Interview with Exile Di Brave
05/07/2015 by Gardy Stein
Unconventional is what might best describe the artist called Exile Di Brave. He represents self-made success, he is the living proof that "you can get it if you really want", to resort to a famous musical quote. If that means re-furbishing your bedroom so it becomes a home-studio and recording your debut album there, then be it. If it means booking a flight to Europe and introducing yourself to promoters and soundsystems, then be it. If it means performing on small stages or jam-sessions and thus making important grass-roots-contacts... well I guess I made my point. While in Kingston, Reggaeville was able to catch up with the industrious young man who has just released his second album The Journey Begins to talk about all the above and more. We were invited to his yard in Havendale, and while we made ourselves comfortable, the afternoon sun was gloriously shining through the leaves of a big ole tree, on the branches of which a dove cooed throughout the whole interview…
For those who might not know, could you introduce the EDB-movement you originated?
EDB is a record label I started in 2010. In 2011 mi start work pon my debut album The Calling until 2012 I went into a partnership with mi friend called Philip 'Scaley Blacks'. We went to College University together, we were roommates, so him a me bredrin!
Basically the company needed some balance and him mek some a di riddim dem, so he got involved. The history of EDB really started in Papine. We used to live in a student yard, from dem time we build a studio in a room, and then everybody just came there. Friends from other studios and different places like Kazam, Jahkime, Micah Shemaiah, TJ and all a dem, cause we find out dem live very near in Kingston 6. So basically everybody come fi link I cause I had a likkle studio ina di house. And from then all a di ting transpire. Cause in the meantime I had finished my album The Calling. The final track on dat was a song called These Are The Days, we recorded that at Jah Ova Evil Yard, and from then... this is how I meet Jahkime and he came ova mi yard with Kazam. Me know TJ and me know Micah dem already, cause di whole a dem friends and dem grow up ina 12 Tribe of Israel and if you know one, you know di rest. And everybody came and shared the studio, we shared ideas, compositions, music, you know... and that's why you hear the work come out supportive, cause everybody have their own input musically, Infinite and everybody... a whole heap a influence from different walks of the Earth and we bring it together. And through that come a ting called Dread At The Control. Micah Shemaiah come up wid di idea... him tell me se him wan do a vinyl an mi say all right. So we recorded that song in di bedroom studio (laughs). We come up wid a next song called Rasta Luck and it was a real real rootical sound behind it, something like Rockers. That's why we do it that way de and put it out on vinyl, 45... Here in Jamaica we did everything, di only ting we didn't do in Jamaica was stamp it cause stamp dem no mek here, you have to pay for all a dem ting de and bring it in. So we do it and we launch it and then we do a whole heap of single like Rasta Party, it was a compilation, a mixtape called Rasta Party, even Hungry was on dat mixtape... So wi did all these singles, Scaley Blacks did the riddims and mi bredrin TC worked pon dem, too. Basically, EDB is like a... after the name Ever Di Best, it all just happen, all a di youth dem who were looking for a real rooticl sound just come in an connect with we. Kazam come in and we did an EP with him, we did an EP with TJ, too. Cause basically it not just di recording we do, I'n'I is a engineer and producer too! Micah do di same ting, everybody kind a do their own ting so we just put dat together.
Some months before, in early 2012, me start work wid a band name Yaad Drive, some live music, and from then we been doing a lot of work, rehearsal and ting. So we just go round town and wherever there is live music we play, where the rootical music is (laughs). This is the closest thing to the truth... if you get closer to the root, you get closer to the truth, you know... So we take it to the root and we do a whole heap a likkle show show round town... people neva even know but we do a whole heap of show. And you see some a dem paste it pon Youtube cause we try fi get them viral on di internet so people can see it ovaseas. A small example, when me reach last year a Reggaejam, me reach out to Ras Jammy from Suns of Dub. So dem call di promoter and call di people dem for me to redeem some band to go and pass backstage. And I went there and the guy se "I know you!" And I ask him se "Where you know me from?" And him se him saw a video pon Youtube from Wickie Wackie beach live, so me realize se di ting dem work!
Yes, so the mission you did last year, that you just came to Europe to introduce yourself, is a very unusual approach. Normally you have your promoter who set up all these things and connect the people, so what was your inspiration to do it in this unconventional way?
