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Women in Reggae: Soom T

Photo credit: Danilo Moroni

On Friday, September 11th, 2020, I was sipping my morning coffee and talking to MC Soom T on the exact release date of her latest album, The Arch. Soom T is someone whose music has been at the forefront of my playlists ever since I first heard her unique sound. Her distinct voice, her rapid flow, and her conscious energy is real and unlike any other. As a DJ, I couldn’t get enough of her discography from Ode To a Karrot (2010) to Born Again (2018) containing so many top notch tracks, from politically powerful anthems like “Bomb Our Yard” to smoky bangers like “Matchbox Full Of Weed”. 

I couldn’t help but be drawn deep into the wonderful realm of digital reggae through listening to Soom T’s fantastic collaborations with Mungo’s Hi Fi, Listening Bug (2013) and Bong Bong (2013). When I debuted my reggae radio show with a twist, 2 DUB, her title track “Bong Bong” was the first song I chose to play because it was the perfect twist of old (Sister Nancy’s “Bam Bam”) and new (Soom T’s lyrics and Mungo’s banging beats)

Soom T is from Glasgow, Scotland, and is prominent in the UK reggae scene. I could tell from her music that she is passionate about politics, religion, and love for all people, and this phone interview we had completely confirmed that. 

It’s not every day that we get to talk to our musical heroes. As a huge fan of Soom T, I had some burning questions for her that I had always wanted to know, especially about her experience working with Mungo’s Hi Fi, and her valuable perspective on the music industry as a female MC. Our conversation happened deep in the Coronavirus lockdowns of 2020, at a time when tensions were high around the world as we struggled to accept the fact that this is something we are in for the long haul. The United States was rocked by the murder of George Floyd by police and the subsequent unrest that followed, as people addressed the very real issues of racism and police brutality. While I was blissfully enthusiastic about getting to talk to Soom T—one of my absolute most loved artists—about her music, I couldn’t help but include the difficult topics of what was going on in the world around us into our conversation.  

In this interview, Soom T spoke her truth about everything, and I’m grateful for this conversation.

Even as we covered controversial topics, Soom T continually impressed me with her compassion, her valuable wisdom about developing craft over image, and her loving kindness—proving what a powerful force of nature she truly is.

Note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

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KK: Oh my gosh. I can’t believe I’m starting my day talking to Soom T. This is amazing. I’m just in total fangirl mode right now. Your music is a huge part of my radio show and I’m so excited to be talking to you. I’m calling from the Midwest United States, in Madison, where are you currently?

ST: I’m currently in Portugal. I’ve escaped from the UK because of all this lockdown nonsense, and it turns out it was a good time to leave because now they’re bringing in all these crazy restrictions, and we can’t meet more than six people. So Portugal’s a little freer at the moment, but I may not end up here, I may end up going to Brazil or Thailand. I’m just doing my best to escape this lockdown nonsense, ’cause it’s driving me bonkers.

KK: I was wondering how you were doing with lockdown. So to stay sane, you got out of the UK in advance?

ST: Exactly. I’ve been in Portugal now for about three weeks and it’s great, ’cause I’m living next to many beaches. I can pretty much go to a different beach every day. I’m going to be celebrating the album release today with my best friend, and we’re going to be out on the town, and trying to forget about the lockdown nonsense for at least one night.

KK: I know that your music crosses over into many genres. Here at Rootfire, we’re well versed in Jamaican and US Reggae, but I’ve been really starting to love UK reggae because of my new radio show that I mentioned to you. I’m wondering if you have any thoughts about the overall vibe of the UK reggae scene compared to other scenes around the world, and what makes it unique there?

ST: First of all, congratulations on your radio show. I’m always delighted to hear about individuals who go out and actually do something amazing, because you’re not just doing something that you love and enjoy—you end up helping a lot of artists as well to reach new people and new audiences. And of course, that’s how we survive as artists. So first of all thank you for that. I want to show my gratitude along with the gratitude from a lot of other reggae artists.

