Talking Across The Ocean - Interview with Young Kailash
12/07/2023 by Gardy Stein
Is a dozen years on earth enough to nurture your God-given talents sufficiently to develop into a spiritually awoken person and a serious artist? Obviously, yes! At least in the case of the burgeoning singer, composer, instrumentalist and songwriter Kailash. Hailing from California, he conquered hearts by storm when, in 2021, the great Don Carlos called him on stage at the local Right Vibes Festival. Since then, the youth has honed his skills, founded a band and recorded an album called Across The Ocean [read our review here].
The creative process behind this amazing debut was the topic of Reggaeville's first ever interview with this prodigy, but we touched many other subjects as well. Read on to find out about his impressive reggae knowledge, his family's roots and his clear vision for the future:
Kailash, thanks for taking the time to have this interview with us here at Reggaeville. Maybe you can start by introducing yourself and telling us how you came to adopt the name Kailash?
Hello, my name is Kailash. I am 12 years old and I am a Reggae artist. Kailash is my real name, it comes from a holy mountain in the Himalaya. It's referred to as the abode of Lord Shiva, which is a Hindu God. My parents liked the idea of my name having that spiritual meaning, I think that's what it was.
When and how did you start to get involved in music, especially reggae music?
My dad listened to a lot of reggae music when he was younger. So, he would have it playing in the house a lot. And so, when I was born, he sort of turned me on to reggae music. And then I kind of just took off with it.
Okay, and when did you first pick up the mic?
When was it? It was like... My first live show was when I was 9 years old, either 9 or 10, at Right Vibes Festival in Santa Cruz.
You also play keyboard, so when did you learn that?
I started playing piano at the age of 2, started taking lessons at 3 and I still take lessons (laughs), I haven't stopped.
Are your parents always supportive of the musical path you chose? I mean, it must be a busy schedule really for you to do all this besides school…
Oh yes, of course. They really are!
This first show you just talked about, how did this come to pass? Did somebody invite you to do it?
Yes, I was invited to play the show. Like I said, it was my first show, so I was pretty much just getting to know how the business works, like, how the band set up and everything. Coincidentally, Don Carlos happened to be headlining that show, and he invited me on stage with him to play Satta Massagana, and I did. And shortly after, he took me to a few other shows. So I went with him, and I played with him, and after a while, after learning a lot about the show business, we sort of realized that we could do this on our own. So, we found a group of musicians, like really good musicians, and I started playing my own shows as like my own artist, under my own name.
Yes, that's what we'll talk about in a minute. I saw a lot of videos where you started out covering some classic reggae tunes, like you said, Satta Massagana and many others. When did you start writing your own lyrics?
Ahm… I think… well, the very first song that I had, me and my dad wrote that. I wrote it with my parents' help, that was Police Brutality. And then after a point, I started to kind of take over. I mean, my parents still help me with refining the lyrics in the songwriting process, but I have taken more command of it.
Turning to the album now, when did you start to work on that? When did you start recording?
We went into the studio in January of this year, I believe. Yeah, it was a while ago. We recorded the tracks and brought them home and added overdubs and stuff, and then we sent them to the mix engineer, Errol Brown, the original engineer of Tuff Gong Studio, and he mixed and mastered all the tracks. But… I mean, technically we had the mastered files, but we still had to like copyright the songs and register them and put them out. But finally, the album is out, which I'm super excited about.
It is! So how did you feel last Friday when your album was released? Did you get any feedback so far?
I've been super excited (laughs)! I don't know if you know this, but we also had 500 copies of the album pressed in vinyl. I love collecting vinyl! I have a decent sized vinyl collection, and so, when we were making the album, it seemed like there was no way that we could not press it to vinyl. So, we've been selling the vinyl copies at my website. So, I've just been super excited, and also super grateful to everyone who helped in the process. I've shared the album with a few of my friends, and… they liked it!
Of course! Tell us about the name Across The Ocean, what's the concept behind that title?
