Prince Alla ADD

Interview with Prince Alla

06/22/2016 by Gardy Stein

Interview with Prince Alla

Some artists don't need an introduction. To all of you who have never heard of Prince Alla, please sit down and do your homework. A true veteran who started his recording career back in the days with Joe Gibbs in the late 60s, he is responsible for such Roots classics as Stone or Lot's Wife – and is still active today! Apart from performing on stages around the world, he just released the album Run Come, a wonderful collaboration between the artist, Germany-based Dubvisionist and 11-7 Records. Reggaeville met the humble man in Kingston, along with label-boss Lennart Tacke, to hear what he has to say on his new release and current trends in the music business:

You are very active at the moment, performing and producing new music. There was a re-issue of some older album a while ago, right?
Yes, the Blood And Fire re-issues! This kind of revived me. Because the LP I Can Hear The Children Singing was from the seventies, but they re-released it – I love that. And then I did some other works still with Jah Warrior in 2002, with Steve Mosco in England and some other places. That's very nice.

How did the idea come up to produce Run Come? What's the journey of the album?
First I must say Ras Tafari give thanks for life, give strength, give thanks for you, for Lennart, for all the bredrin and sistren that come from Ras Tafari live! This LP now will soon be out, and it's Lennart who made it happen. I think I met him first in England at Freedom Sound. He is a good bredrin! We met again at Reggaejam three years ago, and some producer wanted a song from me, a dubplate, and him introduce me and from there we start to grow, you know. So when I came to record the dubplate, Lennart played me some of his riddims and told me that he had a label. And I wanted to do some new stuff anyway, and here was this bredrin telling me 'I have a label, I have the riddims, let's do it!' (laughs). Serious thing, and it worked out really nice. Rastafari! So this LP coming out now, I feel it will be one of my best LPs. Because some of the songs them, I really feel them. Like when I did the song Stone from that time, and I'm very thankful for that. I'm glad!

And how did Felix "Dubvisionist" Wolter get involved, did you meet him?
No, not yet. Big him up! He is a good engineer, really. So after I recorded the songs, he did the Dub remixes.

Can you say something about the songs themselves, the inspiration for the lyrics? Pillar Of Salt, for instance?
Well, you know, when I was a youth I was at the Bobo Camp and we used to read the bible every day. I read about Sodom and Gomorrha and Lot and his wife and children. They had to leave out of Sodom, but there was so much things they had, personal possessions, so his wife looked back and she turned a pillar of salt. The bible says that, most of my songs come from the bible because I love reading the bible, you know. So it's about not being greedy... because she had so much possessions and dem ting de, she had some minor thoughts because so many things she had to leave behind and she looked back and turned a pillar of salt.

In Ethiopia you sing about how you really want to go there. Have you ever been to Africa?
Yes, I've been to Africa once, to a place called Abidjan. But Ethiopia now, it's a place we... from when I was small I always love it, because it's where Selassie His Majesty was born. And I really have a love for the place, so I would love to really see it, you know. And Lalibela and all dem places, I'd really love to see it, so all these things are really in my thoughts and meditation. I would love to really see Ethiopia. That's the land where all Gods and Goddesses love to be, you see, it's not man alone, it's man and woman. So that's why I love Rastafari so much, because it don't talk about man alone like some other religion who just say God is God and man is man... Rastafari says Man and Woman, King and Queen, Prince and Princess, King Alpha and Queen Omega, so I love that balance, that's why I love Rastafari.

The song was recorded with Lone Ranger, right?
Yes, we were at the studio, I did my piece and about two verses. Some bars were left, and we said we would need a DJ, we looked around for someone, we thought about Jah Youth or Lone Ranger. And then Lennart linked us up and he came and... whoo, it was nice! And now this same tune will be out on vinyl as well, a single release with Irie Ites.

And you do all this without manager? How do you get invited to play on festivals and so on?
It's just Rastafari. Asher Selector, a bredrin from Switzerland, he came to my home one day. And he said he wants me on a show in Switzerland! That was about '95 or so. But I couldn't go that time, because I didn't have a Passport. And Asher say 'You don't have a passport?'  And I say no.... because that time, the music in Jamaica, I thought it was finished. Slack lyrics and ting take over in Jamaica, gun and dem tings. So people never really used to recognize inna di 90s di Roots, di real Roots music. It's when I reach to Europe I realize how powerful Roots music was, is, not was. So me, I wasn't even interested to have a passport at that time, it didn't feel necessary. And him leave and said him come again. So years passed and me get a passport now, and him come again in '99 him say 'What happen now Prince Alla, you get your passport?' An mi say yeah man! You know... so I was going to Switzerland and mi tell him se when I'm going to Switzerland which band are we going to use? And him say no, we are going to use tracks! Because dem time ya. jus studio me use to work in. Mi never used to go to di dance and sing pon di soundsystem and dem ting de, so, you know... I say why, but him se 'No, this is how we go do it!', and it worked out nice! Experience. It wasn't hard from that, I start to do it on tracks with Asher Selecta. He is the one that really kind a brushed me out internationally with tours, yes.

Did you have shows in Jamaica as well?
Yes, small shows, Red Bones and in the country I did about two... but I didn't really go like Sting and all dem ting.

How do people here receive you, are you known?

Well, yes, the music starts to change now. Since the years 2000, Roots music start to grow again. now every night you have some place we play roots music, like Vinyl Thursdays today. On Friday you have Dub School, on Sunday Dub Club, so yes, it's growing!