I think the UK scene is different because if you know the history of the UK, there were thousands and thousands of Jamaicans that ended up living in the UK in the 1940s and 50s. And of course they had to go through a lot of difficulty trying to become a resident. They dealt with a lot of racism, a lot of misunderstanding. Over the years they brought a lot of their own Jamaican culture into Britain. And of course, because of the ties between Britain and Jamaica, the music scene and the reggae music scene heavily influenced the music industry and the UK. So if you come to the UK, probably more than any other country in the world, you will find a sound system on almost every street corner. There are so many Jamaican food places, Jamaican shops, Jamaican music shops, and of course, hundreds of well known UK resident Jamaican artists. You’ve got Solo Banton, you’ve got Brother Culture, you’ve got General Levy, you’ve got Tippa Irie, you’ve got Top Cat… I mean the list goes on and on and on. Many of these people considered legends in the reggae scene today are all living in the UK. They’re UK based Jamaican artists, you know? And so I think for that reason, your case [in the United States] is very different, because you can really find a very authentic Jamaican Reggae soundsystem culture within the UK. It hasn’t been borrowed from Jamaica. It is actually quintessentially Jamaican, because it’s run by Jamaicans, whereas when you go in other parts of Europe, you’ll find that the Europeans have kind of adopted the soundsystem culture that they’ve seen and heard in the UK or in Jamaica, and they’ve recreated it to an extremely high standard, and recreated it very authentically. But definitely I think that what sets the UK apart, is that you really do have a little bit of Jamaica in Britain. And then there’s a real authenticity there because it’s run by first generation Jamaicans living in the UK. And a lot of the reggae artists coming out of Britain today, coming out of the UK, are actually themselves descendants—second generation or third generation Jamaicans from those who actually lived in Jamaica, and may have even known some of the reggae musicians from when they grew up in Jamaica. So a lot of their descendants are now in the UK and continuing that legacy. So that’s my answer for why I think the UK reggae scene is different from the reggae scene in any other country.

KK: I love how you lay it out so clearly. It’s not like borrowing soundsystem culture, it’s actual Jamaicans in the UK doing this. And I think there’s a way that people can recreate a sound, and do it respectfully, right? In the US right now we have the Black Lives Matter movement at the forefront. I’m wondering your thoughts on the importance of respecting and acknowledging the roots of reggae, from Black culture in Jamaica, for those people who are borrowing the culture.

ST: Absolutely. I think it’s very important to mention that we all borrow. Every time I use the telephone, I don’t instantly think of Alexander Graham Bell. You know, I don’t tip my hat to Scotland because he gave us a telephone, even though we all know that the telephone was invented by a Scotsman. I think it’s the same with reggae. A lot of Europeans, they borrow this music, but over the last three, four decades, it’s become its own thing. You now have European reggae, you’ve got French reggae, but I do think it’s very, very important to give recognition to those people. Just as I know the name of the person who invented the telephone, something that we use on a daily basis, it’s something that we should have gratitude for in the same way. We should show gratitude for those who helped to create the style of music, which is now such a big part of many of our lives. 

