Europe for the first time and really invited me on stage right away! They always showed me a lot of love, and anytime they were in Europe and I was around, they would let me join stage with them and this is something I really respect very much. And then coming to Jamaica the past years I always kept a link, you know, sometimes pass through his place, we have a vibe together, exchange a few words, bless up each other… When I finally got this riddim from Seani B, for me I just heard Capleton on it. Same thing, I just went to his house, introduced the riddim to him and asked if it would be possible to do a song together, and he was really up for it. Big up for that! So we just did the song, and recently I went to him and said 'Let's do the video!' and he's really up for it, you know.
And then we have Randy Valentine, who is a bredrin of mine for a long time, working on the same label Hemp Higher Music, so this is our first official song together. We had always vibes together in the studio, we recorded for mixtapes, but this is the first time really for an album doing a song. I'm looking forward to hear what people say about it!

Well, it's one of my favourites!
Fi real? (laughs) Ok, and then there is Shanique Marie, I mentioned her before, and Yung JR. I have to say he is the start of the connection between Cali P and Manu Digital, because I went to record this song with Yung JR and through that I heard the riddim. He said it was Manu Digital from France, and I was sure that this was a riddim from Jamaica… That's how I got this positive surprise, like wow, this is a production from France! And then we started to link up and that's how the whole thing came together. So to me it was really just a natural flow, like a big puzzle and everything is coming together, I'm really happy for that.

Apart from Coconut Jelly Man and Dem Ago Burn Up, are there other videos planned?
I would like to do a video for every song! But it's also that, more than just having a quantity, I also want to have quality. I want to make good videos, and right now I decided to do the first video with Capleton and then see which song naturally is the song that people really love from the album and then go with that direction. Natural vibes! It's not that I want to plan everything, but people can choose what will be the next single, you know.

On the last album you had a track on which your father played the percussions. Is he part of this album as well?
No, he didn't put any instrumentals on it, but my father definitely supports me in my vibes and in my meditation, so if I write songs I remember that... Sometimes it's after speaking to my father that I start to write, so I definitely feel his input, but I cannot say he played this or that. He always has an influence still!

You live in Jamaica now for 6 years, do you feel that you have settled down?
My life here in one word is definitely: stepping! I'm always on the road, always doing something, always in the works, it's like, Jamaica for me is the place of no sleep, you know. Today, I could tell you my morning started at 4:30, I'm somebody that makes bread for the people in the morning, you know (laughs). Then I went to pick up the musicians, we went to a morning show in the TV called Smile Jamaica.Then we organized the video-shoot for tomorrow, and tonight is a dance, I'm going to Stone Love to introduce this song with Capleton tonight, you know, so there is always something going on. And I'm really thankful for that because it means Reggae Music is working and I am a part of that now, I contribute to that, so when I'm in Jamaica it's really stepping.

Where do you go when you hang out, in the evenings?
Across the board really, I go everywhere the wind brings me. I love... I used to go to Dub Club since before there was a big crowd, and we always support the place and we have a good vibe there. Then you have places like Dubwise Wednesday, you have Sankofa on a Tuesday which is like more the conscious Reggae Music, Inna City Dub of course, I performed there a lot of times… Then afterwards all the Dancehall spots, you know, like the Monday night, the Tuesday night, the Wednesday night, every night have a dance! I live in Portmore, and even out there you have parties going on and we just pass there to hold a vibe.

In an interview you did with Munchy two years ago, you mentioned an upcoming album called MusiCali Speaking. Is it still upcoming?
Yes, actually. It was recorded in Jamaica and it's still there. I'm happy you ask me for it, it's still there in the studio with Bobby Digital and I think it's just waiting on its right time. It's a great album, I think it's one of the biggest works I ever did, and I don't know, maybe it's like a wine, it needs the right time to ripen and get up there. When we recorded it, I think we were ahead of the time, so it needs to recuperate the time and then it will come out when it's the right time (laughs). I am very excited, like on the first day when we started. Music is just projects that are there and... I mean, I could tell you other projects that Cali P has!

