Kebra Ethiopia Sound has been playing Reggae Roots Music at community parks in the ghetto for over ten years. It was established in Kwa Thema, a township south-west of Springs on the East Rand in Gauteng, South Africa. The township has given birth to many successful individuals who have helped in the development of the town, and one such individual is Lekentle Mohlala, known as Doc Inity, the founder of Kebra Ethiopia Sound and South Africa’s ambassador of Dub. Kebra Ethiopia is more than just a sound system, it is movement that concerns itself with community upliftment, socioeconomic issues, ghetto living and spreading Pan African teachings. Through its University of Steppas, a social integrative tool that uses Unity Dancing, Doc Inity has been able to recruit and inspire ghetto youths, by offering a socializing space of meditation playing music that aim to communicate spiritually through roots and culture maintaining African pride, integrity and authenticity. In 2014 Doc Inity together with the University of Steppas crew embarked on a successful tour of Brazil. The following year they toured Italy and also played at the Dub Camp Festival performing alongside greats like Jah Shaka, Bush Chemist, Jah Tubby, Channel One and more. They played at Rototom Sunsplash in Spain, Dour Festival in Belgium, Amsterdam SoundSystem Weekender and in other countries including Colombia, ReUnion Island, Poland and Mexico. The sound system from Kwa Thema, with Doc Inity at the controls has been flying the South African Flag High in the Dub scene the world over. Doc Inity is fittingly the ambassador of the South African Dub Experience and he does it so for the love of Dub, Roots Reggae and Africa.
Here he shares his story with Soul Sista Sekano, from the humble beginnings of Kwa Thema to the World Dub Stages.
SoulSista: Tell us a bit about who is Doc Inity.
Doc Inity: I’ve always been grounded as a child. I grew up in a family with values and good support. I can only remember being an indigo child: I never concerned myself with what was trending or ‘cool’. I saw through my school years and finished my diploma in the medical field. There was always music at home. And reggae was the one genre that I could always connect and relate to when it was being played at home my mother loved Bob Marley and Peter Tosh, so before I was Doc Inity I was already deeply enthralled by the genre. During my puberty years I bought a tape of Bob Marley and I never could appreciate anything else other than. That was the beginning of my obsession, no one could convince me anything else was cooler than that.
SoulSista: Medical field? What were you studying? And have you worked in the medical field?
Doc Inity: I am a qualified Medical Technologist, I have been practicing since 2008.
SoulSista: How did you get to be called Doc Inity?
Doc Inity: At High school a friend of mine used to call me Doc Unity, then in 2005 I got an invite from Jah Crucial to accompany him to play on YFM during a slot of Bad Boy T, Lee and Sanza. He insisted that I should come up with a name to use on Radio, then without wasting no time, I said Doc Unity and replied yes Doc Inity, since then I’ve been using that name…
SoulSista: You manage one of the most successful Sound Systems in the country, Kebra Ethiopia Sound System, when and how did it start?
Doc Inity: Kebra Ethiopia means glory to Africa. This name was given by Jah Roots who bestowed this name upon me at a session I was playing. I’m of the comprehension that he was complimenting how much I was glorifying Africa in my set. That’s how the name came about. As for the sound system as Kebra I have been at it for over 15 years me and my brothers would hire speaker boxes and play reggae music at whatever open space we could use to gather the community and share the music. We used donations and young as we were; we understood the essence of solidarity and helping one another to survive. Is why we had food cans, monetary donations, bread anything we could collect to then forward it after the session to schools. Much as this was about the music it was always in culmination with black brotherly love. In the year 2012 I met up with Ethel who was also doing what she could to forward the music by doing events. We teamed up and decided we needed to be more audible, more amplified to carry this much needed consciousness to a larger mass of people at an uncompromising quality. We then put our hard work in and start to built the new sound that u see today.
SoulSista: How do you identify with it?
Doc Inity: I have no doubt that everywhere I go, every set I play, every subject I talk of is about Africa. I feel it is my obligation as one with a platform and voice to tell whomever can listen of my history, my people, my story, and importantly with dignity. And I believe it is out of order for anyone who can gather more than one African person in a group and not talk of Africa! I identify deeply with the name, love my people and love playing this music to my brothers and sisters. I truly glorify My Africa. And really is a privilege and honor to carry such a name.
SoulSista: In a country where reggae DJs/musicians are struggling to make a breakthrough in the music industry, you chose a lesser known sub-genre: the Roots Reggae, Dub and Foundation! Why?
Doc Inity: We can be touched by many genres talking of the same subject. Be it poverty, politics, ghetto life etc. but when it comes to me: no other genre is so philosophical in its essence, discusses African history and its story, speaks of a god inside each man, advocates black consciousness and knowing thy self better than reggae music. There would be no Dub without reggae. Dub is the voiceless extension of the pre-laid lyrics. With this genre I could relate so much to the daily lives we were living and so I think it was that that made me chose this path. The poverty I saw was in the music, the political upheavals around me I heard were sung about I even could find solace in the music in times of trying to find myself. So I guess I wanted to share this feeling with another, this feeling of encouragement of living good, truthful and and positive. The truth is that I never cared to breakthrough I was doing what close to my heart and I wanted to do it at its best. Reggae is not a commercial scene, it is Revolution music and because of its message it will always be underground.
SoulSista: How can the whole reggae movement in S.A help in taking the reggae scene to higher levels?
Doc Inity: Sound system is the Protector of Reggae, without Sound System Reggae music would fade away. Reggae has always been very depended on Sound System. So we need a lot of sounds to rise and play reggae music in its highest possible quality. We also need to professionally document our events, there seem to be a level of incompetency in how we present reggae music. It should start with how we design our flyers, how we present our work on social media. If we can get that right, then I strongly believe organically it will grow.
