MIDNIGHT RAVER sat down for a rare interview with the legendary BUNNY WAILER AKA Cyber Ras to speak about his new 50-track CD box set titled REINCARNATED SOULS, his dealings with Chris Blackwell, and the future of reggae and Rastafari.
MR: So how are you? How is your health?
BW: “Ha, I am strong as a bull man, give thanks.”
MR: So tell the people about this 50 track CD box set you have out now. Why this box set and why now?
BW: “Well the thing about it is Jamaica, the land of ska, rocksteady, and reggae music – and Bob Marley, and Peter Tosh, and Bunny Wailers – whose music the people have been playing over the years, well today we celebrate 50 years of ska, rocksteady, and reggae. This 50-track celebrates and relates this 50 year anniversary through music. So the public, the buying public, the fans can share in this experience and this celebration of 50 years of ska, rocksteady, and reggae. So I put out this 50-track titled ‘Reincarnated Souls’ to signify 50 years. I hope the fans will celebrate it with me (laughs).”
MR: I’ve listened to the set and it is an eclectic mix or fusion of reggae, soul, hip hop, and some other stuff. What were your influences and why did you decide to switch it up a bit for this record?
BW: “Well the thing about it is this music is something that I’ve been involved in for many, many years and there have been artists come through and made their marks, you know. And I respected that and I supported that. So for the celebration, in addition to the ska, rocksteady, and reggae music, there is other music, there are other artists, there are other performers that have been involved in supporting and influencing this music. Even us as The Wailers, we used to cover the soul songs and others that we liked early in our careers. So it is very important that if I am celebrating music, I should celebrate all of the music that I’ve been involved with. So when you listen to the 50-track you will be hearing all of it as a collective.”
MR: So you are the sole survivor of the original Wailers…
BW: “Well I’m not the sole survivor of the original Wailers, there was a girl you know…”
MR: Right Beverly Kelso
BW: “Yes, Beverly. I am the sole musical survivor of the original Wailers because Beverly is not really involved in the business anymore as a musician or singer. So in that respect I am the sole musical survivor.”
MR: Yes, so you have been out front trying, attempting to defend and preserve the legacy of the original group, make sure the legacy is respected, while at the same time the media and various other forces are defining that legacy in their own way…
BW: “All those forces, it’s just Chris Blackwell. Chris Blackwell is the creature who has benefitted the most in this ska, rocksteady, and reggae music. He has gotten rich from our work. He is the one who is aiming and doing these things. But they say “right governance” and I am just trying to do what is right.”
MR: About Blackwell, part of the 50-track is the video of a face-to-face conversation you had with him at Rototom several years back. Was this pre-conceived? Were you aware that he would be there?
BW: “The conversation happened in Rome, which was quite fitting. I don’t think it was a surprise. I got a call from his office beforehand about appearing at this meeting. I was surprised though because Island records had been bought by UMG/Universal and there wasn’t going to be a representative from Universal present at the meeting. It was a complicated situation but it wasn’t my problem you know, for somebody to be somewhere. And the things we discussed that day are things that have been on the table for many years, and Chris Blackwell has never discussed these serious things with me. These things have not been treated in a way that they deserve to be treated as you can see in the video Chris Blackwell is not being serious, he is taking them for a laugh. Those songs are not for a laugh, those are very serious songs. These songs come from the Wailers and the Wailers sing about the world’s plight and these songs have taught people a lot of things that they never would have learned or they would never have become aware of.
I think that what Chris Blackwell has been doing is totally wrong and he is going to pay for it, you know what I’m saying? If he is not going to pay for it with money then he has better got what has got to be paid because he’s gotta pay. In that meeting it was very obvious that there was nothing else to talk about. Everyone gets paid according to their works. You can’t be taking pay and you didn’t do no work. So you got to work somewhere in order to get paid. So this is a very serious situation. I had hoped that this would wake up the consciousness of Chris Blackwell and he would do according to what has been said. But I put my trust in the Most High, Jah Rastafari, and Him only. So I just hope and pray that Chris Blackwell will wake up to a reality that is just and fair.”
MR: So I assumed that nothing has transpired between then and now between you and Blackwell?
BW: “No, nothing. Not a thing. See this is the thing, everyone who was at the conference understood and could relate to what has been done. So I hope that Chris Blackwell realizes what he has done before he takes that final sleep. Because everyone must atone for their works. Everyone will be judged. You cannot escape that. Everyone including Bunny Wailer and Chris Blackwell.”
MR: Now you are getting ready to leave this morning to go play a date in New Caledonia. Are there other dates being planned.
BW: “Well I would think so (laughs). You know Bunny Wailer has been silent for some time now. And now that I put out this 50-track I think the promoters will call because people want to see Bunny Wailer perform on-stage, these tracks, and many others. You know the Wailers catalogue is very deep. But I’m happy to be here and I give thanks for my health, and I am looking forward to carrying this Wailers thing into the future. Myself, Robert Marley, Peter Tosh, Junior Braithwaite, Beverly, Constantine Walker also name “Vision,” those who kept the Wailers alive when Bob made a visit to see his mom. Vision was a member of the Wailers and he too was a member of the Soulettes along with Rita and Marlene “Precious.” I remember it like it is yesterday.”
