By Shelah Moody
New age Afro- futurist Rasta. All these terms apply to independent singer/songwriter/producer Fyakin. On August 9, Fyakin released his second full length album, “New Wave,” on his Nyle Banks Music label. The Florida based, Jamaican born reggae artist ushers in a new wave of consciousness with tracks such as “ Africa Awaits,” “Children of Fari” (featuring guest artist Kabaka Pyramid) and “Protection.” As a singer, songwriter and musician, Fyakin explores roots and dub and reflects the lyrical consciousness of revival artists such as Chronixx, Protoje and Kabaka Pyramid. As a DJ, Fyakin boasts with the confidence of his predecessors, U-Roy and Prince Buster on tracks like “Lyrical Don,” “Sauci Parilla Flow,” and “I & I Story.” Fyakin even dabbles into some lover’s rock on “Only For You,” where he urges his partner to roll a spliff with him and get lit and Rastamantic.
Fyakin recently sat down with Island Stage for an in depth interview. Incidentally, Fyakin derived his name from the dancehall hype word “Fyah” and the African term “Akinshejula” which means “Valor Awakens”.
Fyakin hits the road this summer, with a couple of festival highlights. He is co-headlining the second annual Reggae on the Grass festival in Denver, Colorado https://www.facebook.com/reggaeonthegrass/ and the tenth production of One Love One Heart festival in Sacramento, CA. https://oneloveoneheartreggae.com.
Island Stage: Before we begin talking about your new album, tell me about the new line of shoes that you have out.
Fyakin: They are a new Rasta/roots type of shoe, the NBMG collection. I just randomly designed them, because I’m into merchandise as well. It looked wonderful, and I thought that it was a great idea to move forward with. We are promoting them right now and a couple of people have bought them already, so that’s a good look. I got videos from a couple of people who’ve received their shoes and everything. I feel good about it; because I can now say that I’m a designer as well, because people like my designs!
IS: Where can we buy these Fyakin shoes?
Fyakin: You can buy the NBMG collection through a site called https://www.aliveshoes.com/nbmg-collection, designed by myself, Nicholas Levy. It’s an official shoe too; it’s made in Italy with real leather.
IS: As you know, Reggae on the River, one of Northern California’s biggest roots festivals, was canceled this year. Tell us about your experience performing at Reggae on the River 2016.
Fyakin: Well, my experience at Reggae on the River was a great one. It was my first festival in the U.S. It was also my first time performing with Anthony B, a reggae icon. I grew up listening to his music. It was a memorable moment for me, to share the stage with Anthony B; especially on a platform like that. Usually I would perform in clubs or smaller scale venues, so 2016 Reggae on the River was really my first festival experience. There were a lot of people camping; they literally had their tents out. It was my first time seeing all of that. The whole energy and vibration was togetherness. I remember, after performing, I was out in the crowd blazing my likkle spliff; you know how we do it as Rasta. Everybody was so friendly; this princess just walked up to me and took my spliff and took a draw! And she was passing it with her boyfriend or something. Everybody was just cool and high and happy and I’m like, wow.
IS: Now, let’s talk about “New Wave.” You open with a song called “Africa Awaits.” You seem to open all of your albums blessing Africa.
Fyakin: This whole civilization started based upon I & I knowledge. In any project I do, we have the heartbeat music as well, the one-two, like the kete drum, poom-poom; you know, something that’s soul food to the ancestors, giving praises. “Africa Awaits” now is really a track where me tell me brothas and sistas, seh, it’s time–to buckle up and forward together and get our whole reparations. Everybody else did it, you know, so let’s figure out how to get back home and build our home. I’m not saying that we are anti this or anti that. It’s just that we need that unity amongst our nations and it would be great for us to go and build our country. Everybody can live inna love the same way, it’s no “ism- schism” type of vibration that we’re preaching; because we’re all for love, black, white, pink or purple. I always say that I want everybody to live in love and respect each other’s opinion.
IS: Is the next track “Concrete Jungle” a new spin on the Bob Marley classic?
