Mikey General

by

Born to Jamaican parents in London in 1963, Mikey
General was on the fast track to academic success. He attended St. George’s,
a prestigious Catholic high school in Jamaica, where everyone expected
him to become a doctor, banker or lawyer. But instead he turned to music.

In the early 80s, General returned to England and
began singing with sound systems like Saxon. He ended up working for Fashion,
the dub plate studio, for almost four years, where they specialized in
“sound boy, sound clash tunes.” General was discouraged with
his career in England and he says it was the will of Jah that took him
back to Jamaica in 1992. He soon met his close brethren, Luciano, and
became a devout disciple of Rastafari, “Brother Luci’s a soulmate
of I’n’I and this work is something that we have devoted our
lives to,” he told me last year.

General’s first album, “Rastaman Stronger,”
was released in 1996 on the Xterminator label, showcasing General’s
conscious and uplifting lyrics. Produced by Phillip “Fattis”
Burrell, “Rastaman Stronger,” featured Sly and Robbie, saxophonist
Dean Fraser and guitarist Cat Coore. But General’s international
exposure came through touring with Luciano and the Firehouse Crew.

“Spiritual Revolution” is the fitting
title of his latest album, which is released on his and Luciano’s
own label, Qabalah. They have created a community of people who try to
live what they preach. spreading Jah’s message is the ultimate goal
and the music is the medium. General’s high tenor voice has been
compared to Tabby Diamond of the Mighty Diamonds, and he has been influenced
by various genres of music: blues, R&B, Reggae, Jazz, gospel, hip-hop
and dancehall.

I first met General in March of 1999 during the
California leg of the Luciano tour. Since then, I’ve seen him perform
numerous times and his face always lights up when he sees someone he recognizes.
He’s a spiritual man, who will reason about almost anything from
the Bible to women’s roles in society. I caught up with him again
at the Bob Marley Celebration in Long Beach, CA in February 2000
where he discussed his latest travels, his newest CD, and the differences
of beliefs in the Rasta community.

Laura Gardner: I’m so happy to see you again.
What have you been up to during the past year?

Mikey General: Blessed love. Empress Laura, it’s
a pleasure to be speaking to you again. Well, we’ve been to Africa,
to England and to Cuba. So we’ve been traveling and doing Jah works.
I also had a new CD released in December in Jamaica, and it’s soon
to be released in America. We are also releasing some songs off that same
LP with Luciano in a combination CD. So, yes a lot of new things are happening!

LG: Let’s start with Africa. Had you been there
before?

Mikey: Yes, I had been to Senegal with Luciano and
Sizzla before. This second time was a beautiful experience. We went to
Gambia and we met the President! Gambia is really a Reggae-oriented country.
Everywhere you go, you hear Reggae on the streets, just like in Jamaica.

LG: I didn’t know that.

Mikey: Luciano is very big over there, so we went
over there. We did a lot of promotion.

LG: Were there elements that struck you there that
you hadn’t noticed before?

Mikey: The people who are Muslim. the sincerity to
their religion struck me, since I hadn’t really seen that sincerity
by so large a group of people in the West. I knew that religion was deep-seated
in Africa as part of the tradition and it made me more connected with
myself and know that I too must grip onto my faith, like how they have
gripped onto their faith.

The people, bwai! They’re nice loving people!
Gambia is the most peaceful country in Africa. It’s surrounded by
Senegal so they speak a language called Wolof. Because it was a former
English colony, they speak English too. Seeing the different tribes of
people and how they are so much like I’n’I was a joy really.

LG: And then you went to Cuba…

Mikey: Wow! Well, Cuba is a beautiful experience.
We went to Havana. Luciano was doing some recording. He was recording
a Bob Marley song over a Latin riddim. So he was working with some Cuban
musicians: Cubanismo. He was working with a brother named J»sus.

LG: J»sus Alemany.

Mikey: Yes, he was the trumpeter and the bandleader
too.

LG: When does that get released?

