Interview with Macka B - Health Is Wealth
10/04/2017 by Gardy Stein
England, Westmidlands, Wolverhampton: just before he's off to Scandinavia for some performances, Reggaeville catches up with Christopher McFarlane aka Macka B to talk about his new album Health Is Wealth. Industrious person he is, the conversation also reveals both his business enterprises and his ongoing involvement with the medical values of our foods and herbs. And, of course, how the hit-gone-viral Cucumba came about:
Greetings! Tomorrow is the big day, right? Your new album is coming out! Is there a release party planned?
No release party, no. I've got a show in Norway and after that I'm going on a Vegan Cruise from Norway to the UK on Saturday.
That sounds cool. What is it exactly, a cruise for vegans?
Not just for vegans, it's a ship with only vegan food, totally vegan food. There's people who are going to educate about vegan food, presenters, and live entertainment. We are going to be there with a band, you know, Macka B and the Roots Ragga Band. Some vegan people outta Germany organize this.
I never heard of it but I will check it out. In Germany, the market for veganism and vegetarianism has grown considerably during the last few years. What about the UK?
It's stepping up! It doesn't reach the level of Germany yet, cause in Germany you even have vegan supermarkets and those kind a ting... people worldwide just start to realize. Years ago people never understood, dem say if you don't eat meat or fish or diary products, they think you're ill or something is wrong with you, but now they realize it's a positive thing.
When did you start to get so involved with nutrition and healthy food, what was the starting point?
A long time really, you know, cause from when I was sixteen I stopped eating meat, red meat and chicken and all a dem ting, but I carried on eating fish. After a while I realized it's an animal too, so I stopped eating fish and diary products. Even from when I first started to deejay, one of my first lyrics is a ting called International Menu and I just talk about the way different countries eat, you know. Many times through the years I've mentioned some food things because food is very important, you know. What you put into your structure, into your temple, is very important!
If not THE most important!
Yes and also the spiritual side, because what you think is important as well, you know.
Of course. The problem over here is, bad food is really cheap and the first thing people start cutting their expenses with is food, so they take the cheapest stuff available. I always think that's the first and most important thing you should spend your money on, not clothes, not mobiles, not cars...
Yes! For instance, if they saw some oil for their car and they say 'This is bad oil, it's cheap, but it's bad!' so they wouldn't put it in their car. They wouldn't want to harm their car! But they put it inside their body - it don't make sense...
Good thing there are people like you who teach and educate about food. When did you start the great weekly videos you do, like Medical Mondays and Wha Me Eat Wednesdays?
Well, that was in either February or March this year. We were doing some social media, my youths, my children, they are big people in their twenties, we are very close family you know, they help me a lot along with my wife... family is one of my big foundations. So, the youths they're hot on the social media, so they were saying 'Dad, maybe we should go into it a bit deeper!' so we decided to do the Wha Me Eat Wednesdays. We just encourage people who never had a vegan meal before, who don't know what it is, to just go and try one, because a lot of people get confused when you say vegan, they don't realize that a lot of times they eat vegan meals without realizing it. We are telling people to go and have a vegan meal and just try it out and see if they like it and post their comment about it, and people were doing it! Then we decided to go a little bit deeper and we said, all right, let we tell people about the medical values of the fruits and veggies instead of saying 'Don't do this, don't do that.' So we say 'Look at this, the goodness in this and the goodness in that, this is good for this and that is good for that.' and so we started the Medical Monday. At first I was just talking it, like I'm talking to you now, but then I decided to like deejay in a Macka B style, so I deejay one of the things and the reaction was so good, the comments, the views... I started to get like a hundreds of thousands of views, and me say wait, the people like the style, you know, so... then we did Cucumba, and when we did that, it just went mad. It went viral, millions of views all over the world, people share it on Instagram, like Naomi Campbell, everybody a share di ting so mi se yeah, it's good, people gravitate towards something when you are just being yourself, trying to help people because you know nutrition is very important and people are taking on to it, so we give thanks.
There are so many edible plants and herbs I guess you could keep going for years!
We've been doing it from March, so that's quite a few months, and we are doing it every week, you know, Monday and Wednesday, and we are still doing it, and the ones that we are doing now, the people are loving it. Last week I did things like Buku, you know, a South African herb, and people are loving it! There is so many around the world to do, and the great things is, everything I talk about is a thing that I personally have or had in the past, that's why I speak about dem like that because I've personally had them.
It's like a teaching, you know, stuff you never even heard about... You didn't stop at videos, you also started a food range and clothes, right?
Yeah, we have some products... we give thanks, like, you know, when you put out positive, it attracts positive. There's some people who do a superfood range called Revolution Foods and they contacted me saying they wouldn't mind doing a collaboration, you know, and so I checked them out and they are well established and they have good products, so we bring out the Wha Me Eat products. It's a superfood range of Moringa and Baobab and Hemp Seeds and greens blends and coconut oil and all dem kind a tings, and the reaction of people has been very good. They are saying 'Macka B, me waan support you, me waan get some products!' so that's what we are doing, we step it up.
Talking about the album now... when did you start to work on it? How did the collaborations with the different producers come about?