Ever since from mi was a likkle youth nobody neva give me nuttin, you know. So me haffi tek it, you know. When you grow up certain way, you get certain teachings... Cause Rastafari teaching is to be self sufficient and self replenishing, self reliant. Marcus Garvey said it and me have di ting instill ina me from long time, so… you have to do it, no matter how di road block looks big and all the debris de ina di road, you still have to find a way around it.
Me grow up in a place called Naggo Head in Portmore, tings were hard ina di Ghetto, so you really have to take things. Jah help those who help demselves, so we just look at di situation... We contacted a lot of people. We got little or no response from dem, but yet still we give thanks for Riddim magazine and Reggaeville and a couple of people whe... you know, dem see we when nobody else, even people a we yard naa see we. So basically we just take it upon our own responsibility. We did some likkle dub plate promotion with some likkle sounds... Cause it's the small peple dem who make tings happen ina Europe, you know! Man like R.B. Sound in Austria, couple likkle man from Slovenia, every likkle body! So me and Infinite and TJ we did some dub plates, and that's how I met Ziggi Paper too [author's note: Exile, like Protoje, has a beautifully crafted rolling-paper-package out].
So me link a couple of people from Europe, dem like di song dem cause me haffi gi dem di song so dem can listen to which one dem want. And dem send some riddim come flow and we meet them, couple of small people... We contact dem a Europe and dem say "Alright, you can come here and do a show, one man will help you do this, one man will help you do that." Like mi bredrin Ruffneck, him help start Vinyl Thursdays, so everybody just link up. So basically, all a di people came here too, so dem came here not like tourists who just come fi exploit di music, dem came here as real original people who come see me a Papine and sit down and drink a beer and bun a one spliff and reason ova whole heap a ting and play music, so basically that come out a di energy. And then we link up some promoters and ask to put us on show, but dem jus se "It's too late, it's too late!" Maybe they were right, it was too late, but we still know what we can do. We give thanks to Reggae Jam and all dem show whe dem still mek a space fi we when we reach de. And you don't know... Addis Pablo from Suns of Dub, Ras Jammy was at my yard a couple of months ago before he even went on tour the year before last... so we create a whole family link wid dem. And me de pon him album too, but me tek a different name pon it, Jah Exile, cause it's Dub Style. So we went in, we went to get a visa, we went businesswise through me have a company, we do all a dem ting, so we went on our own. We went to Europe wid our own money, not much money, but we just went in. And it was that! From me went in me just know what we were supposed to do! Me and Jacky French sit down and we pencil it out, di whole EDB team dem say alright, we go a Europe and we get assistance from Europeans, di small people dem as we say. Riddim magazine help an tell people bout we, Reggaeville wid a likkle few posts and stuff, so... work! Also, Munchy and everybody was here... so them see what we do, Vinyl Thursday, dem see everything when it begin, so dem see se, we do some work! So most a di likkle shows whe me got was promotion mostly. Rototom, Reggae Jam, Uprising Festival, we did a likkle show in Austria, another one in Kassel... Yes, giving thanks!
And you'll be back there soon! Now about Jamaica, the Reggae Month just passed and you had a show at the Rebel Salute. How was it?
It was good! You see, Rebel Salute is the main thing, it's a big big platform in Jamaica. When you get pon Rebel Salute, everybody a foreign call you. It is a platform for even overseas promoters… dem saw us and se "Ah, he's on Rebel Salute now, let's link him up!" So basically, Rebel Salute, we an dem had a communication even two years before. You know, Tony Rebel's daughter a mi friend, we went to the same community college from 2002, 2003, and dem just a wait fi we grow musically pon a level, consciously, so di time was right! So we just went, did the rehearsals, and just go in. But you have to do a whole heap of work cause it's a big show! So you cyaan just put an artist an him naa know what him do. People from all over come for Rebel Salute!
But you are not only involved in the performing part of the music, you are also concerned with real teachings. Like you say in your lyrics "Reggae music is a necessary tool of education", so what is your involvement with the teaching side?