The Black Lives Matter [organization]—even though it’s been adopted by many people, especially many Black people who believe that it’s a wonderful organization who are promoting the rights of Black people—is actually a massive agent provocateur, because Black Lives Matter is actually funded by entities that are not sympathetic to the plight of African Americans to begin with, which is the great irony of Black Lives Matter. All I ask people to do is research it for yourselves, and you will see that they’re a creation of factions of the system that are quite dark. I think it’s George Soros that funds…who’s the replacement for Henry Kissinger—if you don’t know these people and you research them, you will find that these people are tied to the CIA, and they’re tied to the Jesuits and to the people who are in an alliance with shadowy government figures whose function seems to be to control and to manipulate society and different elements in society to gain an agenda, that power is maintained in their hands, that if they can cause the division between certain groups, they’re able to distract people from what the governments are really trying to do to us. So all that aside, I think that Black lives do matter. I think all lives matter. I think we should be concentrating on people who are suffering, children who are suffering, no matter what country they come from, no matter what their race or religion, human beings are human beings, you know. I’m a believer in Jesus, and Jesus died for all of us. He didn’t die just for Indian people or White people or Black people. He died for every human being on Earth and the Lord doesn’t differentiate between color. So I think having a group like Black Lives Matter is a very dangerous precedent to be set in society today, because imagine there was a group called White Lives Matter, which of course, they do matter. But having people approach, deal with a group called White Lives Matter, they would start seeing that it was white supremacist and it was racist, et cetera, et cetera. So like I said, there are a lot of things to be considered with these new protests, but that doesn’t take away from the reality that perhaps especially Black people throughout history have been mistreated and humiliated to an extreme level, and that has to be recognized. I do believe apologies have to be made and there has to be recognition. People have to be educated about it to remind us how important it is to fight for equality and fight for love for all humanity. But I don’t think that, you know, Black Lives Matter should have anything to do with reggae music, or Jamaican reggae music. I think that reggae artists, no matter what color they are or what background they come from—I mean, I myself am Indian—I know a lot of Jamaican reggae artists that are White and they’re French, they’re Chinese, I’ve got an old French reggae artist friends of mine who are Italian, who are from Germany, and they have the greatest respect. In fact, we can’t show more respect to the history of Jamaican reggae than by making that such a big part of our lives. For example, imagine somebody opened an Indian restaurant, but they weren’t Indian. I think I would feel great about that. I’d be happy that something from my own culture could be so easily related to, by someone of another culture. I think it’s a wonderful thing. The important thing is to keep a culture alive, and I don’t think Jamaican reggae will ever die now because so many people are using the Jamaican reggae and the sound systems as a platform to promote the truth, which is really what it’s all about. You know, we can use any genre to promote the truth. The one thing that I love about Jamaican reggae is that reggae music and the soundsystem scene has always been a platform that’s completely uncensored, where anybody, you or I, or anyone else could go onto the mic and find a platform to speak what was in our hearts without being censored, or without being manipulated by any commercial faction. And I think that in itself, if that scene and that platform has arisen from Jamaican culture, then we must always tip our hat to it, and raise a glass to it, and keep it alive. But always remember that we as individuals have our personal responsibility and no matter what music or what platform we choose, and that responsibility is to tell people the truth. So research the truth. To show real love to people is to tell them the truth, no matter how uncomfortable that truth may be.

KK: Thank you for sharing your thoughts on that. The sense of divide, especially in the United States, is very real because of the way things are presented. But when it comes to music that came from another culture…I love what you’re saying about how we can keep this music alive if we play our part in listening to it and playing it, as long as it comes from this feeling of gratitude and respect. So I hear you a hundred percent.

ST: Yeah. There are some Jamaican people who become quite incensed when people who do not have Jamaican roots and gain success within reggae. They believe that something has been stolen from them. I think it’s the completely wrong attitude to have because in fact, as we artists that don’t have Jamaican roots are keeping something alive, it should never die. Because if we let Jamaican reggae music die then a lot of what these Jamaican reggae artists were singing about…about slavery, about the way that they were treated, about the system, about how humiliated they were…I mean, Bob Marley himself came from a very humiliated background, he was rejected by his own father because of the color of his skin. And when you realize that there are many stories, at least Jamaica, the fact that we were able to keep that scene alive and keep that dialogue open is something that should be celebrated, especially by Jamaican reggae artists or people from Jamaica, rather than looked upon as another culture stealing from them, which I have sometimes heard. I’ve heard it in interviews and always thought, “Wow, this person needs to really look at all sides of the argument here.” You know, that’s like me saying, “I’m Indian and you’re not, so you’re not allowed to eat curry ever again.” I could never stop someone from eating curry, that would be just cruel, you know…curry and pakoras and samosas, man, they’re the best food. Why would I ever stop someone from doing that? I think we shouldn’t be too caught up in that. I think the bottom line is if you find something, no matter what culture it came from, you should use it well. You know, if I want to set up a telecommunications company, I will happily tip my hat to Alexander Graham bell, but I’m not going to sit and dwell on it, you know, but still, God bless him.

KK: Absolutely. So let’s talk about your new album that just came out, The Arch. I’m wondering how long this one was in the works. When did the process begin and what do you hope people take away from your current message?