Across The Ocean, like the phrase in context with the song has a few different meanings. Like you can think of it as the journey that, you know, in a lot of the foundation reggae songs about the going back to Africa theme? You could think of it as the journey across the ocean to the motherland. You can think of it as the journey across the ocean of life to the realm of the Most High. You can think about it in many different ways.
True, it's a beautiful piece! Talking about the video for it, where did you shoot that?
We went to a few different locations, and we shot it at Muir Beach in California. That was actually the first time that I had been there, and so it was really fun getting to shoot the video there. Thank you to my dad for filming the video.
It looks beautiful! And the other two videos, Blessed and Give Thanks, were they also shot there or in different locations?
No, Blessed was shot on Mount Burdell in California, and Give Thanks was shot on vacation. We were on a vacation in Mendocino, and we decided to shoot some video footage.
I really enjoyed watching them!
Turning to the lyrics now, they are very spiritual. You have biblical quotes inside, you talk a lot about Rastafari, something one might not expect from a 12-year-old. How did these subjects become part of your life?
I would say thanks to my parents. They… I'd just say they are very spiritual people and they gave me a spiritual upbringing. I will say, like you said, most of the lyrics on the album came out of the Book of Psalms, out of the Bible. So, and since the Book of Psalms is pretty much the Book of Songs, it contains a lot of spiritual material that you can fit into a song.
Have you studied the whole Bible or the Book of Psalms specially?
Yes, that's beautiful, really. How is the process when you write a song? Do you sit down and hear the music first or do you have the text, the verses first and put music onto that? How can we imagine that?
I usually write the rhythm, like, the music first, and then I come up with lyrics to put on top of it.
Can you tell us something about the interaction with the musician in the studio? I read the credit list and it mentioned Kubix who is a great guitarist out of France. Did he come over to record everything with you or did he record it in France?
For Kubix, we sent him the tracks and he laid his guitar parts over and sent it back to us. We went to the studio with all the other band mates: Scott Davis, Ryan "I-shence" Willard, myself and my Dad, Shankar Baba, who is the bass player. Ryan runs the record label Higher Bound Productions, who released Akae Beka's Hail The King. And Scott is on tour with Groundation in Brazil right now, I think.
Wow, impressive. The album came out on Nachiketa Productions. Can you say something about this label?
Yes! I founded that label with my family's help, and that's the label that I'm going to use moving forward. I'm not really a fan of signing to major record labels, I'm an independent artist and I like having control over all my songs and material. So, like all the songs that I write moving forward at least will be released under Nachiketa Productions.
What does its name stand for?
Nachiketa is a boy, one of the Upanishads. He's known for meeting the God of Death, and more importantly, of being spared by him.
Interesting! I will look that up. Is there a song that you especially love on the album, that has a special meaning to you?
I don't really pick favorites, but if I had to choose one, it would probably be Know Thyself.
Yeah, that's a beautiful one!
Although I'm more focused now on recording new material.
For a next album?
Yes. We've built a little home studio, and so I'm recording new material in there.
Great. I saw on your Instagram that you have some videos where you are dubbing, you're live dubbing your music…
Oh yes, I love live dubbing (laughs). Speaking of live dubbing, I have a single that's coming out soon… I mean, I'm not going to make any promises, but there will be a single that comes out that I'm going to be live mixing and live dubbing.
That sounds great. And did you do any release party or something like that, a live show, to promote the current album?
Right now, I'm not having live gigs, but as soon as that happens, then we might hold one.
How do you manage all this anyway? I mean, you still are of school age, you have to go to school, your schedule must be so packed. Can you tell us how your regular days look like?
Well, I mean, I wake up in the morning, I eat breakfast, I go to school, and then after school, I come home and probably practice piano, or take a piano lesson, and then the rest of the night would be devoted to dinner and making music, pretty much.
Wow, that's amazing. And does this leave room for any other hobbies? Like, do you do any sports?
I like playing sports, yes! I live on a street that has a bunch of other kids. So we've kind of formed a friend group, and anytime I go outside with the friends, we usually play football or basketball, there's a basketball hoop on the street. So, I do play some sports. I also like riding, riding my bike, and reading. I like a lot of different things (laughs).
