IQulah ADD

Interview with IQulah

02/23/2015 by Valentin Zill

Interview with IQulah

IQulah is not an artist who likes to have all spots shining on him. He much prefers solid work to short-lived hypes and likes to follow his own beat in life. Eleven years after his last album, Rasta 4 Ever, IQulah is back with a new one, called Food For Thought. Reason enough for Reggaeville to call the Rasta Elder in Los Angeles. In early february IQulah granted us an audience, greeted us with a happy smile and started to talk about his latest LP right away.

IQulah: It's a very magical energy and a nice vibes that, you know.

Reggaeville: I noted that. Especially the cello and flute you have on some tracks add a very special flavor to it.

Yes I. I always embrace the King's music. I always like my thing to sound different. Once I was in Switzerland, I think it was about 1991, '92, and there was an Ethiopian traditional band. The band that used to play for Haile Selassie. It so happened that I was there in Switzerland, and the vibration was so magical. I hear the music and I just said, I think I have to bring some strings in my music (laughs). That's how the mission, you know. So I always call my music the King's music.

You actually saw His Imperial Majesty back in 1966.
Yes I! Ya man, it was a blessing. I was up into the mountains with my Mom, and it so happened that I hear that the Rasta God is coming as a child and I said, what? Something in myself told me to go see what's happening. And when I actually go there, I see the magical, mystical vibes of the King of Kings. I said to myself, Jah, this is very special.

Because when the train pull up at the train station and the train door opens and His Majesty take his left foot out, I see a big gush of wind. It started to blow. It start to blow off the police man and start to blow of everything, blow the train sign down. And I said to myself, whaa, this is mystical.

And when His Majesty started to walk, I realize that he wasn't walking on the ground, he was walking in mid-air! Not on the red carpet. He was riding on the winds, just stepping. And I said, this is magical!

So from them time until this time I know that Haile Selassie I is the Almighty, and I know that the powers of Rastafari, from I&I as a people, embrace His Majesty's teaching, the world becomes one. Because His Majesty does not discriminate. His Majesty say, I&I as a people, we have to live together. Together we all grow. So it's not a color thing, it's just a livity.

You like to say that a Rasta can be a Muslim, but a Muslim isn't necessarily a Rasta. Can you explain that to me in detail?
Rasta is not a religion, you know what I'm saying? All those different types of entities. Religion comes to create division. Muslim is not a way of life like the Rastaman. So when I say that, I know that each and everyone can strive towards a good livity, embracing that fullness of peace and love.

At some point in your life you started to farm back in Jamaica together with your brother.
That's how it all started. Because what happened is that I&I now–the system basically reject I&I as Rasta youths. My brother and myself had to go up into the mountains, live up into the mountains. And all we do, we never eat nothing from shop, we eat only what we grow. So it was just a whole Ital livity. But then now, because we have been working the land living in the hills for so long, we plant food in abundance! So we had so much food that I&I had to really decide, OK, we can share the food, we bring it to the various communities.

When we have surplus amount, we go out and we take it to the market and we sell the food to earn some money. And it is by selling the food now I&I earn some money and use the money to buy instruments and equipments and started to play the King's music. So from there on, my music, even in Jamaica, is not the regular thing. Because I said I'm not basing my concept on the principles and the commercial aspect. It's just holding the King's music that I can preserve myself for this time.

Because most people in the music, it's just for the commercialization and just money thing and the whole thing. But I have a message that I have to keep this precepts of the King of Kings, that generations and generations shall see I&I embracing Haile Selassie the 1st. Rastafari.

You're still farming in Jamaica?
Well, I have the farm in Jamaica at the same time and I have a farm here in California, because anywhere I&I eats, we have to farm foods. I tell you something: California is something very special, because what happens is that in California here now, the name California come from an ancient Black Amazon, a Queen called Queen Calafia. So what happens now is that when I come to California and check the vibes with the organic farm–because I'm in the zone where it's all organic farming, the home of nuts, almonds, rice...

So when I'm drinking like in the morning like tea, I just drink rice milk, hemp milk, almond milk, all the various nuts, you know. So it's a healthy vibration here. California is just one of the platforms also for I&I. And I'm here now trying to organize the various Rasta communities that we can have a collective strength to support the African mission.