ST: Believe it or not, we made the first recording seven years ago, and then I went on a whole other journey, getting signed to some major label and doing all this crazy stuff. The brother that I made it with is a gentleman called Erwan Dury, and we’ve been friends for about 15 years. He was one of the first promoters to ever bring me to France. He was one of the first to kind of believe in me as an artist, as a reggae artist, as well as a sound system artist. So we always planned to make an album together, and Kunta is a wonderful producer with a brilliant ear. He himself ran a record shop for 15 years, a reggae music shop. So if there’s anyone that has an ear for music and the right instrumentals to suit a specific voice, he was the man for the job. And so after going through a few bits and pieces, I felt as if I was developed enough. So about two, three years ago, we started working on it again, we started to continue the work we’d started seven years ago. And so we finally finished that and I would say it took, you know, an endless stream of trips to Lyon, for me from Scotland. Usually I would do it while I was mid-tour, when I was already in France. I would just fly to Lyon, spend a couple of days in the studio with the Highly Seen brothers, who actually are three brothers, and they have a studio, which is actually an underground basement, which is shaped like an arch, which is why the album is called The Arch. There’s no sinister plot behind it, which some people have said—it was actually just made in a studio that is shaped like the arch. And I liked the connotation about being like the arch you usually find in a church. I suppose this studio is like my church because it’s where I express myself, it’s where I talk to the Lord, it’s where I pray, I suppose, but I pray in song. So yeah, it was at least seven years in the making that album, but, you know, we finally finished it and it felt good, we must’ve created about maybe 30 to 35 demos. Out of the 35 demos, Kunta, Highly Seen, and myself whittled that down to the songs that are on the album today.

KK: And like you mentioned, you’re off the major label, you got out of that situation. What did you learn from it?

ST: Wow. (Laughs) Yeah, wow. I learned that you have to be very, very careful what you do. When you make a decision you have to make sure that your decision is based on the right motives. If your motive is something that would be considered unbiblical…you have to search your heart, and if your motives are greed, pride, vanity, the promotion of ego, then you have to have nothing to do with it. I got signed to them almost by accident, but I didn’t really question it because I was excited at the fact that the record could have a commercial label. But it was only once I worked within the label that I realized that you become more like an employee. You’re pretty much told what to do. Every interview I went to, they were plastering my face in makeup, which is not me. If you’ve seen my videos or anything else, I’m more of a tomboy really, and it just felt really strange that I couldn’t be accepted for who I was, I couldn’t be accepted for what I was. Plastic surgery was suggested to me and I had to laugh heartily about it. I realized that there are many other artists to allow talents that God has given them to be used simply to create an illusion rather than give people the real thing. At the commercial label I realized that there were certain things I just couldn’t say. There were certain aspects of my opinion, my political views, my activism, that weren’t so heavily promoted. They would have preferred that I sing baseless songs, songs that were less serious, songs that didn’t really have as strong a point as other ones. And then you wondered why they would promote what I considered to be the weaker songs, the ones that had a more pop attitude than the ones with a laid back kind of message. 

I think if you have a platform, especially one that has been hard won as an artist, as somebody who comes from a difficult background, comes from a pure background, who is also a woman, who is also from a minority group, you need to use that hard won platform to do the best that you can take to get people the truth and to share reality, instead of just using it as a means to gain success and become wealthy and have nice clothes and a nice house. That’s definitely what I learned from the commercial label, which is why I got out of there as quick as I could after the first album. I did everything I could to just go back to where I began which was the soundsystem scene. I just realized it wasn’t for me. I felt that they’d been putting Illuminati symbolism, satanic symbolism into my music videos when I was with that label. And I realized that I had no creative control whatsoever. It didn’t matter how much I spoke to them about it and tried to give my personality. In the end, I felt like I was patronized and even belittled as if they didn’t really have any respect for me as a person, for my attitude, for my perspective. It really was just “Put this on, let’s create this eccentric image for you, and let’s sell some music.” You know, that was really what it was all about. “Let’s sell a product rather than share music and an ideology”—That’s the difference between the commercial labels and working with independents where you maintain 100% control. 