Fyakin: I wouldn’t say that. “Concrete Jungle” is really a spinoff of reality, of what’s going on today, especially the crime rate in my country, Jamaica, and also, worldwide. There have been church shootings a whole bunch of stuff happening in America and bombings of train stations in France. It’s a global thing. I just look at the world as a big concrete jungle. Of course, there are good times when we a guh some wheh and we enjoy we self or when we do what we love. But I wanted to address some of the issues and the things that we are facing. In Jamaica, we have some rogue cops. They are the cops who go around and do bad things for people. They protect the gangsters and they protect a certain type of people while getting paid; you can buy them off. They are the dirty cops, the ones who have the extra guns that are not registered or licenced to their names or to the force, and if anything happens, they can throw the gun and frame the innocent. We are addressing everything, and we’re also talking about the whole vibration of being in a community where you have to be militant and you have to see certain things and you don’t say nothing.
IS: Two of my favorite songs on “New Wave” are “Lyrical Don” and “I & I Story”. Can you explain the difference between American rap and Jamaican toasting?
Fyakin: Toasting? You mean, like an emcee type of vibe? Rapping and toasting; I think they are the same. It’s just that, everyone has a different way that they express the lyrics. Some people can emulate the U-Roys and the old school style better than some. “I &I Story” is really about I, you know. Of course, I can’t tell my whole life story in one song, I’m probably gonna need 100 minutes to do that. Not three minutes or four minutes. “I & I Story” is really giving you a quick run up, cause we nah really deal with run down, of Fyakin’s upbringing as a youth, and the place where I grew up, where I lived and what I used to do as a kid. It’s pretty much a small piece of my autobiography.
IS: Another Island Stage favorite is “Saucy Parilla Flow.”
Fyakin: “Saucy Parilla Flow.” It’s just a freestyle. It’s so organic; I had to call it “Saucy Parilla Flow.” There was a natural, creative vibe flowing through that day. What happened was, I linked up with my bredren, Ratigan from Brixton Music Group and we were there chillin’ and we decided, let’s get crazy; let’s make a beat. That’s when we went to the studio and started putting some stuff together. I started spitting out lyrics; he started working on his part and the magic happened. I had the verses already but I never had the chorus. I remember saying that I wanted the chorus to have something that people could catch on to, even if one line is repeated a couple times. That’s when I came up with Saucy Parilla Flow” (sings). It come with the wind, you know.
IS: Did you produce and write all of the songs on “New Wave?”
Fyakin: I produced most of the songs on the album and I wrote most of the songs on the album.
IS: How many instruments do you play on “New Wave?”
Fyakin: On “Concrete Jungle,” I play every single instrument. I have a collaboration with Kabaka Pyramid on “Children of Fari. I played every instrument on that track. There are several more songs that I play every instrument on. I’m a producer as well. A lot of people don’t know that.
IS: What was it like collaborating with Kabaka Pyramid?
Fyakin: Kabaka and I have a relationship. Anywhere we see each other in the street, even when he just moved to Jamaica, I was there in Penthouse Studios and Kabaka was in town and we would reason and stuff. When he came here to Florida, he would come over and he and Damian Marley dem would kick football. It’s a brotherhood.
IS: From your perspective as a producer, what makes a great song?
Fyakin: Well, some soulful instrumentation. Something spiritual; some positive words. A great song has to be inspiring and positive.
IS: What pop song would you like to re-do in reggae?
Fyakin: I really would love to do Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely.” I would do that song in the blink of an eye. But I want to be mindful of copyright laws and ownership rights.
IS: As a performer, producer and songwriter, what do you think of the state of reggae today?
Fyakin: We have some real talented artists out there. But one thing I can say is that it is becoming political amongst the rasta breddas and sistas them now and divided amongst organizations and groups or sets of people. Reggae needs more unity. A lot of us sing about it but we nah really put it into action. That is a big problem because because unity is the only way that we are going to elevate reggae. If you notice that in other genres, people support their talented acts. You don’t have to be aligned with a particular or top organization in order to make it. Like, a Chronixx can take a Kabaka Pyramid on tour, and Kabaka brings another artist on tour and that artist brings another artist on tour. I’m just using these artists as examples. We would just uplift the community, and that is how we are going to get stronger, you know.
IS: Is there anything more you would like to say about “New Wave?”
Fyakin: It’s gonna be FYAH. There are some solid tracks on it for my fans who have been waiting for quite a while now, ever since “Steamin” hit the airwaves and created a buzz. I’m sorry this album took so long to get it together, but this is what independent artists have to go through; we have to take our time and make sure everything is done right. In my music, there is always an uplifting message. It’s soul food.