You see, it's like a spiritual thing, it's kinda mystical... it's like you are doing it without doing it (laughs). Things are done for you, that's why you have to give thanks all the while, things have been happening for Macka B and it's like Jah works. A lot of times people have been contacting me with the things, producers were saying 'Macka B, we have this riddim for you and we'd love you to do something on it!' When we talked to Greensleeves of maybe doing an album... cause he loves the Never Play A 45 album and he wanted to do something with me from back then, so when the time came with the Wha Me Eat Wednesdays and all these things, we decided to do an album. I decided to choose some of the tunes that I had already, you know, producers I have worked with already, so I just had to pull them together and ask for permission if we can use it. There's many different producers on the album from many different countries, Jamaica, Germany, Japan and the UK as well, it all come together in one vibration so we just have to give thanks. Jah works, you know!
Apart from the singles Wha Me Eat and Cucumba, are all the songs new material?
A lot of them existed already. The title track was produced specifically for the album, produced in the UK. Gangsta is out already on Oneness Records from Munich. Natural Herb was out on the label Sunnyside Records out of Japan, but the remix was done in Canada. Speakers On Fire was released from Japan as well. The Legendary Reggae Icons came out as singles, but not as a big thing, only digitally, you know. Excess Baggage was released by Mafia & Fluxy before, See Them From Far by Stingray and Lyrical Chef has been a single as well with a video. Our Story was done specifically for the album, produced by Kaya Faya and Toni Owens in Jamaica with the Firehouse Crew. Mama Africa and My King were produced especially for the album, so it's a mix and blend.
Our Story was recorded at Tuff Gong. Were you present?
I wasn't there personally, the riddim was done and recorded there and they sent it to me and I voiced it here.
It's a wonderful track and it's so important, as you sing about these great Kingdoms... hopefully one day these realities make it to the history books!
Yes, it's a very important song, it's one of my favourites on the album! There is a lot of talk about slavery and some think that this was the history, the beginning of black people, the slavery, you know. But, as you said, there were many great Kingdoms before and many great people out of Africa, and if our youths would learn about that, there would be a lot more respect. The people came from these great kingdoms, so it's time to tell our real story, you know. We have to bring it to the people!
In the song Mama Africa you sing about how the passport officer said "Welcome Home!" Was that a real experience and if yes, from which country?
Yeah man, a real experience! It was in Gambia and they do really say that, "Welcome home!", and I never heard that before. Because when I come to England, the place where I was born, the passport man has never ever said "Welcome home!" you know, so (laughs)... it makes you think!
When did you go to Gambia?
That was in the nineties, I went for a visit back then. But we've performed there since, and many other places like Senegal, Botswana, South Africa, Sierra Leone...
The only feature on the album is Jah Jah Children. How did you come to work with Maxi Priest and why did you choose to cover that song?
That's why I say it's like a mystical thing - I didn't choose it, it chose me! Maxi Priest already did that song on his album for VP Records, and he was doing a remix of the album so Maxi contacted me and he said 'Macka B, I'd love you to come on that song that I got!' When he sent me the song, and it's one of my favourite songs anyway, from Ras Michael, it's a great song, so when he asked me to come on it with him, it was a pleasure for me to do it, it was a good vibe and he loved it too. It wasn't for my album at first, it was for his, and when my album start and he was gonna be on VP and Greensleeves anyway, it was just a natural thing for us to put it on the album, so that's why I said it's just like a natural mystic.
In the end of the video for Gangsta you put a livication for two boys who got killed. Did you know them personally?
No. They were two of the youths who would have been in the video as well... from that area where we were going to do the video. But it got postponed when I was in Jamaica, and then the two youths got killed. They weren't gonna do the video anymore, but the rest of the crew decided 'Yeah, we have to do the video as a tribute to the two youths who got killed and passed away!', so we continued and did the video in the same place where they got killed, you know. So it's just a vibe and a tribute, we have to push that message because... all the youths don't... everybody doesn't have to be a gangster! In the media it's just glamourised too much, even in the music, if you come with gangster lyrics you get big quick, they like to push you even into national media and everything, something they shouldn't do. This song brings positive lyrics to the youths so they can see that there is an alternative. You don't have to be that way! Another thing, they are only showing you the nice side of the gangster, they don't show you the side where people are passing away, or the mourning, or the prison life and all those things, so we try to show the youths that there's an alternative. We try to get the goodness out of the youths! Because the youths dem good, you know, they have goodness inside of them, we just haffi bring it out!
That's what I like about the video, because at first you think 'Oh, this guy is going to do something bad!', but then he is just helping his friends.
He's a good youth! (laughs)
Fi sure! Do you go to Jamaica often?
Yeah man, that's where my parents are from, and I still got my sisters there, I got three sisters and one brother, my other brother passed away recently. So I have a lot of nephews, nieces, cousins, aunties and uncles in Jamaica, and they love me over there because I come there regularly. When my parents came to England in the fifties, they left a lot of their children in Jamaica. They came to England just to make some money and then go back in Jamaica, to be with the family. But sometimes circumstances are... you don't make as much as planned and they got stuck in the UK, you know, so they never really managed to go back to Jamaica. I have made the transition many many times, so I have kinda gone back for them many many times, so we give thanks that I had the opportunity to fulfil their works...
Last question, with all the research you do, with all you put out about the beneficial use of plants and stuff, can you imagine to like write a book or open a restaurant or something like that in the future?
Yeah man, you can say that all these things are in the pipeline, you know. What we can do is limitless, there is no ceiling on it, as I say the sky is the limit, we just go for it! A book is a natural progression because I love reading anyway, so... a book is a good thing and a Wha Me Eat Vegan Restaurant would be nice, too! (laughs)