Basically it's everything we mi a do, you know. It haffi have some form a help. Like, dem call me ambassador of Help Jamaica… we play a main role in that cause, we cyaan left out di youth dem! Me an dem a friend, overall knowledge and certain things, people need fi know. Cause people think se dem know but dem naa really know. People haffi share information! So if we can share information with the music, we do it. Nuff tings we learn outta Peter Tosh and Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer dem music and many before we, Culture and dem... so wid dis music now, time changes. In that time de, it was segregation so man need to fight a physical war. So dis time now is more computer, a mental ting, so basically you haffi have knowledge, cause knowledge is power in these times. You have to utilize di knowledge in a right way, so basically my urge is to go to University and get a tertiary education, cause not a whole heap a youth ina my community get that. You count pon you five finger you still not full it up. So we give thanks fi dat, cause we see di necessity why it is needed to be done! So me naa really see myself as an entertainer come fi entertain people. To entertain, yes, but we say it's edutainment, it's education and entertainment together. Because we a revolutionary speaker and what we say, it a go echo through time, so you haffi be careful what we se out a we mouth, that's why I don't write certain songs again and talk certain things... because word tek on flesh and flesh manifest throughout your doings. When we talk to di youth dem, it should be positive so it can transform in positiveness... We naa go hide information from people. You have people hide information who se it's one person alone supposed to gain, but we should all share! And if we share, we have less war and conflict and such, so pon di level de, if everybody share and stop think selfishly, tek out your self outta this cause everybody wants things fi demselves, but you cyaan have things for yourself only. If you want to do that, you have to go to a likkle island and lock up and live by yourself. That's why dem say, no man is an island and no man stands alone.
It's good that you have many people on that level now, like all the names you mentioned, the young artists...
Nowadays, it's more image than art... it's not just about talking something and put up some lyrics, about going to the studio and voice a big song... de one de sound good, but it's not the whole ting. It needs work! The music is real work, you know. Everybody now wants to be superstar, but you haffi work fi it!
What I really like about the movement right now is the solidarity you show each other. Like, whenever I read about your work, you always make sure you mention Jamnesia, Jah Ova Evil... and on Vinyl Thursdays you have the Meals On Wheels and Café Africa who care for food, I-Nation who sell books on the corner, the Ma Ma Yashi who get your clothes done, you know, it's really nice that all these branches are connected!
Yes, because it's a community! And it's not just musicians in this thing. Musicians just carry the word. But when the day ends, you need to eat, you need to read, you need clothes to wear and shelter, so everybody who can provide is a part of the thing. Cause if you build a community, you can't just have musicians in the community who sing. How di house dem a go build? How di road a go mek? So you see, everybody is in that! But we know how the media works.... the media only like the musicians. Even the musicians sometimes, dem don't get the highlight, cause the media only like the singer… So you know, it's a solidarity within a support system. Nations, what dem call nations... most time when you check it at the foundation, it is a solidarity between those who run the country! Whether dem exploit other people or not, dem have a solidarity within demselves... make sure everything run. So we have to have that fi mek di team grow strong. Even though we don't live a di same Yard, and we don't sleep in di same house, we all have di same mission. Rastafari Mission teaches us how you supposed to build a nation.
Yes, it's a wonderful vibe and I think through the support, everybody else can grow. If everybody supports everybody, all together can rise.
Difficulties come along the way still, but if you don't overcome these difficulties, how strong are you really? To have a good smile, you have to go through some good crying.
Now let's come back to your upcoming album... it's called The Journey Begins. That sounds like a debut album, but it's your second release, right?
Yes, the debut album was The Calling with songs like Voice Of Di Young, Coming Home Soon and so on... The title is actually self-explaining, cause once you get a calling, you have to start the journey. So The Calling was just putting things together pon a spiritual meditation and now The Journey Begins is when you start to do work, so working on that album was of course also on a spiritual level, but it's the inside of certain things start to open wider and you start work as Rastafari work. So that is how the journey begins.
And you now used a live band, right?
Yes. The Calling maybe had only two or three riddims live pon it which we got released from friends. But this one now, basically 99% is live. We worked with the band and different musicians, and some things we did digitally, we put it together, we tek out di bass again and play it live, tek out di drums and play it live, we have to use all the scrubs to make things possible. And it never done in a big international studio, but it have di soul ina it and di soul is really deep. Cause no matter how di flesh look pon di outside, is the soul who rule it from within. The foundation haffi be good.
Tell us a bit about the five combination tracks on it.
The first combination is Mr. Pretender (sings), that one feature Kazam. It's about people who come tell you how dm is a big shot and him have dis and him have dat, but him never really got nothing... so him a pretender. We got the riddim through WorldaReggae from a guy called Andreas, A Minor E Minor me call him, a bredrin from Holland. A couple of artists voice pon the riddim already and Kazam bring it and me just hear it when me lay down pon me bed and Mr. Pretender came to me. So me just record it with Kazam.