What are you reading at the moment?
Right now I'm into the Fun Jungle series by Stuart Gibbs. There's a new book in that series that just came out, so I'm reading that.
When it comes to music, what are some of the artists you like to listen to apart from yourself and your band?
I mostly like listening to reggae from the foundation era reggae, '70s, '80s era reggae. Singers such as Sugar Minott, Gregory Isaacs, Dennis Brown, the likes. One thing I do love is, since… you know how reggae utilizes common rhythms and have multiple artists singing over those rhythms, there are a lot of rhythms from back in the '80s, the early '80s, that I keep on finding new songs over. So, I like finding new songs over old riddims. I also like toasters and DJs like Yellowman, Papa Toyan, Josey Wales, Charlie Chaplin… basically a lot of people from the older foundation reggae. These are my favorites.
Are there any plans to work with any of these artists, to do a collaboration in the future?
I'd be really excited if I could do a collaboration, but right now I'm just more focused on my own material, like, doing things my way.
Yes, to introduce the world to your sound! What are your future plans anyway? Where do you see yourself in a couple of years, where you want to go?
In a couple years I'll probably keep making music. Just writing more songs.
Is that your long-term goal, to really become a performing artist, a recording artist?
Yes, it is. Not only do I want to produce myself, but there are some examples from again that foundation era of reggae, like the three singers I mentioned. Sugar Minott ran the Youthman Promotion where he'd find the hottest up and coming talents and take them in and take care of them and record them. Dennis Brown ran DEB Music, the record label, where he'd have other artists come in and record and he'd produce them and release them. Gregory Isaacs had African Museum, he did the same thing. And basically, I want to do the same thing where I produce not only my music, but also other people's music.
Wow, that's very ambitious! I wish you all the best with that. Coming back to the lyrics of your songs, you sing a lot about spirituality, about, as you said, knowing yourself. Concerning the state of the world right now, with what is all over the news, what's happening... what do you think, how can we work towards making this world a better place? What is the most important thing people should do or act towards to move ahead as mankind?
I might sound generic here, but probably it's just to do a better job thinking about other people, caring about and caring for other people. Not being super selfish, that's the word. Cause I feel like, if people start thinking and caring about other people more, then I feel like that would lead to a better place.
Yeah definitely! Thanks so much, and please keep carrying your message to the world. Do you already have dates where people can see you live?
I don't have any shows coming up right now, but if you want to know where I'm performing, you can find that again at my website, kailashmuzic.com.
We'll keep following your updates and everything! Hopefully one day you'll be able to come to Europe as well, so we get to see you here at the festival. Have you ever been to Europe?
No, not yet. I've been to Africa a bunch of times.
Where in Africa?
Oh, South Africa, specifically Lesotho. We have family there. We have a huge extended family in South Africa (laughs). My grandmother lives there and sometimes she comes over to California to spend time with us. And sometimes we go to South Africa to spend time with her.
That's wonderful. Did you ever perform there?
No, not yet. Hopefully I'll get the chance to.
Yeah, that would be great. And is there any other place that you wish to go one day?
I haven't been to Jamaica yet. And, since that's the birthplace of reggae music, I probably would want to go there in my life!
Yes, you should! They will love you, they will love you to pieces. Actually, I'm through with my questions, but maybe you want to add something? What do you want people to know about your album, about your music, about you as an artist?
I just want to give a huge thank you to everyone who has listened to the album, everyone who has bought the album on vinyl, it means a lot to an independent artist like me. For Across The Ocean, the album, I not only wrote the lyrics, but I also wrote most of the instrumentation, like, I wrote all the drum lines, I wrote all the bass lines, I wrote and played all the keyboard on the album. The only parts I think I didn't have a hand in were the guitar parts, the lead guitar parts, which, you know, we're done by Kubix.
That's great. You're just such a prodigy, and I really wish you all the best and keep doing what you're doing, and we hope to see you rise and shine! I think the world really needs people like you that bring a light to us.
Give thanks, thank you so much for having me. Jah bless!