And the other thing is, with working with commercial labels, you work with the producers they give to you. So you may not always have a spiritual kind of connection with these people or an intellectual connection. But at least with doing things independently with independent labels, I can work with my friends, I can work with people I’ve known for years, people have had faith in me, people that know who I am as a person, people who I have spent lots of time with. I think that’s one of the most important things about being an artist, being able to have creative control, because that’s a God given right to have control of our lives, to have control over our own free will. How can we say that we have free will if we’re allowing someone else to dictate what we do and how we use our voice and our gift? We’re then giving our free will over to Satan, basically, and for what? For a nice big palace to live in? For some fancy clothes? No thank you. Life is too short to care about a pile of bricks. I think what really matters, the true treasure that I have today is the fact that even if I’m living in a small hut, it’s just that I’m free. I have my free will. What I was saying to my friend the other day, that when you can stand faithfully and be genuinely happy with the fact that you’re free and that you live by your own free will and by your own principles and models… I can live by the principles of the Bible, for example, without anybody trying to modify that. If you can be independent, be free, that makes you the richest person in the world. And life is short. So like Jesus said in the Bible, don’t gather for yourself treasures and art which mold and rust destroy, which thieves break in and steal, but rather gather for yourself, treasures in heaven, treasures in heaven, which no one can ever touch, cause that will always be yours. And what is that treasure from heaven? That treasure from heaven is doing the right thing. You know, you hear Jamaican reggae artists talk about, or even reggae artists in general, always singing about being righteous. But what is being righteous? It’s doing the right thing. What is doing the right thing? Choosing the good, making the morally correct decision, which is something that will help other people, that will enlighten other people, that will make other people feel happy, that will bring other people peace, that will teach them to love others, that will teach them to do charity, to be kind to their brothers and sisters, to have sympathy, to be forgiving instead of being what they’re promoting in the mainstream today which is self serving, greedy, vain, egotistical, full of pride, looking down your nose at other people, disrespecting other people, stepping over other people, regardless of the effect that you have on them, as long as you yourselves can stand on top and be the one to gain. We really are living in a very dark time in history. You know, the Bible also says that because evil shall abound, the love of men’s hearts will go cold. And you see that today, you see it in the media, you see what’s promoted in the mainstream throughout the world now. So now the whole world is caught up in this Sodom and Gomorrah movement where it’s just all about me me me me me, and not my brother, these suffering children. What can we do to help them? So all I like to do is the little that I can do with what God’s given me, and that is to simply just use the voice and the small platform I have to tell people to just love one another. When I can think about what that means to love one another, it is to help others, to not be quick to judge, and to remember that we ourselves are all a work in progress, we will get to that end point, and some day we will all stand to be judged. And if we can stand and say that we genuinely lived a good life, we didn’t hurt anyone, we did our best for our brothers and sisters in the world, then we’ve not got anything to worry about. We can walk that path to heaven with a clean conscience, and as I said, be carrying the greatest treasure, and that’s the love that we have for others, and the love that we earned from our good deeds rather than anything else. So there you go.

KK: Yes. I love it. I love that you are able to survive the experience of having to see sort of the dark side of the music industry so that you can come forward from that and tell other artists what’s going to happen if they go that route, and to share your experience, and to use your platform to spread love, because there is infinite love out there. We just have to remember that it’s always there inside us, even if it’s not being portrayed in the media right now. It can seem hopeless, but we just have to remember that we have this infinite source inside of us. So I hear you a hundred percent. So a couple more things I wanted to talk to you about, and something that is really at the forefront of my mind and my writings as a female DJ is our experience as women in the music industry. What’s it like in your experience, being a woman in the music industry, and what have you had to overcome? And do you have any advice for other women?

ST: If I go back to when I was a young teenager, it was very difficult to be a female because the music industry is very male dominated. So when it came to other MCs, they would kind of look at you and expect that you were only there to find a musician to go and canoodle with or something, and you generally were kind of overlooked. And it was only when I demanded that I wanted the mic…there were always some people that were excited about it, but you still felt like you were just there as a novelty. They would let you on the mic cause it’s good to have one female, you know, and sometimes I got the feeling that I was being patronized. When I look back…you do feel a little patronized, because you’re a girl and it’s good to have a girl voice…but as I got older, I must admit, that the men in the industry are actually very kind towards you when they see that your attitude isn’t to use your body, or your look or your sexuality to gain respect as an artist. I suddenly found I had a band of brothers wherever I went who were very respectful of that. I think men are not able to use their sexuality as much to gain success, and if they do try, they’re not as respected or honored as they would be if they were simply respected for their skills alone. And so I always had that attitude. I thought, well, “Why should I dress up and try and look all fancy when these [male] rappers who don’t have an attractive image can gain success and be respected for the skills alone? Why can’t I be respected for my skills only?” And occasionally people would say, “Why don’t you wear heels? Or why don’t you dress up? It would be nicer if you dressed up for an album cover.” And I said, “Well, I don’t see the point in that. You don’t have to do that, why should I?” And they would always like, look up to the sky or something and go “Yeah, you’re actually right about that.” 

