Kabaka Pyramid is doing his part to revive juggling in Jamaica through his own Victory Rock Riddim.
The reggae and dancehall singer, birth name Keron Salmon, is making his major debut as a producer on this project which features 14 artistes.
With calls increasing in the music sector for juggling to be revived, this project is timely.
Kabaka told Loop News that while he has been working on the riddim for over two years the intention was to bring back juggling as it helps unknown artistes to get their music heard.
“Reggae music needs juggling. It is an important part of the culture especially when it comes to these reggae markets outside Jamaica like the Caribbean and the diaspora because a lot of the DJs think with the mind-set of how juggling culture works so it still works in these places,” he explained.
“A lot of the artistes now who, maybe because dem in Jamaica, they can network with DJs they know and can get one or two of dem songs play but dem not getting the airplay outside of Jamaica and dem not getting the traction. The relationships producers have built over the years and the networks with the labels and DJs, doing juggling is a very easy way to get unrecognised artistes’ music in the hands of selectors internationally.”
Kabaka said juggling also brings out the best in artistes because if you are not good you won’t get played.
“I never started to get any reasonable amount of Jamaican airplay until I was in a juggling riddim,” said Kabaka who is known for juggling songs such as “Well Done” on the On the Corner Riddim, “No Capitalist” on the Tropical Escape Riddim and “Mi Alright” with Chronixx on the Rising Sun Riddim.
Driving home the importance of juggling, he said his music was playing in Europe and he was touring there before he got airplay in Jamaica.
“I toured in Europe 2012 before “No Capitalist” came out. It was really “No Capitalist” and even more so “Mi Alright” with Chronixx that was my first hit song in Jamaica. Is really juggling culture get the diaspora moving,” he said.
Understanding how juggling can help lesser-known artistes, Kabaka selected some of the artistes for his No Victory Riddim with that in mind.
Rising Jamaican singer MediSun, Iyaz from the Virgin Islands, Irie Soldier from Barcelona and Natalie Rice from New Zealand are among those on the album with more popular names such as Romain Virgo, Stonebwoy and Chris Martin.
The 24-year-old said he also wanted to select singers since it lends itself to what he described as a sweet one-drop riddim. He said he is not on the riddim since he does not consider himself a singer.
Kabaka said he always wanted to produce having done it for his own album and for others.
“It was just a thing where I love to be in the creative space, I love to have musicians in the studio with me and other people who could bring out the vision I have because I am not really a musician. I like to make beats and ting and bringing people who could enhance it,” he said.
Three tracks from the riddim were released last Friday — What is Life (Bugle), She Nash Give Up (D'Major), Victory Rock (Alaine).
He said Alaine’s song was the nucleus around which everything was centred around so he wanted that to be the first to be released. D’Major’s song, though it was one of the later ones to be recorded, was one he fell in love with. Bugle’s song was released on his album and remixed for this project.
“I wanted to get those songs out and I have a next set lined up for March 12,” he revealed.
The full album will be released on March 26.
To accompany the Victory Rock project, Kabaka plans to shoot some acoustic videos and push the album through IG live talks with the featured artistes.
Known for socially conscious songs such as “Kontraband’ with Damian Jr Gong Marley, ‘Can’t Breathe’ and ‘Trample Dem’, the latter in which he addresses paedophilia, Kabaka has fearlessly used music to send a message.
Kabaka, who married his sobriquet which is Ugandan for "King" with the long-lasting survival of the Pyramids of ancient Africa, sees himself as a beacon of light in the music industry.
“I don’t necessarily have to be the biggest artiste in the centre, in the limelight but if I could inspire other artistes to incorporate a little bit of the message in dem music and do what dem do then I know say I have served a purpose,” he said.
“My music might be a little bit of a niche but at the same time it powerful in that it is not the everyday thing, is not the same thing everybody doing and saying and that is powerful in itself,” he said urging his Caribbean fans to support artistes with positive music.
As one of the new generations of artistes leading Jamaica’s reggae revival alongside the likes of Chronixx and Protoje, Kabaka, like his peers, incorporates various sounds into his music. In fact, he was a former rapper and that style could be heard on his recent song ‘Doh Say a Word”.
Addressing the ongoing discussion on the changing sound of reggae and dancehall, he said music changes through generations.
“If you go back through the years, every ten years music changes sound. Third World sound was different to Bob Marley sound, Yellowman dem sound was different to Bounty Killer dem sound and Kartel was different to that. I –Wayne sound was different from Sizzla early days. The thing always evolving so I am never against the evolution of the sound,” said, noting that the message evolves too.
“Before even myself, they ever had anyone talking about ancient Egypt and the pyramids and certain things in the music. That is because the knowledge is becoming more accessible now. is not that the message change but we adding certain things to the puzzle that wasn’t deh deh before.”
In addition to the Victory Rock project, Kabaka has spent the pandemic months recording and putting out music. He started working on a new album with Jr Gong, who he described as a big brother and mentor, and released a 24-track EP called Immaculate with DJ Max Glazer. The album, which was released for free, includes dubplates that he recorded in New York with Glazer as interludes.
“Believe”, an inspirational song, is the stand out track from that project.