Please do so! Tell us about the Walshy Fire Soundtrack you participated in for the movie Be Inspired that's about to come out...
Oh, yeah, that's one for instance! Since years basically we do songs for ski movies, so we started this whole movement with Tanner Hall and Eric Iberg called Inspired, Inspired Media... that was even the whole concept that was built when I went to live in Jamaica, you know, because of Inspired. The thing is, we are doing this since 2004, I'm making songs for Ski-Movies. Before, they used to use more like Rock Music with this kind of thing, so it was a whole different movement. But when the ski champion, the boss himself, started to put in Cali P music in his ski movies, the kids' attention shifted from Rock to Reggae Music. Right now, every skier in the world, if you ask him who is Cali P he definitely knows, because the top skiers are using my music in their movies.

Who are the top skiers you are talking about? Drop some names...
Tanner Hall, as I said, who is really the number one hero of all the youths. Then we have Henrik Harlaut, right now at this moment he is an Olympic athlete, we have Phil Casabon from Canada, so it's like Canada, Sweden, America. So yes, lately they came up with the latest movie which is Be Inspired and Ring The Alarm, and both movies have songs from Cali P inside. And Be Inspired is special, because it was a project where they wanted to do a song with a Dancehall artist and a HipHop artist together, so I did my song with Kirk Knight from New York, and it's a very nice result. I really love the soundtrack because it's different, you know.

I saw the trailer, it looks crazy what they are doing. And I even saw Kabaka in it, too!
Yes, Kabaka has a song in it with Raekwon, there is a lot of new connections through that. I'm very happy that we started to work with the ski friends, like Tanner Hall and Henrik Harlaut, because now, ten years later, I see that it is opening doors for a lot of other artists to be a part of this movement, you understand. Reggae Music spreads the wings, and for me that's very important, you know. I mean, we have people who love Reggae music, who go to the dances so they will be there and support our thing and I'm so happy about that, but then also I would like to see Reggae Music reach places where it isn't, you know, so that was definitely a way. And it was also something that wasn't planned, it happened naturally… It was a Dubplate, it's not a song that made it into the first movie, it was a Dubplate I did for a crew, so it just built that movement and then the ski people now, they get attention to Reggae Music because of that Dubplate. They listened to the song and said 'Hey, that sounds like Jamaican Reggae Music!' and then all of a sudden they hear the artist say Tanner Hall, and that's their hero, and then they were like 'Yow, but how did Tanner Hall's name reach in that Reggae song from Jamaica?' You know, so people find out what is Dubplate, so it's a whole… it opened up the movement and now I see combinations with Cali P & Kirk Knight, Sizzla Kalonji & Cormega, Kabaka Pyramid and Raekwon and I know this is Inspired Media make this, it confirms me that we are on the right way.

While living in Switzerland, did you ski or snowboard yourself?
I learned skiing very late for Swiss people, when I was like 12 or 13. I really enjoyed it, I really liked it, but I don't have much time to do it. I cannot ski like my friends, they are doing really crazy stuff, they jump and fly, but I can take the lift, go to the top of the mountain and come down, you know (laughs).

You'll be back in Europe soon for an extensive tour, right?
Yes, I have to say it's the biggest tour I ever got in my life, something we've been working on for a good while. I'm very excited about that tour, It's almost 2 months and 26 or so shows, I'm really looking forward, seeing a lot of different places I haven't been before.
As soon as the tour finishes, I'm going to launch the album in Jamaica as well with an event. It's really just a start in Europe, we plan to go to the States, to Canada, we are even setting up an India tour as well! And we are getting a lot of requests from Africa, too.