What I would say to women is don’t concentrate on something that, whether it’s your image, your face, your hair….don’t waste your time. Make sure you’re clean and presentable, but don’t go overboard. You don’t have to go about having to create this image. The most important thing is to have integrity in what you’re saying, so concentrate on the music. I didn’t spend any time on things like hair and makeup and clothes—not that I don’t think it’s a wonderful thing if you’re going out to a party or a wedding or whatever, but I’m just talking about for a career. I’m going to the office. I’ll get my hoodie on and get my leggings on and I’ll be ready to do some writing or get on the mic or whatever. I think now my experience is wonderful. I feel that I’m treated with respect. Of course, I’m an older woman now, I’m in my forties. And I do believe that, especially with gentlemen in the industry, there’s not as much misogyny as the mainstream media like to make you believe. The misogyny is actually concentrated in the commercial industry because that’s what they want to promote. It’s an agenda that’s been heavily funded with millions of millions of dollars to promote this idea that to be successful in the music industry, if you’re a woman, you have to basically dress like a whore, and if you’re a man, you have to treat women like whores. That’s what they try to teach in the mainstream. What I would tell young women is to ignore that. Do not watch MTV. Do not watch mainstream music. Go online and find real artists. There are hundreds and thousands of us all over the world that have our own profiles, that have our own discographies, that have our own music that will actually inspire. If young ladies out there were to concentrate on their skills and their talents, the skills and the talents they develop will be something that will grow more and more beautiful as time goes on, and nobody will be able to take that away from them. Whereas if they concentrate on what withers, something they can’t hold on to, like their looks, like their image, like their hairstyle—that is something that will eventually bring them a whole deal of pain, because when they start to lose that, there will be no comfort for them. So if we grasp onto that which God gave us, which is our skills and our talents and our ability, we could develop those skills and talent to be able to become more and more pronounced, more and more precise and more than more masterful as we get older. And as I’ve said, and then you will have something that will allow us to have true treasure in our hearts because we will be able to use our skills and talents and bring true joy to people. ’Cause how much does the way a person look actually bring joy to people? Not really at all, maybe for a split second, the way somebody appears can make you laugh. Somebody dressed like a clown can make you laugh for a minute, but if you can say something on the microphone that has some value, that comes from the heart, that is something that can stay with somebody forever and continue to bring them peace and joy. That’s what I’ve seen. 

My experience was difficult when I was younger, but due to the fact that I think by the grace of the Lord, I was lucky enough to have people around me, including my brother who influenced me to just follow the talent and not the image. As a result of that I developed that, and that’s why I think my experience was a whole lot better. Like in any industry, you’re going to come up, you’re going to meet kind of narcissistic men that hate women who have achieved something that perhaps they haven’t achieved, who are doing everything they can to belittle you. You do have to become very thick skinned. I still meet men like that sometimes. You know, but you’re going to get that in any industry. You’re always going to have those who are a little bit bitter, who have their own crosses to bear, and who are not so pleased and inspired by somebody who maybe they should be inspired by because of their own problems. It’s important to learn to forgive those people. It’s important to learn to recognize them, to find those who are supportive of you and who you can support and to try and make the people that are unhappy to see the light, to let them learn to concentrate on their own life and their own development instead of concentrating on another who have their own problems and issues to deal with. So what can I say? My conclusion is the music industry is a hard place for a woman, but if you’re determined to succeed, concentrate on something that lasts, which is your talents, your abilities, things that you can learn and improve on, and don’t spend too much time on your image, because that gets boring very quickly. 

