Foresta & Royal Blu
Sing with God
The promising collaboration of German music producer Foresta and Jamaican Singer Royal Blu disembogues in a versatile EP titled Sing With God. After a sneak peek with their single Believe last year August the two artists now present their five track strong record as a result of an inspiring journey.
Sing With God provides an alternative concept to the far more known saying ‘Dance with the Devil’. Rather than a religious notion, it describes a positive abstraction while also talking about the ‘downs of life’. To Sing With God means to align yourself with positivity – to bring good into the world for the purpose of pushing progress. The title track – with feature guest Runkus – itself describes the connection and interaction between these two poles with strong and vivid images that upon closer inspection present enigmas that leave room for a listener’s own interpretation.
All tracks were recorded at Quik Keyz’s Studio in Kingston, Jamaica over the past two years during Foresta’s multiple visits on the island:
“The process of creating the EP was really new and refreshing for me. It also helps that Foresta and I became genuine friends the more we were around each other. So that made the music and the process even more organic.”
“It was an amazing time. During the sessions a lot of people would just swing by the studio being curious to see what we are working on and to share vibes or input. I met a lot of new faces.”
While Let’s Get High is about unmet expectations between two human beings, Believe together with Lila Iké talks about faith as if it would be a loved one that is hard to keep around. Blu Mahoe doesn’t quickly reveal its message, as it addresses the beauty of Jamaica and nature in general (which is at stake), while referencing the negative impact of the corporate world and even Jamaica’s history of slavery. In On The Side Royal Blu sings: ‘Everybody wants to be on the fast lane, until the fast lane ain’t fast no more’, a reference to the way today’s want for individual progress may produce negative values in today’s society. Musically too, the project does not follow the fast-lane trends of Jamaica but sets a sound in its own space and time making for a smooth journey through valleys of timeless sounds – Foresta’s signature style, a blend of Hiphop, Soul, Urban and Reggae combined with Royal Blu’s Jamaican delivery.
The EP’s artwork is the masterpiece of Taj Francis, Royal Blu’s brother and one of Jamaica’s most talented visual artists. Sing With God EP released on November 24, 2017 and is available on all digital platforms.
Official Website: Foresta-Music.com
IRIE. Tell us about your background and how you both got started in music.
Foresta. I come from a very musical family in Berlin/Germany. I was always surrounded by music and almost everybody I knew as a child played an instrument. So I wanted that too and learned piano at the age of 5 or so. When I was a teenager I started to use this knowledge to work on beats and instrumentals, because I always knew that I wanted to work in music. Hiphop and Reggae were definitely an influence right from the start.
Royal Blu I wasn’t born into a musical family. I’m probably the first in my family to do music, actually. I’m from Spanish Town, St. Catherine and I went to Meadowbrook High School. I would always listen to music and lipsync the lyrics in my room in front of the mirror. I would also write little songs in grade 5 and 6, but I really started got into it in high school. I was in a crew that basically wrote songs about how they raised the lunch prices and it was unjust. We would go up to my friend Mark’s house up in the hills to record songs on a little Burger King mic. After high school is when I had my first set of official studio recordings at Gargamel Studios with the same high school friends.
IRIE. What inspired you to start writing music? Do you remember the first song you ever wrote?
Royal Blu What inspired me to start writing music was the fact that I was an intricate listener of music. I didn’t just listen on the surface. I would try to dissect how they put together words to make them sound so interesting, as well as the melodies and harmonies. Eventually I wanted to do that for myself because I loved that so much.
The first full, solo song I ever wrote was in grade 9. It was what we Jamaicans call a “gun tune”. That was the kind of music that had the biggest influence at the time in dancehall, so that’s what we tried to emulate as kids.
IRIE. You’re an amazing producer and videographer. How did you get started in your field? Who were some of your musical influences that helped shape your music?
Foresta. Thank you. At some point I started releasing music and became part of a Berlin-based record label. Since we did everything by ourselves we started working on our own video content too. At some point people would approach us to create video content for them as well and the label also evolved into a media company. It kinda just happened naturally. Everything I know about videography is self-taught, cause I never intended to become a videographer. But it’s pretty much the best thing that could’ve happened, because for me it totally goes hand in hand with what I’m doing in music. Nowadays I’m running my own label on which I exclusively release my own productions.
IRIE. Take us back to when you guys first met. What was that conversation about and what led you to collaborate on your amazing EP, Sing with God?
Foresta. A friend of mine showed me music by Blu suggesting we should work together. It’s the same guy who introduced me to Kabaka Pyramid with whom I did “Quiet Thoughts” featuring Protoje. I approached Blu via facebook and found out he already knew about me and my music, so it was a quick decision to start working on a song. I sent some beats and went to Jamaica few weeks after. We recorded “Believe” with Lila Iké and a couple of days after the session I suggested doing an EP. Funny enough, Blu wanted to suggest the same thing. The vibe was just great!
IRIE. In producing Sing with God, how did the EP come together? Were the lyrics written first and then a riddim adapted to it or vice versa?
