Written by Alien Head
‘When are we (Afrikans) going to have the courage to reinvent ourselves?’ It is this and other questions relating to self knowledge and its consequent power that seemed to dominate the messages that were coming forth from the great oracle – King MAS – during a recent consultation. The visit to his sacred shrine revealed many a great insight about how a positive self concept, a natural outgrowth of a thorough knowledge of one’s history and culture, can be a source of strength.
As a musician, King MAS’ is a pioneer with an extensive resume who has remained largely underrated considering his contributions to reggae music and its overall creative direction. ‘Rasta Evolution’– King’s latest offering – is due to be released in December 2014 on ‘Nature’s Way Entertainment. The album, which is the first in a trilogy, features Jemere Morgan (who was also featured on the artist’s previous record: the ‘One Wish’ album) and Mzansi’s Faya Uman with whom he collaborated on a song called ‘Strength of a womb-an’ during his recent trip to the country. The song is about the divinity of the earth, which is understood to represent a feminine energy in various Afrikan religions and how ‘she’ has been violated as a consequence of humanity’s disconnection from spirit or consciousness. King MAS’ music flows from an understanding of himself as a divine being, and a vessel through which the ancients communicate with the present generation. Even though his fan base is very receptive to his ideas, he has also experienced some resistance to them along his journey, ’ I’ve been told many a time that what I am doing is unnecessary, or ‘just sing for the gyal dem!’ and just keep it simple, and I’ve been advised in all sorts of ways by different people, but, again; you have to realize yourself [laughs], and know what you’re doing and what you’re here for and also realize that many others don’t realize themselves or even realize what’s really happening around them, so when they’re offering their feedback and their opinions they can only offer it based on a limited perspective which they are coming from,’.
Lovers of King MAS’ music (in whom the fear of the unknown is not as intense) will note how he seems to shape-shift between two different manifestations; one being that of a love deity and the other a fierce warrior determined to advance the interests of the oppressed. He is aware of how context and historical experience influence which of his songs a particular audience gravitates to and how these could explain the warm reception to his music in Mzansi; “someone who does not share my experience may relate more to my lover’s rock songs (such as) ‘Ocean of emotion’ and things that are more common to the human experience, but then when you begin speaking from, again, that Afrikan worldview and begin speaking from a standpoint where you’re thinking about nation building, or you’re being intentionally political in what you’re saying, lyrically, the people who will appreciate that are the people who are sharing your experience as someone who has been historically oppressed‘.
In August of 2014, King MAS released ‘Pon Di Corner’ which is a protest song calling for an end to the continued anti-black violence in the United States by the police. Discussing this song, King makes the connection between the powerlessness of Afrikan people and how the lack of a collective identity contributes to the re-occurrence of murders such as that of Mike Brown which inspired the song; ‘we don’t have the ability to cause any repercussion to come to somebody who violates a member of our nation, we don’t really have a collective identity. What happens in most of these debates, even among just a handful of Afrikans in the Diaspora, you’re going to typically have half of the people in the discussion saying, you know, ‘no, but these boys, they really do need to pull their pants up and stop listening to that trash music …’ so again, we’re on trial; because I got shot as an unarmed man – I am on trial, and not the person who shot me. And we participate in this as a people; we’ve internalized the European worldview to the point where we’ll do this to ourselves, and so it is very difficult to get other nations to respect you, when you don’t respect yourself or when you don’t respect other members of your same group’.
This idea of transformation as a process that should involve the inward direction of all attention, energy and effort is what King MAS’ ‘Rasta Evolution’ concept revolves around. This concept offers a refreshing perspective with many implications. Rasta Evolution points to the necessity for Afrikan people to change from within in order for changes in external conditions to be of any significance, from this perspective every member of ‘the nation’ is accountable and plays an active role in safe guarding and advancing its interests (it is this theme of accountability that seems to have inspired the lyrics to King’s song titled ‘Reflection’). Another implication of this concept is that culture; what people do and how they live, is a political tool at the disposal of oppressed people; ‘if you want to change a culture or change a system you must simply create one that is so superior to it that it becomes irrelevant or it becomes… obsolete, is the better word. We have to lose and give away some things, I mean culture is not stagnant, identities are not static, things have always been dynamic and we have always been in a state of shifting an evolving, but we must be very deliberate in how we evolve, because you can make changes to yourself that are going to lead you to an evolutionary dead end [laughs] and we don’t want to be just an exhibit in a museum a thousand years from now like the Tasmanians are right now, so, what do we need to right now to ensure our survival? Because currently we are not in any position to even determine how likely we are to survive into the distant future’