The commercial music industry makes young children, men, and boys, and girls think that to achieve success, you have to go through that route. But what they don’t like to tell people is that there’s a whole other platform out there called the underground platform, which actually allows you as a noncommercial artist to travel way farther in the field because it has a lot of people out there just like you, and just like me who go out of their way to set up platforms for other artists. There are artists that aren’t commercial who are promoting the good message. And I believe that the Lord actually empowers those people because the Lord knows that these platforms are platforms that are for the good of people’s souls and minds and spirits. So I have confidence in that, and it’s certainly helped me. I probably performed on over two and a half thousand platforms and over twenty years, and I would say about 90% of them were non-commercial platforms. Like for example, there was a guy in Mexico that basically turned his farm into a festival just to put on one of my concerts, because he turned out to be a big fan, which was amazing because he brought an audience of about a thousand people to listen to an artist that he and his family loved. That was it. Thanks to his efforts and his diligence and his desperate desire to share something that he felt had value because it had positivity, he created the platform that allowed it to be exposed to a large majority of people in that town in Guadalajara Mexico. The Lord has always got his angels out there around the world insisting upon having a platform, for those that aren’t playing Satan’s game in the commercial industry. And I think that we have to continue to fight. It’d be a tragedy if someone like myself ended up becoming weak, selling myself out to one of those platforms just because I can. I think that that would actually disappoint the good people in the world, they’d say “What? How could somebody that is determined to be good and determined to do the right thing end up signing deals with these wicked wicked actors whose only determination in life is to promote the debauchery of society, to promote the misogyny of women against women, to promote men disrespecting women, to promote men chasing after nothing but money and being greedy and promoting a decadent lifestyle as if that’s all in life?” You know, it’s a hard industry to look upon. So that’s what I would say to women around the world is concentrate on your skills and your talent and have faith that there is a platform for you, if you develop to a standard that’s worthy of these platforms, you’ll get out into the world. Just have faith. So don’t sell out, because the Lord is with those who do the right thing. And I think that faith has taken me a long way and it will take me farther, I have no doubt.

KK: Thank you. I hear you so much—being a woman in the scene, focusing on your gifts instead of your looks, because looks fade. Since you focused on your gifts, you have this incredible support system of people you’ve worked with. Something that I would love to know personally—I love, love Mungo’s Hi-Fi. I’m wondering about your experience working with them on Listening Bug and Bong Bong. How did it all begin? What was it like working with Mungo’s Hi Fi?

ST: I do consider them brothers. You know I may not have seen them in a few years, but I’ll always love them to bits. I must say about all three of them, Craig and Tom and Doug especially, they’re such good, good lads. They’ve got good hearts and they do what they love. And people should be inspired by them. I consider them like family. I mean, I’m a hard one to deal with at times, you know, musically, I was trying to do my own path, all the rest of it—but the time that I spent with them, I had one of the most awesome times. I’ve not worked with them more recently, I think my music’s been kind of taking a divergent path, and I’m working with a lot of people in France. I’m always running around getting involved in one project or another. But as I said about the lads, I’ll always consider them a foundational family for me and will always love them to bits, and they know that. Working with them is so easy. When I first met them, it was more just like, we were all just like friends, to be honest. I mean, between you and I, between you and I and all the people listening, I used to phone them up when I was all out of weed to be like, “Tom, Craig, do you have any weed?” They’d say, “Come on over, we’ll make you a curry.” We’d eat curry and then I would just kind of end up in the studio cause it was in the same house. So I would literally just go over there to hang out, and then we’d record just off the cuff. It wasn’t even planned. You know, I just happened to have a wee bundle of paperwork with me, lyrics. And I was like, “Ooo, I’ve got my lyrics with me, let’s see what we can do.” They’d play the rhythm, I’d sit in the back, secretly pleased that they had some weed, you know, cause that was the reason I came over—and they knew that, they knew that I was there to get the weed—and there was only a little bit as well. They didn’t have a lot, but they were like, “Oh, we can give you a couple of buds for a spliff.” I was like, “That’s good enough.” I don’t, I don’t smoke weed at all now. I must say. But the fact that that brought us together, and the music and we ended up making, these tunes, is wonderful. I’ve got a lot to thank the lads for, just for being who they are and for being such good hearted lads, I’ll always love them to bits. And working with them, as I said, it’s an absolute joy.

KK: Yeah their sound is brilliant. And you know, weed definitely brings people together and so does music, right? Like it’s all about moderation with the weed. And I too, don’t really smoke as much as I used to. But the music, I think a lot of people are going to love forever, you know, because there are those themes of ganja obviously in it. And it’s fun. It’s so great that you gave yourself the freedom to evolve in your message and your sound.