Foresta. I would always send demos of beats. Mostly ones that had a certain vibe but were far from finished. I think that gave Blu a lot of room to shape them with his melodies and lyrics. We recorded all songs during several sessions in Kingston. I went to Jamaica three times to finalize all recordings with him. Once I had all voicings I started developing the beats more. We were in constant contact and exchanged ideas. There is nothing on the EP that we didn’t fully agree on. It’s completely a mutual project.
IRIE. What is the meaning behind the EP title, Sing with God?
Foresta. To me “Sing With God” means to align yourself with positivity. It’s not something religious to me. It’s basically a new saying – the counterpart of “Dance with the devil”. But in the end it is up for everybody’s own interpretation.
Royal Blu. My interpretation of the title is pretty similar. It isn’t meant to be religious in anyway, but more just highlighting the fact that there is another option opposite of dancing with the devil, which would be to sing with God. So it’s basically being on the good side of whatever reality you exist in.
IRIE. We love the music videos for Sing with God. Powerful! Can you share with us how you came up with the idea and direction for the videos for Sing with God?
Foresta. The music I create always gives me a certain feeling or color schemes that I follow when thinking about a video idea. So after the first 5 ideas it gets interesting. The first 5 are always too obvious and too easy. You have to dig deeper. That can be a long process sometimes. Nowadays I try to plan the videos as detailed as possible. But while shooting things can change a lot and improvisation always becomes a big part. I often had the luck that improvisation actually improved the initial idea. For “Believe” for instance we needed sun. It rained. We basically changed the whole concept while shooting and it worked perfectly. And then sometimes circumstances don’t allow your idea to be executed. I initially had this idea that had a musical kinda vibe for Believe. But it’s hard to get costumes, props, etc in Jamaica.
IRIE. Sing with God was recorded over a two year period at Quik Keyz’s Studio in Kingston, Jamaican, and features artist Runkus (Sing with God) and Lila Iké (Believe). How did you get them involved in the production?
Royal Blu. I’ve known about Lila way before my name was “Royal Blu”. Because I had songs out under the name “BluKid” and she would openly express that she likes them. I always knew she could sing, but what makes her stand out is her unique voice and personality overall. From the moment I heard the beat for “Believe”, I heard her voice instantly and knew I had to reach out to her. Which was easy at the time because we all used to hang out with other creatives from time to time and hold a vibe in Kingston.
Working with Runkus is one of the easiest things for me to do because we’re basically family and we understand each other’s style of music. It’s hard to not work with him, actually. I trust in his talent completely, so I just sent him the beat, no vocals, no lyrics written. I just told him what the topic was and said, “Be free”.
I absolutely have to salute Quik Keyz and my other engineer, Tilly, for helping me bring the songs to life in studio. I never record without them. At least one of them has to be involved in the process because they understand my vocals and my direction. They know how to bring out the proper emotions on a track. Especially seeing that I’m someone who is naturally laid back and relaxed, which sometimes will carry over into a track too much.
IRIE. As artists ourselves, we crave beautiful graphics, especially album cover artworks. We learned that your brother, Taj Francis, who is an amazing visual artist, created the artwork for Sing with God. How did this come about?
Royal Blu. From the beginning of me taking music seriously, Taj has been supportive of everything I do. I give him the option of not doing an artwork for me if he genuinely doesn’t like the song. We being fans of each other’s work makes me naturally reach out to him before anyone else for graphics. Foresta and I agreed from the beginning of the project that Taj would be the one doing the artwork, and Taj already made up his mind that he was the one doing the artwork. You don’t choose to work with Taj. He chooses you to be his client.
IRIE. We love Sing with God. It’s the perfect EP! Our personal favorite track is ‘On The Side’. From the sound that blends hip hop, soul and reggae to Royal Blu’s lyrical delivery. Is the direction that reggae is going. Would you agree?
Royal Blu. Hip hop is the biggest and most influential genre in the world right now. So I believe that everything will have elements of hip hop for sure. We’ve been hearing that influence for a while now with people like Stephen Marley, Jr. Gong, Ini Kamoze, Sizzla, and Buju Banton, just to name a few. I just think that now more than ever, that is what the younger generation is interested in right now.
IRIE. What do you hope your fans and first-time listeners take with them after listening to Sing with God?
Royal Blu. I want them to be more wary of what’s beyond the surface of everything in this world, especially themselves. A different kind of consciousness further than just pointing out what is wrong in society and showing them that it’s okay to be vulnerable and introspective.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to say or share with the Irie Magazine audience?
Royal Blu. I would like to show appreciation to Irie Magazine for being the first magazine to give me a cover! And I am very happy to share it with my brother, Foresta. Thank you for the support and much love to the new supporters! Be sure to listen to both Foresta and I together, and also our individual works.
Foresta. Well, if you like the project, share it with the world. Support music you like apart from the big mainstream and help spreading positivity. In other words: Sing with God!
IRIE. Much Love & Respect, Foresta & Royal Blu!
Foresta. Thank you for this opportunity!
Royal Blu. Bless up!