Q&A: Solo Banton
Ahead of his performance at The Sunday Joint, and following the release of his new album Old Raggamuffin, we had a chat with dub-reggae legend Solo Banton. He released his first record in 2010 after years MCing for sound systems, and has since released on the experimental Jahtari label and collaborated with heroes of the genre such as Macka B, Dubkasm and Tena Stelin. Throughout all of his work flows an infectious positivity and enthusiasm for the connecting power of music and lyrics; we can’t wait to feel these good vibes at HiFi on 1st December. But first, let’s hear from Solo…
You’ve been releasing music for 10 years now – how has your style and life in general changed in that time?
The changes and rewards are more emotional than financial or material. My knowledge of self and of human kind has grown so much with all the travelling and meeting people from different parts of the world. this has enabled me to become a better person which is always the goal.
When did you first start making music, and who were your greatest inspirations at the time?
I was always trying to make music from the youngest age. I was in my uncle’s steel pan group and wrote a couple songs with my cousin for the group to play at shows I was about 14 at the time. Me and my brother in law would build rhythms or his keyboard all the time, and I started booking studio time when I was maybe 17 to build rhythms. My brother and brother in laws where all in a band so they were my biggest influences at the time, I would go to every rehearsal, every studio session to watch and learn.
Leeds is very much a sound system city, with the world famous Iration Steppas Sound System based here. Have you had contact with this system? Were you linked to a system in your youth?
I know mark very well, and done a lot of shows with Iration Steppas. My first sound was majestic from west London a blues party sounding my late teens early 20’s. age 25ish I joined classic wonder from reading now days they a called classic wonder ents and play very regularly every now and then the original crew we play as the “veterans” which is always great fun.
What is the most important trait for a dancehall vocalist?
That’s a matter of opinion, but for me my favourites have lyrics and body to their songs and not just catchy punchlines.
How did you get involved in the Jahtari crew? The concept of the label and sound is bizarre – why do you think that it works? Are you into video games?
Jahtari came looking for me after Kris Kemist posted a video of some artist including myself free styling in the studio, they saw it and contacted kris asking for me to voice a song for them. Bizarre? I would say creative and trendsetting. So many try to copy this 8-bit style as it is so popular across the world. I have travelled everywhere because of the songs I have with them. I used to love video games and still play a little Fifa now and then with my son, and Tekken lol.
Your motto seems to be “POSITIVE, YEA!” In such distressing times, where do you find this positivity?
It’s a state of mind. If you can say you will be positive today and carry it through regardless, it becomes easier the more you do it. It doesn’t mean negative don’t happen to you or you feel negative yourself – we all do – but I believe where and when we can, as often as we can, we should aim for being positive. Should I cry about the bottle I smashed or should I learn from it in the hope not to do it again?
Your new album is Old Ragamuffin. What was the thinking behind the title, and the concept of the record?
After doing a few years of experimental or new age reggae I really wanted to go back to my roots of what I like and how I see reggae music. I come from the era of a rebellious, non compromising, reggae. “Old (Ole) Raggamuffin”.
You have many high profile collaborations on the album, with Mikey General, Earl Sixteen, Sabrina Bell and Macka B. How was it working with these GUYS?
It was amazing and very soul satisfying to work with these amazing people and huge names in the business people who I have admired for years and years. A real honour.
What can we expect from your live show?
Lots of fun and positivity, as well as addressing the ills in our world with a hope of finding solutions together.