How was the reception in Europe?
It surprised me! The people were singing the songs them with me, so it kind a surprised me... I say what? I didn't know it's so known. Because to tell you the truth, when we record songs, promoters used to send it to Europe, England, and told us nuttin nah gwaan, it no released yet. So I didn't know that so many people did know about Prince Alla.

But you are a legend!
Yeah? (laughs) I never know, it's when me went there me find out!

When you say that promoters used to send the tracks to release in Europe, was there never any feedback, any money that came in?
Well, nowadays yes. Blood and Fire deal me very nice, big up to them, fi life! Steve Mosco him deal with me very good, Asher Selecta, big up yuself, all dem people mek me start get a likkle money, so thanks to them, Rastafari.

So right now would you say you have your means to survive?
Well, I can't be ungrateful. Because it's the Almighty who give us talent so... half a inch we get we haffi be thankful fi it. Thankful fi what I receive now, survival, give thanks.

Yes, but foundation artists like you should have something to live from in their old age, from their older releases that are so well known!

Yes, you know, the older artists they didn't really know to join plenty societies and thing. It's not like now where the youths have plenty thing them can join and collect publishing and all dem thing. That was our problem, cause the promoters dem used to put their name on the record and say dem write it or dem arrange it and collect and we don't know, and dem publish and we don't know. That was the only thing that was different with us, it's not like now you have the internet and ting and you can hear, you do it now with cellular phone and not writing letters or telegram in dem time. So now it's more easier, more accessible fi everyone to know what's going on.

True, but still there are some elders... I mean, you are very active and you perform and you go to festivals, so it's easy for people to reach out to you and ask for dubplates and whatever. But some other artists they can't be that active because of their physical condition, they are sick maybe or whatever. Some veteran artists who are really in need of help... Seeco Patterson for instance, I heard he is really sick.
Yes, or blind like Skully...

Exactly. In your opinion, how could people around the world help these veteran artists, to make their life better?
You see, the main thing for the veteran artists is that they didn't join certain societies as we have it, to get their publishing and things done. Because plenty of the elder artists dem don't have a manager. People would rather manage some younger artists, so most of them kind a feel left out. And it's worse now when they can't perform. If they can perform, they will have a chance, it's better because maybe someone will come out of the blue and tell them 'Yes I want be your manager.' But plenty of them are sick like Skully, blind, and the one you talked about, so it's hard for them.

So you think if they could get some assistance, someone to make sure they receive their due royalties, that would be a good way to help?
I feel like that would be a personal thing, where someone has to go and check fi dem. Cause some a dem is hard to find. Plenty of the elder artists are hard to find. Because they are not in the streamline again, so you ask someone fi dem and dem say mi no know where him is! Cause even the one you talk about right now, mi don't even know where him is... I know him but I don't know where him is. I know where Skully is sometimes, but plenty of the artists dem they are not in what you call the limelight, so they are almost forgotten. Maybe behind the scenes… it's hard to find some of them.

You have some like Ken Boothe now, he is an elder artist who.... you see, you have some elder artists that really got lucky. I wouldn't say lucky, but dem got reward fi their work. Like Stranger Cole, Ken Boothe, The Melodians, Max Romeo, because some people might sing their songs and they might get some good benefits out a it, you know, but personally by demselves it's hard in Jamaica.

Did you ever think about collaborating with some of the younger artists?
Yes! Sometimes some younger artists come to me with that. It gives me a good vibe. Cause it's not like the elder have to go to him and ask, not really, so... we were talking to Asante Amen, a young artist, and we want to do something. Also Exile Di Brave wants to do something, so... it's a start!

Yes, and I think it's part of the responsibility of the younger artists who are successful now, but still they come from a basis of other artists they should support. Do you still have contacts to the Rasta Camp you've lived at?
It's been a long time that I haven't been there. It's out at Bull Bay, in the hills, so it's a bit far, but it's still active. And then the leader, Prince Emmanuel I, he died about four or five years ago, so I don't really pass up there so much again. But it's still there! And I give thanks for the time I spent there.

Would you say it helped you with the way you've chosen?
Yes! Because most of my songs is because a dat mek I get it. Like Daniel In The Lion's Den, Stone, Lot's Wife, Heaven Is My Roof... plenty songs, because we used to read the bible every day and keep our service every day in the morning and keep the sabbath day every saturday, so it really bring me to understand the scripture, not all of it but most of it. Cause some of it is hard to understand (laughs).

If people want to contact you now, how can they link up, how can they find you?
Well, with Lennart... because I really don't have an Email-Address for my personal self, but I have a phone number. Lennart Tacke is a key that anytime you can reach me through.

Or they just come to your shows. Is there a tour or anything planned?
Yes, in July there is a festival in France that I'll do, Dub Camp Festival. And some shows in Holland, with Thomas Roadblock, that's coming up now for the summer, I'm glad fi dat. Thomas is a bredrin that fi di last few years I toured about three times in Holland with him. Good bredrin.

Finally, do you have a message to the young generation?
The message I would really tell the youths dem now is love yourself first. When you love yourself, then you can love others. And don't enter the tribal war or the political war and dem ting there, and killing each other. Cause the one you kill today might be the one who can help you tomorrow. So, it's just love and unity, that's all I say to them, love and unity. Although the struggle is hard, but the hotter the battle the sweeter the victory. So sometimes a struggle is just there to make you stronger, you know.