Tue | Jan 28, 2020

5 Questions with The Lambsbread

Published:Friday | December 13, 2019 | 12:26 AMKimberley Small/Staff Reporter
From left: Nadia, Jacob Selassie, Kaya and Samuel Levi of The Lambsbread.

Hawaii is as far away as the other side of the world, but the Pacific islands cluster bears acute similarities to the Caribbean – particularly Jamaica. Kaya, band leader of The Lambsbread, painted a clear picture. “Coconuts, mangoes, breadfruit, tropical breezes, the ocean, but I think the connection with reggae is something different still,” he told The Gleaner.

The Lambsbread launched out as a duo, with Kaya and Nadia as vocalists, on the Liberation riddim by Zion High Productions in 2003. This marked the first time that a Hawaiian act was released on Jamaican vinyl. The riddim featured Yami Bolo, Turbulence, Capleton, and Lutan Fyah. Over their sustained career, The Lambsbread have performed alongside Freddie McGregor, Toots & the Maytals, and Barrington Levy, and has shared stages with the likes of ‘reggae revivalist’ Kabaka Pyramid, Protoje, and Hempress Sativa. They have even toured the Hawaiian islands with celebrated St Croix band, Midnite.

Still, the connection, Kaya notes, goes deeper than cross-country collaborations. Kaya, with his partner Nadia, their children Samuel Levi (19 years), Jacob Selassie (15 years) and sensational five-year-old singer-songwriter Ikaika, all trod paths that continue to widen with the essences that define reggae music by singing songs of freedom and redemption, and propagating the call to stand up for human rights.

Here are Five Questions with the Hawaii-based family band, The Lambsbread:

1. Besides the tropical climate, do you think there is another esoteric connection between Jamaica and Hawaii that sustains the reggae music relationship?

Kaya: From the first time Bob Marley came here and performed in Hawaii, I think that reggae music established itself as the people’s music. Not because of the environment, but through the message that reggae music conveys. ‘Stand Up For Your Rights’ is a message that the people of Hawaii could 100 per cent relate to.

Many people view Hawaii as the 50th state, but when you live in Hawaii, you know that that view is not actually completely accepted by the Hawaiians. Hawaii is very similar to Jamaica in the time when Jamaica was a colony of the UK. You can think of Hawaii as a colony of the US. So I feel like Hawaii instantly related to reggae music as the freedom fighter music, as much of the oppressed people of the world do.

2. How did your children get involved? Was it nature or nurture that pulled them into music?

From the youngest age, everyone of them was instantly drawn to music. Samuel was building his own drum kits at two years old. Jacob was playing keyboards by the time he was seven. And Ikaika, before he could talk, had already started performing for us, singing on his toy mic (that he created out of cardboard with his mother).

Of course, we nurtured their natural talent by providing them with instruments, teaching them the basics of music, but it was their own determination to practise and advance in music, that led to them joining the group. They also had many talented professional musicians around them who were like their uncles, that helped guide them – people like Prezident Brown, Nelson Miller, Devon Bradshaw, and Wadi Gad, who played with us in the early years of The Lambsbread, and were there to make a solid impression on the youths.

3. Samuel seems very advanced for his age, as the band’s drummer, mixing and producing music. Do you ever worry about your children entering such a cutthroat industry?

Definitely, the music industry is a very demanding and sometimes stressful environment. At the same time, I don’t think Samuel would have it any other way. He was born with the natural talent to play drums, and can play any style of the greats in reggae drumming that have come before. He really taught himself to play, and has a style hard to find in a drummer in Hawaii. He was [raised] with roots-reggae music so that drop is ingrained in him, and super solid. As a mixing engineer, he is also self-taught. He was home schooled and was encouraged to follow his interest, so naturally music was his favourite subject. At 16, he and his brother Jacob produced their first track, Roots and Culture, from our album World Needs Love, featuring Sizzla Kolonji.

As far as the music business and its cutthroat side, I don’t worry because I really believe in the higher power, and know that these gifts Jah blessed us with are for a reason, to help make the world a better place.

4. Are you listening to any of the young reggae music acts coming out of Jamaica, like Koffee, Lila Ike, and Mortimer? What do you think of them?

I love the new EP from Mortimer. One of my bredren, Devon Bradshaw, played bass on it. Lila Ike is a great singer and performer, Koffee is also very talented and I hope they keep producing some reggae tracks with her, as it seems they are going more for the commercial, American market with her current sound. I also love Hempress Sativa, Kabaka Pyramid, and Protoje, who we had the honour of performing with on our last two tours in California and Oregon.

5. Tell us about ‘Pass Me The Fire’, written by Jacob Selassie, and The Lambsbread’s sixth upcoming album.

Pass Me The Fire is the first single from our upcoming 2020 album. The song was created one day in the studio, when I was passing by and I heard Jacob building the riddim (rhythm). From the first time I heard it, the hook came right to me, and I walked back in and sang it to Jacob “dem a blow away like chaff, pass mi di fyah, mek mi burn dem down to ash!” I had the immediate feeling that it was a hit, and we started working on the tune. We sent the riddim off to our bredren Chris Meredith, Stephen Marley’s bass player, and had him drop a baseline on it. Chris had met us in Hawaii and instantly took a liking to our family and Samuel and Jacob.

On their first tour on the US mainland, Chris played the dates with us and also recorded most of the tracks on World Needs Love with us in the studio in Maui. As Chris put it, ‘Anything the youth dem touch a murda’. So he dropped a wicked baseline on it, and our guitar player Jesus ‘Chewy’ Gallegos laid down the mad pick line, Nadia blessed the track with her angelic voice, and Pass Me The Fire was born. There is also a video in the works that is being filmed and produced and edited by Jacob, another one of his amazing talents at only 15 years old.