ST: I mean, I’d been in a hip pop group before I met them. You know, and it was funny because I’d recorded a few reggae songs, and I’d done a couple of reggae albums in 2003. I’d done a record with The Orb in 2003. So my early musical life is more as an electronic artist. I’d already kind of done the commercial music industry thing, and by 2004, 2005, I was already bought out. So I was trying to kind of keep my head down at this point. I just joined a band called the Burns Unit, and I got to know the lads because I used to go to their night when they had just started out. I would go there and it’d be just literally like 15 people or 10 people there. We’d just be there smoking weed and listening to the lads playing the records. It pretty much was at the very beginning of when the sound system of Mungo’s Hi Fi was developing. When I look back to those days, they were such happy days because we could have never known how that was going to end up, and how our relationship just as mates hanging about, and this new sound was going to end up turning into, you know, ridiculous reggae movie. But yeah, I mean, what can I say? I believe that everything was meant to be, and I was meant to end up in the soundsystem scene, we were meant to all be pals. Life is a funny thing when you look back at how things happened. It really was accidental, but like I said, I was already bought out of the music industry and I wasn’t sure I wanted anything to do with that. So it was quite ironic that when I started hanging out with them just to get weed and eat curry and listen to reggae music, that it turned into a more challenging experience than any other previous music industry experience at heart. So you never know what life’s going to throw at you. You just got to keep the faith.

KK: And know that you’re right where you’re supposed to be.

ST: Yeah exactly. I believe that we end up—it’s based on your choices, but I think if you’re working hard to make the right choices, then you know, you’re not really going too far wrong. And wherever you end up, you’re going to learn something from that experience. Right now I’m really at a crossroads. I don’t know where I’m going to end up. I’m in Portugal. I’m thinking of going to Brazil to record another album with another brother. He’s got a studio there. Or I’m trying to get to Thailand so I can lie on a beach and hang about with another brother over there and a few sisters that I know are living there. So like I said, I’ve got my best friend and she is an absolute reggae lover, a very sensitive soul, loves the beach, and she’s been trying to get involved and get creative cause she’s writing a novel at the moment. We’re just trying to figure out what the future holds for all of us. And I think if I was going to give any advice to anyone it’s to get down on your knees and pray because the kingdom of God is within us. If we close our eyes and pray, we’re actually speaking to that soul within us, and that soul is the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit listens to us. And if we know that the Lord is waiting to listen to us, you’d be surprised how he gives us that comfort on that day. He gives us that guidance, he shows us where we should go. Cause we’re definitely in very, very, very strange times, biblical, biblical proportions. When the lockdown happened, I realized that things had just got biblical. When we started being told to wear masks and all the madness that’s going on.

KK: It’s almost like the world is upside down. I really appreciate your thoughts on that. I feel like we have to take it day by day. It’s good that you’re with your friend, and you’re in Portugal, and also that you are focused too on still putting music out, like what you’re going to be doing next. As a fan it’s great for me to hear that you’re already thinking about the next thing, but The Arch is out today. Thank you so much for doing what you do and giving us this gift. We need it right now. Thank you so much for your time today. This was honestly a dream getting to talk to you. I love your music so, so much.

ST: Thank you so much. Listen, that’s an absolute treasure to hear. I’m very grateful to hear that, because when you’re alone in the studio working you just, sometimes you do think like, “What’s the point of all this?” If I can be reminded that it’s brought comfort to even one person, at least I can sit back that day and say, “Well, at least I did something good today, rather than something bad. I made someone feel good instead of feel bad.” And you know, as I said, that’s an extra piece of treasure I’ll carry up to heaven with me. So listen, thank you so much. It means a lot to me. God bless you abundantly. I’d like to just give a blessing to all the listeners out there, all of those that support reggae music, that support your radio station, that support female artists, that support all artists that try to tell the truth, that support those who are struggling, for the Lord to give them additional blessings, to send angels to guard them, to guide them, and to lead them to the wisdom that they need to evolve each day and to grow in wisdom. I’d like to just ask everyone to remember that the Lord loves them dearly, and that if they pray to the Lord, the Lord will alleviate all of their fears and anything that’s making them uncomfortable about the times that we live in. And just to remind them that you shouldn’t be taking things too seriously. Whatever happens, your soul is safe. So on that note, thank you so much for everything and for your kind and beautiful words. 

Check out Soom T’s album, The Arch, at soom-t.com!

SOOM T Album Cover


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Kayla joined Rootfire after following this music around the country for years. She has been hosting reggae radio shows in Madison since 2010. Her newest installment is '2 DUB', Saturday nights at 10pm on 89.9 WORT FM. She is the 4x winner of 'DJ of the Year' at the Madison Area Music Awards. You can follow her on social media at: @djkaylakush

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