The next one is Be Careful with Daddy John. He is an elder bredrin of mine, old time DJ from back ina di days... So one day we were ina di studio and work on a riddim TC did long before dat, cause me sing pon it and him build di riddim around me. So dis Rasta elder come in one day and mi hear him sing and just love him voice (sings) and put him on it. It naa complicated, it just get to the point and so it just have some kinda crossover sound, an international sound.
Then it was Save The Children featuring Juba Lion and Black Indian. It was Scaley Blacks mek di riddim de, it have a real old school kind of rubadub style... And the riddim just catch me and I wanted fi do it wid Micah but him a America this time so an elder named Juba Lion, old time singer too, a bredrin to Brigadier Jerry and dem... him come round di place cause him live a Papine too, and we had the song lined up already, so me just beg him to sing it fi me. So in music some things just happen mystically... So same time we do that, a bredrin called Black Indian came round and put a verse pon it too, that's how we did it.
The other one named Country Man. So this one now (laughs), Scaley Blacks make di riddim again. So him sen di riddim come gi me, and I gave it to Jahkime fi mek him listen to it. I was going on di road, I wanted to run down Halfwaytree, and before me lef, him say "Yo, give me a freestyle pon it before you leave!". So I just go freestyle "The Countryman come a town, everybody gather round..." (sings) like joke, me leave di studio an come back an him se "Hear me now, don't bother change up anything!" Me se what you mean mi haffi go over di song again an him se nooo man! Him have a ears fi music, you know, Jahkime a talented dis way, di whole a Chronixx album first thing Jahkime voice di whole a dem... So him se "Yeah, voice it again and catch di right pitch an so, but keep it!" An him come and put two verse in it and the third verse we kind of put together, but everything else was just a freestyle. And the effects ina dat, like di market and di horns and so, we put it in to get the ambience... feeling!
And what again... Abebe Payne now, that's a next mystic, you know. We just do a riddim and me call TJ come voice it. Mi like dis song Showing Defiance long time, so me just decide to put it pon di album, so me bredda TC... you realize mi mention him couple a times now, him mek di riddim call Hungry, him mek Be Careful riddim , Dis Ya Generation riddim… He made Showing Defiance for a different producer. That time he was actually living in the studio with us, so we mek a likkle combination and shared the royalties certain way, so me tell him se me have a song and him mek the song. When di song finish, mi bredrin named Peter Harvey come into the studio with Abebe Payne. Him a dub poet, you know, not just a singer singer, but a dub poet, one a di most potent dub poets mi hear as a young youth ina dis time. Like Muta dem and Oku Onuora dem. And him jus come ina di studio and mi told him se, there was a big bridge in the song we me just play some percussions, Kette Drum and ting, and me tell him fi chant something round dis, mek we have some spirit, an him jus brrrrrr talk something, you know, and finish... it a good vibes.
Yes, it is. My favourite is The Journey Begins and Complete Me, these two pieces are so beautiful!
(laughs) Complete Me is a real song still. I mean, all a mi song is my song, whether it my story or mi bredrin story, but that one really a my story. Cause mi jus meet dis gal, we hold a reason and really we naa de into anything, we jus bredrin an sistren... den Scaly Blacks again him mek a riddim and bring it, cause di riddim dem share fi anybody cause we a family so... me de outside and me hear dis riddim a play, and me an dis Empress just had a conversation a couple of minutes before on di phone, so me just a start sing "Woman se you really complete me" (sings) and me run go inside an se "Yo me find a hook, you know!" And we do a demo same time, we demo it, write it and record it. Cause sometimes when Jah give you the inspiration, you just have to take it. And everything we you hear it true and Complete Me just... complete me! Actually di song de live, we bring in the real instruments, but not just live wid di instruments dem, but we recorded it live with a regular SM 58 performance mic, not with a studio mic, so dis one has a live feeling and I couldn't do it in the studio, it just couldn't feel real, so me de haffi sing it live fi feel it.
And The Journey Begins is something like that again. One time Philip come to me an se "Yo, mi have a track title fi di album." And him just come a studio one day wid it an mi sing pon it and then... we just do the drums and guitar and all piece by piece live again... me and me bredrin Shakil play back di drums and mi bredrin Fawkes play di Kette drum cause for me, you can't have a reggae album and not have a Nyabinghi drum live pon it! You see me? Cause that a di heart a di ting... and even though it's the track title me put it last.
That makes a nice feel leaving out from the album...
Yes because... you see why, when the album finish, you haffi know that now really di journey begins. And mi ready!