I was very anxious to speak with Ramu, this month's featured artist being a reggae performer, since I have a personal affinity with reggae music. As we prepared for the interview at Mike Garrigan's "Two Egrets Media & Recording" studio in Greensboro, I was recalling in my mind my own introduction to reggae music as a young boy in the Bahama Islands. It struck me how the genre has been labelled as political, or protest music, being deeply rooted in and associated with the struggle of many in Jamaica (the land of its origin) to be free of oppression and poverty. Despite those labels, be they right, or wrong, there is an energy in the music that is so uplifting to me that when hearing it, it is almost impossible for one not to be moved and feel good. So, I was naturally curious to hear what my guest would have to share in that regard.
As we began our chat, I had him tell us how it was that he came to be known as "Ramu". From there, we moved into finding out about his musical influences. My surprise at his answer shows up in the video as he lists what were for me, some very unexpected artists and musical styles. But, as he continued his story it wove its way into his discovery of reggae music through his cousin who played bass in a local Greensboro reggae band known as Sahara Reggae Band.
We also spent time talking about Rastafari and his identification with the movement. He explained his understanding of what it means to be "Rasta" and how it affects his own life and the music he writes and performs. I was intrigued with the fact that his lyrics (what I have heard so far) are focused on a laid back, peaceful, inclusive and loving message. With that in my mind, I asked him about one of his songs, the name of which, I could not quite bring to mind. As I began describing it, he knew immediately. "Bamboo Shack" he smiled, and the story continued it winding path as we explored the meaning behind his lyrics.
The topic soon turned to the band he has put together which will be named "The Chosen Ones". He and his group are focused for the moment on recording their forthcoming CD which is due for release in the summer of 2013. His excitement about both the CD and the prospects of the band's future live performances is evident on his face. In fact, his pure enjoyment of life, "One Love" (a Rasta philosophy) and his music are evident is his demeanor at all times. In the remaing minutes of our conversation Ramu talks about his years as a musician and his love of reggae music. I ask him about what may have been the biggest challenge for him over the years and maybe you will be surprised, as I was, to hear his response. From there, we unravel what for me was a certain, but mistaken notion, that he was from Jamaica. Again I was given the opportunity to see that all is not as it appears and there is much to learn from each persons story. As I listened intently, he took us from his birth place to here and now in Greensboro. Wishing you much success, Ramu!