MR: Yes, I have several Soulettes records here with me in my basement.
MR: With regard to touring, is it still something you dislike doing but it is just a part of the business and something that you must do to stay financially viable in this business?
BW: “Well you know the thing is people believe that touring is not a thing for Bunny Wailer. But I remember from nineteen…well way back when the Wailers during the catch A Fire album and also during the Burnin’ album you know Bunny Wailer toured. And the administration of Chris Blackwell and the way he go about doing what he does, I am not subjected to that. I am not. I am able to do what I am doing now because I am alive and people who were involved with Blackwell are dead. You hear what I am saying? He has his accomplices that are still here. They are not dead yet, but they are going to die because they have done some very serious and evil works that they are going to pay for. And if they have killed people then they too are going to die. That is the law and nobody can change that. King Selassie I created it and he is going to be here eternally.”
MR: How long has this 50-track album been in the works?
BW: “Well it has been a while. It has been like fifteen or sixteen years. You see songs were made to have been put out but when I looked at the history surrounding the music, I thought it better to come out on the 50th anniversary of the ska, rocksteady, and reggae music. It was a good thought and now it is.”
MR: You are also currently involved with the preservation and promotion of the Rastafari movement. You have talked lately about certain meetings that are scheduled regarding Rastafari and a path forward.
BW: “Right now Rastafarians are focused on getting what is just, doing what is right as far as the culture, the custom, and the practice. Praise to the most High Emperor Haile I Selassie I, I look forward to the redemption that I seek. So right now Rastafarians are focused on obtaining and experiencing this redemption.”
MR: And you are involved as someone who is highly respected, an elder so to say, in the movement.
BW: “Yes, give thanks. In everything we do we should always look to maintain a certain level of respect among our peers. It is a good thing to be respected by those around you. Because if you work and you get no respect, well then what would you be working for?”
MR: Speaking about respect, you have been asked on many occasions to appear as a guest on other people’s albums…
BW: “Bunny Wailer has never been asked to appear as a guest on any album. No one has welcomed Bunny Wailer to do anything on their albums. I have been doing things on albums though. I’ve got my daughter Sensi Love, she has just completed a new album titled ‘Save The People’ and I appear on her album doing some things. You will have that one soon. My son Abija is also working on some tracks, we are working together on that. So it seems as though my kin folks are also musically inclined.”
MR: Are you optimistic about the future of reggae, especially the future of reggae coming from Jamaica?
BW: “Well it all remains to be seen. There are plenty of young guys who are out there making their own statements. Guys like Luciano you know. And those statements are needed and necessary. And I also give respect to the deejays like the Bounty Killers, and you know, I respect them for what they have been doing in keeping this reggae thing alive.”
MR: Well, I don’t want to hold you up too long, I know you have a plane to catch to New Caledonia.
BW: “Yes, and it is far.”
MR: So on this 50th anniversary of ska, rocksteady, and reggae, as Bunny Wailer looks back over those 50 years, how does Bunny Wailer feel about what has been accomplished and what he has been able to accomplish?
BW: “Well you know, I am satisfied musically. The songs I sing have done the job that they were intended to do. I see Rastafarians globally and they are of all races. When this music started there were none. All of the Rastas wanted to hide here in Jamaica, and live in the gully, and live in no-man’s land, and not show their face. Now Rastafarians live in big houses and drive nice cars, and Rastas are everywhere and they are of every race. Give thanks.”
MR: Is there anything else you want to say to the people?
BW: “Well of course, I want all the people to know that they are the creation of the Creator who has given them life to live and they must treat each other as human beings if they themselves are to be treated as human beings. For what you give is what you get. Give thanks.”
To read more about the REINCARNATED SOULS 50-Track Box Set, please see my previous post.
CLICK HERE to purchase the REINCARNATED SOULS 50-Track Box Set
I would be curious to ask Bunny why he doesn’t link up with some producers and create some fresh yet rootsy material? His talk about Blackwell makes me think he has been drinking the from the same cup as Burning Spear. Kinda sad.
No, Bunny was as coherent and thoughtful as ever. He feels very deeply that Blackwell has robbed from him and the Wailers, that Blackwell made promises he could not or would not keep. He got very rich off the work of these brilliant musicians. Believe me, Bunny knows exactly what he wants to say and he is as eloquent as anyone I’ve interviewed.
I didn’t mean the incoherence but instead the hyper focus on being jilted by the industry. This is similar to what Spear is going through.
It would have been interesting to hear why Bunny refused to let Roger Steffans release his biography ?
Thanks, Midnight Raver for this interview with Bunny Wailer.
My dream…hook up Bunny with Rick Rubin. He has consistently gotten top notch performances from artists that are looking to reclaim their artistic soul.
that would be something
Its a pity in these austere times that the asking price for this set is unreasonably high. someone needs to be reminded that Reggae is a peoples music, the music of the ghetto and the sufferah. Not the music of greed.