IRIE. Listening to the tracks on’ Salam’, one can experience you frequently alternating between english, jamaican patois and Bahasa indonesian. Is this done intentionally? How did you develop this style?
Ras Muhamad: It’s never my intention to make the “Salam” as a multi-lingual album. But I feel blessed that I could express through my lyrics by not just one language. I’m comfortable in both, in Bahasa Indonesia and in English in terms of writing lyrics and when it comes to it I like to mix both in a single verse. I guess you could say I’m a person who’s interested in linguistic, I like learning words from a different language and I’m quite stubborn on pronouncing it with a perfect accent. I realize I could easily lose my accent, for instance the most English that I hear are in Reggae music and every day I conversate mostly in Bahasa Indonesia. Since Reggae is a culture to me, so I naturally pick up Patois without even trying, there are even some words that I couldn’t pronounce with a New York accent anymore haha since Patois took over part of my English tongue. In terms of lyrically you could say that I like to challenge myself, if I write something in English, I’d challenge myself if could write something as complex in Bahasa Indonesia also. Also, the environment helps, Indonesians most speak at least 2-3 languages, Bahasa Indonesia and their tribal language so, we are a nation that likes to have a bundle of language all in one. So, I’m hoping when a person listens to my “Salam” album would get understand me as a person and also of what Indonesia is like.
IRIE. The songs on ‘Salam’ feature a diverse range of topics such as respecting your ancestors, war and suffering, Asian-African culture and stories of your own personal struggles. How do you come up with the topics for your songs?
Ras Muhamad: I wholly agree with Kabaka’s tune “No Cliché”, I don’t think you would ever hear Ras Muhamad make a ganja anthem. Nuff Reggae tunes about ganja, if I do make one I wouldn’t make it a cliché, just to get you from my view of my style of writing; I would speak of how the Sadhu Babas, Buddhist monks in Nepal view their meditations through ganja. I’ve never reasoned with a Nepalese Buddhist monk or a Sadhu Baba yet; so until that day. I get inspiration through experience, whether from my surrounding, environment, conversations with people. I hear a word and that could come as a rhyme, a rhyme become a thought, a thought become a concept of song. Sometimes I get a hookline for a tune and that would turn to a song. Sometimes if feel a riddim, you could say I try to read its pulse of the riddim and what it wants. Writing a tune is always a spiritual experience for me and I take my time, when it hits 1 tune could finish in a day. These days, Reggae is so advanced that topics shouldn’t repeated and become generic. Reggae should be realized that it’s going global and when it’s global, the world is limitless in terms of topics and themes.
IRIE. Do you see yourself as a musical activist?
Ras Muhamad: I like the line from Sizzla’s “Rise to the Occasion” he says “Keep making music cus I’m a musician”. I am active in my music, my whole life revolves around it and I’m pushing forth a life-career with music.
IRIE. You are also a Reggae Radio DJ at Mustang 88 FM (mustangfm.com) in Indonesia. Can you tell us about your show ‘Jamaican Sound’?
Ras Muhamad: JamaicanSound is the only radio program on a popular meaning Pop radio station in Jakarta. Every Wednesday for 2 hours, I get to host the show with total freedom; I could choose the music that should be played with no outside influence directing me. I could share the history, values , what’s important, what’s new with Reggae culture locally and internationally. It’s funny that during the day for Wednesday, Mustang88FM play the most commercial tunes to date and at 9 PM, I buss a Prince Far I Dub track haha. Most Reggae artists in Indonesia including myself are independent with no major label support so, in that way those that make High-Grade quality Reggae music will get a turn to be played in my radio show. I reason also with my fans and what they request to be played. Jamaicansound has been going on for 8 Years now and I’ve been its host radio DJ also the producer, engineer, music director and usher for 4 years now. It gives also a chance for me to directly link artists outside of Indonesia to be heard here. Currently, I’ve premiered Protoje’s “Stylin’” as the first South East Asian airplay. And will premier Kabaka’s “Well Done” single soon. With the radio show and my 400,000 facebook fans and 70,000 twitter followers once we made a movement requesting Damian Marley to reach Indonesia, even though it failed it just show the people power where there’s a big enthusiasm for Reggae music. Hehe, I guess so far now you could see that I’m quite the busy man in this business and culture; recording and going on stage is not what I merely do. I get my hands deep in mud.
IRIE. What is the next chapter for Ras Muhammad?
Ras Muhamad: Next Chapter? Hehe… sounds like my 2nd album I released in 2009. But yes, next chapter 2015 I sure would like to travel around the globe spreading my music and where I’m from. I want to meet those who love Reggae music like I do, share the experience, thoughts and knowledge. Call it a world=expansion of Indonesia’s Ras Muhamad if you will but 2015, we’ll be going to Costa Rica, Jamaica, Europe and so forth. That is the plan. I just finished the first leg of my promotional tour in SouthEast Asia, specifically Cambodia and Thailand. And I sure would want to continue that fire and keep the heat ever-warm.
IRIE. Is there anything you would like to share with the IRIE audience?
Ras Muhamad: Big up Irie audience and keep supporting Irie Magazine! Big up Irie Magazine also for giving Indonesian Reggae a chance to speak ! Keep spreading the love and the culture of Reggae music. Listen to the Salam album and request I, Indonesia’s Reggae Ambassador Ras Muhamad in your favorite music festivals 2015 and on ! so to Irie Magazine and di massive, I say SALAM!
IRIE. Give thanks for reasoning with us, Ras Muhamad! One Love!