Wed | Sep 19, 2018

Irie Souljah has 'Immigrant' J'can experiences

Published:Wednesday | May 30, 2018 | 12:00 AMMel Cooke
Irie Souljah.
Irie Souljah.
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Irie Souljah's debut album, Immigrant, was released in 2015 - a year after he moved to Jamaica from his home country Spain.

The album's title track was written after he saw footage of some Africans' desperate - and often doomed - struggle to get to Europe. But after presenting his passport with the name Josep Grau Saula at the Norman Manley International Airport and going to live in Stony Hill, the reggae artiste has had many memorable experiences finding his space in the land of the music and Rastafari faith he is committed to.

One thing he realised from early, is that "in Jamaica you have to earn respect." Irie Souljah, who has a merry twinkle in his eye and speaks flawless Jamaican Nation Language, earned his through a combination of humour and his art. 'I used to take the bus from Stony Hill to Kingston every day, and every time is the same thing - Jr Gong, ProtojÈ," he said, relating how the conductors would call him to come on their bus, just as they would call out 'babymother' to the women travelling with a child and 'fatty' to larger women.

One day, Irie Souljah had had enough and responded with "I say stop the %%##@@!!!. Yu tink Jr Gong going to tek yu dutty bus and give yu $100?" It was not said in anger, but the good spirit of banter, with Irie Souljah saying, "I don't take it personal. They don't say it to bother you. You know how 'ductor stay."

 

'I am Irie Souljah'

 

So he declared himself. "I say I am Irie Souljah, mi a artiste. Dem say play one a yu chune. Mi play it (on the bus' sound system) and dem say yeah!" Irie Souljah said. The dynamics changed instantly, and he smiled as he said "mi haffi hail up everybody pon di bus."

Irie Souljah, who is managed by Nice Time Productions, has a lot of faith in the song he would probably play now if he was in that situation again, Jah Jah Don't Leave Me on the Destiny Riddim. And, from having persons at Three Miles helping him out when his car broke down (although the tow truck driver only got $2,000 after he charged $10,000) to ending up performing for persons being held in the lock-up at Half-Way Tree Police Station after an encounter of the herbal kind, he has had overwhelmingly positive experiences.

"Is few, few occasion where people dis mi or approach mi in a negative way," he said. Ironically, it was a Rastafari. "I recall one day mi deh pon one ends a play some music an a pure Rasta an' chalice a smoke. Dis Rasta elder start cuss mi - your ancestors enslave my people. I say as far as I can recall, my great-grandfather was a poor man. If your great-great grandfather was a slave, trus' mi, my great-great grandfather was not a slave master," Irie Souljah replied. The other persons there quickly shut down the critic.

Part of earning respect is loyalty, Irie Souljah speaking about the kindness of persons who helped him out one day when he was hungry and had without bus fare to go home from Half-Way Tree. Food came from his regular spot and a ride was provided by his accustomed ductors as Irie Souljah committed to paying the fare later. He understands that this was possible "because you done things before. Is a thing that really work in Jamaican life. Yu will have some people no really remember, but most time it work."

melville.cooke@gleanerjm.com