Wed | Feb 8, 2023

Cali P and JuJu Rogers ‘Stand Up’ for rebel music

Producer TEKA continuing to bring reggae and hip-hop worlds together

Published:Saturday | October 15, 2022 | 12:07 AMStephanie Lyew/Gleaner Writer

LowLow Records principal and multi-instrumentalist Thilo ‘TEKA’ Jacks is on a high, having been able to connect long-time collaborator, reggae artiste Cali P and Germany-born rapper JuJu Rogers on a revolutionary single.

“It was an honour to have the track being brought to life by the two artistes,” said TEKA in an interview with The Gleaner.

He added, “I’ve been following their musical journeys for years and, production-wise, the focus has for long been about bringing the worlds of reggae, dancehall and hip hop together – just like Cali and JuJu have been successful in doing with their music.”

Based in Berlin, TEKA is also instinctively influenced by the sounds of underground music from the earlier era of jazz, and then by the crossover period when there was a rise in punk and rock bands. He also shared that, with a mother who often travelled to countries across Africa and would bring music back home, he could not ignore the calling of traditional African drums and other percussion instruments.

“She was the person who exposed me to the sounds of Miriam Makeba, who was not only powerful in her music but in her actions as a civil rights activist. That was my first impression of their mainstream and to know what is rhythm, with singing and languages – it’s not a strong memory, obviously, but it has influenced me,” TEKA said.

Cali P also explained that the sounds of African music echoed through his home. Born Pierre Nanon to a European mother from Switzerland and a Rastafarian father from the French Caribbean island of Guadeloupe, he has been destined for the mission to stand up as a true representation of love, transcending racial divisions.

He told The Gleaner, “My upbringing with music is part of [what] makes me a person, who musically don’t see no limit or borders; I love to work with all types of music in an authentic way, the way it should be represented. Of course, I will add my touch and my originality to it, and it will be influenced by reggae and dancehall music.

Some may call what Cali P does ‘rebel music’, and though he explained that no one has ever told him that he needed to represent in an exclusive way, he acknowledges that his sound “very much has a distinctive roots sound”.

In an effort to get closer to reggae, Cali P moved to Jamaica in 2010. He and TEKA embarked on the new release almost a year after releasing a full-length LP titled Vizion because they had shared a vision of delivering another production that sparked what he dubbed ‘word, sound and power’.

“The moment I heard the instrumental, I could see it had elements of rebel music and that it needed something of word, sound and power. Then when I heard of JuJu Rogers, I realised right away that he was an artiste like me that pays attention to word, sound and power, [so] it was very clear to me this would transform into a ‘stand up’ song that motivates the people to get up and make a change,” he said.

Aptly titled Stand Up, the three musicians, upon meeting at TEKA’s studio in Kreuzberg, wanted to craft an explosive anthem that shares their deepest wishes “for us all to be free, rebellious spirits in the face of oppression worldwide,” Cali P offered, noting that, with lyrics like, “if yuh tired of the foolishness stand up … nothing will ever change if we nuh buss up dem chains”, it is anticipated people will end up using it as motivation during their fights for justice.

“Reggae music always had that power of bringing across messages and is influential in social commentary, [so] it is important what input an artiste puts into the genre because the people will continue to hear the music once it is released,” Cali P said.

JuJu Rogers, born Julian, while making waves in hip hop, was only opened that door late in his life. His biography reads that trumpet lessons and his father’s record collection were his musical influences until he was 14. His father, hailing from New Orleans, which he proudly shared, “has for long been noted for having a connection to your region”. JuJu Rogers is no stranger to mixing worlds, with roots in New Orleans, Germany, and Austria (on his mother’s side) and a sound honed over decades that incorporates everything from rebellious reggae artistes like Peter Tosh to Marvin Gaye’s seductive swagger. Some of his best songs are, Hungry, Babylon, Do It For, Real S**t, which he performed live for The Colors Show, and most recently released a rendition of the powerful Bob Marley classic, Buffalo Soldier.

“Have you ever heard that it’s the northernmost city in the Caribbean?” he eloquently asked, adding, “It is for this reason I have always been connected to the message of roots reggae.”

THE ESSENCE

For the most part, he described the essence of his sound as primarily hip hop “in its purest set, the resistant rebellious cultural understanding of the hip hop genre with inspiration from reggae. So, when they invited me to the studio, I felt super-honoured as a fan – and I still am a fan”.

JuJu Rogers shared that, while the hip-hop genre has been watered down for generations – as it relates to the messages being spread through the music, he has been committed to creating rebel music.

“Am I understanding that what I do is resistance? I feel it is a soundtrack of how I and how other people around the world feel. My music has been played during various demonstrations in Berlin, and I’m constantly trying to create a culture of resisting oppression. I tried to listen to those who [came] before me and been influenced in a way that I can cultivate the message in my music. I, too, feel it would be an honour if this track became a soundtrack [to] speak out against injustice … and I have to do it this way to speak out and stand out,” JuJu Rogers shared.

stephanie.lyew@gleanerjm.com