It's been almost eleven years since your last album, Rasta 4 Ever.
Like I said, I'm not really on the commercial thing in terms of to be on it like beating the clock, beating the clock. My thing now come through inspiration, and it's like I make the music all easy, hold a vibes, go to the farm, do the works, and the spirit of Jah move I forward. So like a man would say why it take so long, it's just a time. It's just a time.

How did your new album Food For Thought become a reality?
Mystical, mystical. I've been in the farm in Jamaica, I've been there my brother and the spirit of Jah inspiration just keep coming day by day, day by day. Every time the inspiration come, I would just sing for maybe 15 or 20 minutes, chant a song and then write it.

It so happened that out there, after the World Cup in South Africa, I just decided my mind to just vibe some of these songs. So after coming from South Africa, come back into London, my breddren that plays keyboards with me also is a engineer. I call him Doctor Paget King. Very good keyboard player, very good bass player, good engineer and arranger. So I just said to Paget, Paget, I feel the vibes that I&I should just start the project. He said, IQulah, you said the word, let's do it.

So we just walk into the room, and he has a home studio, and I tell you my brother, we laid ten tracks straight back to back. Paget King said I have seen anything like this (laughs). We just laid ten tracks right away, back to back, in one day.

And the next day, we just called in Stephen Wright that plays guitar, and he put on some nice guitar parts. And then we call in Itiko. All these are my original breddren. Itiko that blows the horns, and he put on some nice horns. And then Empress Sarah (Graham; the editor) come in and polish it with some cello strings. And then now, it so happen that the vibes... We're gonna take it to another level.

One of the track, which is called Strength Of Life, we did it in South Africa to give it a next kind of flavor. And then I said, alright, the album is basically ready. Then I said to myself, I'm going on a California mission, maybe I should take it to California. And it's put a California energy on this album. I come into California and meet Johnny Token, which is a guitarist that used to play in a rock band. He has some very nice vibes. He just decided that he wants to play reggae. But I love his touches in terms of rock feel, you know?

And Doug (Douglas Vaugn; the editor) of course, the engineer. We did a show up in Reno, Nevada. We wanted a rehearsal room. Julian Marley and myself, we were doing a show together. We wanted a warm-up to do some rehearsals. We booked the rehearsal room, and when we went there, we find this breddren called Doug. Doug was the house engineer. He heard the band strike out the first note, he said, this band, I have to be a part of it. I said well, the gates are open and the doors are not yet closed. I tell him I already have an engineer in England, called Paget King, so we're gonna unite the force that you all can work together. So he say he's ready. Doug is the one that puts on the final mix on the album.

Because I was gonna take the album to Jamaica to let a couple of engineers do the final mix. But I'm in California and I say you know something, I'm working with the force and the will of Jah. Since I'm here and these breddren just come on the scene, it's like Jah said, let the word go out. This is not a reggae thing. It's the King's music. So the King's music has to have different flavors.

There's a booklet that goes along with the album. There's a short explanatory text in it, in which you say that "there's a virus called economic depression, which also holds the masses of the people to ransom." In your opinion, how would an economic system that works for the needs of the poor people have to be designed?
I know for a fact that the economical depression creates this loyalty. What happened is that when a nation of a people is economically depressed–unless a man is properly fed, clothed and sheltered, he's not gonna see beyond his day to day. He has no time to talk about liberation. He has no time to talk about moving positive, because all he's thinking about is to get some food for his belly, and sometimes, when a man is desperate looking food for his belly, you know what happens? He reacts to the highest bider. So what happen now is that the movement of I&I Rastafari now, first we have to come together collectively, that we are spiritually self-contained, and then now we take it to another level now where we start to invest to set up a tangible economic base to strengthen and help.

Will you do some touring to spread the teachings on Food For Thought personally?
Yeah, I'm gonna be starting some work. As a matter of fact, on the eleventh of this month, I'll have a show here in California. Luciano, myself and Admiral Tibet, we have a place in Sacramento that we're gonna be doing a show on the eleventh. The following day, we're gonna fly to Florida to do the 9 Mile Music Festival. After the 9 Mile Festival, I'll be heading out to South Africa to do some work in South Africa. We're gonna have a Rasta conference in Port Elizabeth, and a show. And then Empress Sarah is really working on the whole thing right now in terms of trying to put some selective dates together that we can start to spread this message. So pretty soon, we're coming through Germany, and I already put on my paper that I'm gonna come in to Europe to spend some more time.