Mikey: Well, I don’t know, but it’s going
to be beautiful. Luciano sang perfectly. The Cuban people are loving people.
There is some poverty but they have love. It’s a peaceful country.
The people are disciplined. They still line up to join the bus and all
that!

LG: With American tourists coming now, did you notice
the difference between Cubans who had access to dollars and those who
didn’t?

Mikey: Yes it’s very apparent because they
have “dollar stores” over there where you can’t spend Cuban
money. You’ll find that there are long lines outside. There are also
restaurants where they sell their food for US money. So, really and truly,
there is extreme poverty there, but the peace and the discipline of the
people is exceptional. Some things are not right but some things are very
good. There are police on every corner so it gives that impression of
being a police state…

It’s cheaper in Cuba. You take out 10 dollars
and you buy food. I tell you, you can’t carry the amount of food
you can buy with 10 US dollars! Local foods like vegetables and yam. It’s
very cheap.

LG: So after Cuba, your album was released.

Mikey:Yes, my album was released in December, produced
by me and Luciano with some tracks produced by Firehouse Crew, some by
Dean Fraser and some by Soljie [Hamilton]. It’s been well received
so far around the world. Give thanks to Jah for that because Jah has been
very instrumental in this album. He’s instrumental in all that I
do, but especially this album. It was He that gave me the vision and the
thought to do it. And to do it on our own label.

LG: Tell me a little bit about the flavor of the
album.

Mikey: The album is called “Spiritual Revolution,”
so you know the flavor already. It’s about a oneness, it’s about
love, about the need to get together as a people, as humanity, as children
of the Most High to come deeper within ourselves to “appreci-love”
each other because if we don’t have this spiritual revolution, we’re
going to have a physical one. And the physical one is always bloody, so
we want a spiritual one that’s peaceful. So that’s the whole
theme of peace, love and prosperity.

LG: Indeed. Currently, dancehall music is very popular
with conscious dancehall artists like Anthony B, Capleton and Sizzla…
How are they different from what you’re doing or is it all the same?

Mikey: Well, it’s the same really. It’s
just that we are singers and they are deejays. Probably some of the things
they are doing, we’re not in total agreement, [pause] like the burning
of fire. I’n’I don’t believe I’n’I should be
judging anyone because, who am I to judge? Am I not a sinner also? I’m
not perfect. So it’s he who’s perfect who should be judging.
They are burning themselves also in that when they are burning they are
really trying to purge. If they’re purging themselves too, then I
can understand. But some of them are casting judgement and not purging
their own self. That can’t be right.

We have some agreements. We love Haile Selassie
and what he stands for and we know they love Haile Selassie too. But it
seems like sometimes some people don’t read about what Haile Selassie
says concerning even the Bible, because you have some Bobos that burn
the Bible. But I’n’I know that Haile Selassie say, “In
the Bible we will find truth for ourselves.” I think it is advisable
to follow the words of the King if we are praising him. So that’s
the only difference I’n’I have with them. It’s the same
message.

LG: Are there any last words you have for the massive?

Mikey: Well, we never say last words. But I would
like to say love and respect to all the brothers and sisters in San Francisco,
Santa Barbara, and all over California. You know His Majesty said that
his favorite part of America was California. So we know that if His Majesty
said that, we don’t have to say anymore.



About Laura :

Laura Gardner is the Founder and Editor of JahWorks.org, the intelligent online magazine about Caribbean music, travel, and culture. She's been involved in radio programming, concert and festival production, artist publicity, and reggae and Caribbean journalism for many media outlets, including the national Beat Magazine and the German magazine Riddim. She loves to travel (especially to tropical places) and has been listening to reggae since about the time she could walk. | View all posts by Laura

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About the author

Laura Gardner is the Founder and Editor of JahWorks.org, the intelligent online magazine about Caribbean music, travel, and culture. She's been involved in radio programming, concert and festival production, artist publicity, and reggae and Caribbean journalism for many media outlets, including the national Beat Magazine and the German magazine Riddim. She loves to travel (especially to tropical places) and has been listening to reggae since about the time she could walk.

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