SoulSista: You’ve played in some of the biggest festivals in the world like Rototom festival, how was the experience for you?
Doc Inity: Rototom was very memorable the venue is very beautiful with solid crowds more intimate and a special feeling or a crazy intense energy of the whole experience. Truly an experience.
SoulSista: In march next year 2019 you’ll be playing among, some would say the greatest sound systems on this planet, how do you feel sharing the stage with big names like Aba Shanti-I, Indica Dubs, Dreadical Warriors?
Doc Inity: I look forward to be playing on Indica Dubs Sound system, I’ve had the privilege to be at their sessions already twice at some of the festivals I was playing at, but never played on their sound, I believe its one of the top sounds and very special in a way that it sounds so good without a Reggae traditional “Pre Amp”. I’m a Big fan of Aba Shanti-I full time!!!! He is one of the UK Sound System Pioneer, I’ve played at a few festivals among him already and each session is very special. I feel so honored to be placed next to him, truly is a blessing.
SoulSista: How do you mentally prepare yourself for a gig?
Doc Inity: I Love music, and every session to me is an opportunity to listen to the music and share with people, so this feeling of “looking forward to share” helps ease up the tension before the set.
“Kebra Ethiopia Sound, an African Sound System appreciated in Europe and States”
“Last year they turned the Dub corner upside down, so we had to re-invite Kebra Ethiopia Sound System. They hail from Johannesburg and their warm songs have one purpose: to make you dance!” DOUR FESTIVAL 2017.
SoulSista:How does it make you feel when you read statements like this?
Doc Inity: It makes me feel so nervous because I see that there is no room for incompetency, so every session is a challenge to keep such status alive.
SoulSista: Did you ever envision yourself coming this far in the industry?
Doc Inity: Oh No, it’s really strange that every time I go abroad, especially further away, like Europe or South America, it’s really weird and exceptional that there are people there that know me and my sound and they come to a festival to listen my message. Every time it’s a highlight. When you can express yourself and the people understand that, in another far away place, it’s really special.
SoulSista: Do you ever reflect on where you come from and where you are now (in terms of the music and life in general) and think, WOW! What a journey!
Doc Inity: Oh no I have honestly just getting started hehe, we have a long journey ahead, and we have a big responsibility to carry the message to the people.
SoulSista: Would you ever consider or have you ever considered moving abroad for the sake of more exposure?
Doc Inity: Moving abroad?? No! I have played in over 15 countries and I can positively affirm that the talented Jamaicans who are African has produced this spiritual music. It is for this reason that I feel I have no ambition to expatriate. I love playing this music here at home. Reggae Music has the messages that must be heard by the whole world and I feel it is of absolute grave importance that Africans hear this music.
SoulSista: Your Festival wish list? Locally and internationally.
Doc Inity: Internationally I hope to play at the Nothing Hill Carnival, locally hmm I would need to produce a festival that would accommodate our music in its authentic style.
SoulSista: University of Steppas, how did that movement start? And why did you start it?
Doc Inity: Here at home we know for a fact we always ‘step’ or ‘skank’ this has always been happening from my first visits to a Rasta dance. What transpired was that in this journey of mine of playing sound every Sunday in my community I had a lot of young people who enjoyed this safe space and grew to follow me and have been around me in this endeavor. I realized this and after much introspection I then took it upon myself to take on these youths and bring them with me in my trips around the world so we can share this culture. I then named them University of Steppas. As we wanted a name affiliated with what we were doing. But stepping has long been a tradition here at home.
SoulSista: Future plans for the University of Steppas?
Doc Inity: There’s always stepping, there will always be stepping is not my movement but a movement of the people. For as long as there’s reggae music there will be stepping.
SoulSista: Do you make or produce music?
Doc Inity: I am currently working on a single with Bongo Riot, it’s going to be the 1st release on our record label. The single will be released on 12-inch Vinyl next year.
SoulSista: What is the name of the record label, any other artists under the stable?
Doc Inity: The name of the record label is Kebra Ethiopia Sound Records, at the moment we are working with only Bongo Riot.
SoulSista: Would one be correct to call you “Dub specialist”
Doc Inity: Oh No, I consider myself a Roots Reggae disciple, traditionally when you play roots music on vinyl automatically you going to play dub, because of how the music is produced the “b” side always has a dub, with that being said, I would call myself a dub advocate.
SoulSista: Are you married, single, looking?
Doc Inity: I’ve been married for 7 years, and I have been blessed with two boys.
SoulSista: How do you keep the balance between your work and the family?
Doc Inity: It’s a sacrifice, and I can say that I am blessed because my family supports my work and encourage me to never stop.
SoulSista: If you weren’t a DJ, what would you be up to right now?
Doc Inity: I would be dead, Reggae literally saved me!!
SoulSista: That is a very deep statement, care to elaborate?
Doc Inity: A lot of my friends were involved in drugs and criminal activities, some are dead and some ended up in Jail, because of the message from reggae music I was able to find my path and be independent in my decisions, I was not easy influenced.
SoulSista: What is the one thing you most want people to remember about you?
Doc Inity: The Sound that preserved Reggae music in Africa,
SoulSista: Any special shout outs?
Doc Inity: To my Grandparents!!! They sacrificed a lot for us to be able to break the barriers and created opportunities for ourselves.
Kebra Ethiopia Sound on Social Media
Facebook | Instagram : @kebraethiopia