Speaking of… do people in Jamaica stay up to date with news from Africa? I know there is a big knowledge around Africa the Motherland, about ancient cultures, Egypt and so on, but what about current events? Do people talk about it in Jamaica, for example what happens in Ethiopia right now, where hundreds of Oromos and Amharas got killed in demonstrations over the last months, are these things known?
You see, the information in the Caribbean, not even Jamaica alone, and in extension the world, the news that they get from Africa is very small, it's only people who search for news that will know certain things. Me, I know about the things in Ethiopia because the mother of my child is an Ethiopian Woman. She tells me everything that's happening in Ethiopia, so it's like through family I know what is happening there. I wouldn't know about it if I'm just looking the news in Jamaica, if I just read the paper or just look on Facebook or Youtube, because those things never get recommended. So it's really only the people that search stuff for themselves that will know what's happening in places like that, you know.

Yes, that's what I wonder, if people really take time to search what is happening in the so-called Motherland… like the Boko Haram in Nigeria, or the attacks in Kenya, the only artist I heard mentioning it in a song was Torch. I find this is missing, the reflection of the most recent developments in Africa, to bring it to the world.
I think it's coming to the same thing again. A lot of people around here, especially in the Caribbean, they are not as much online. Like me personally, you know, I have my laptop, I go around, I log in, I check stuff, but people here are not really like that, so how does this stuff reach them? Even as an artist, I'm sure there is a lot of them, if I ask them right now, they don't know that this is happening in Ethiopia, for instance. I think that work really needs to be done whereby we need a better connection between the Caribbean and Africa, where people get more information from what's happening, from both sides! Definitely, that's something that even me as an artist, I'm working on things like that, because I want the diaspora to know the Motherland and also the Mamaland to know their children out there, so basically it's just like you said, things like that… it's stuff that I'm telling to people, word to word, like speaking to people, reasoning, you tell people stuff that they wouldn't know from the news or wouldn't learn in school, you know. I have the blessing that I can tour, I go in the four corners of the world, sometimes in very short spaces of time and see different problems in the world, hearing the news that they are spreading, when you go there you find out one thing, but the news I heard on the next side wasn't actually the truth because I come there a couple of weeks later, it's really crazy… I think one thing that is very important is that the connection between Africa and the Caribbean is really there so that people know what is going on, and in that moment you would hear about it more again in the music, because people sing about what is around them, what they see, basically the news that they see is what's happening in Jamaica, so they will sing about that. And now you will hear a lot of songs about police brutality because people hear that in the news. So yeah…
At the same time I have to say that it's 2016 and there is a lot of technology, so it's also in each one's interest to go and find out what's happening!

Thanks for the extensive answer… and it is as you say, the connection has to grow stronger. I sometimes wonder why there are no collaborations between Jamaican and Nigerian or Kenyan artists, I mean there are a few, but there could be so much more!
You are very right and I can tell you, I've been trying! Years ago I went to England and discovered for my self this whole Afrobeats movement, it was like three or four years ago, and in that time Afrobeats wasn't in Jamaica. So I produced an Afrobeats riddim with Randy Valentine in London and took this beat to Jamaica. I wanted to make new stuff, combinations with African artists and Jamaican artists, because I could hear the future of Dancehall music and Afrobeats music together, you know, it's the beat! And Afrobeats gave me that happiness in the music that I was kind of missing from Dancehall. It was really going through some dark ages… as a musician, I'm thinking: 'What does it need?', and when I hear Afrobeats, I can hear that! It needs melody, it needs happiness, it needs people to dance, you know. So that's what I was working on a few years back. But I can tell you the result was really bad, cause actually I didn't get a single song in that time. Why? Because it wasn't the hype thing, nobody really took time. I don't wanna call names, but I went to a lot of big people and wanted to work with them and they just didn't pay any attention to it, while now, Afrobeats is getting the hype, it's on the charts and everybody wants to jump on it, you know…

But still, it's better to be ahead of times than behind, right? Thanks for the meditations, Cali P, it's good that there are people like you who bring us together!
Yes I! We love to create. Give thanks that every time we are doing a work, there is people like Reggaeville and all the medias out there that really work with us and help spread the message, this is really appreciloved. And all the people who take their time reading the interviews and listening to the songs and checking the news, give thanks for that, because that is finally what keeps us going. I hope you enjoy i Thoughts. I'm really looking forward to the tour, to present the album. I will always put in 150% . Bless up!!!