Hail to the king, baby

By Peter Hemminger

Coming back to Calgary was an easy decision for King Ujah. The Jamacian-born Toronto based musician may have made his first appearance in Calgary at a Reggae Festival fundraiser this past February, but he’ll make sure the city doesn’t forget him when returning for the Calgary International Reggae Festival Saturday.

“The first time I came to Calgary was this year,” he recalls. “I didn’t get to see much of Calgary, but what I’ve seen, it’s beautiful. [The people] are full of vibes and energy, you know, and full of love. The people, them, turned up and they showed a lot of love, you know? Believe me, that’s what it’s all about, for real.”

King Ujah’s appearance at the Reggae Festival this year seems almost predestined. “Actually, I met one of the organizers at a show,” he says, referring to his introduction to CJSW’s Leo C. at the 2003 Canadian Reggae Music Awards. “We were keeping in touch and he started telling me about this show he wanted to put on in Calgary, and I’m like ‘that would be a great idea,’ you know, and then he said he would like me in the show and I’m like, ‘yeah, no problem, anytime you’re ready just let me know.’

“My album was just dropped at the time also, so it was a good promotion for my album, Beauty for Ashes. We did the show and believe me, it was fun. I enjoyed it, and believe me, I always wanted to come back to Calgary, you know, from that.”

Contrary to what his name suggests, King Ujah is a pretty modest guy. Most performers leap at the chance to talk about the awards and accolades they have won, but not Ujah. When asked what award he won at the Canadian Reggae Music Awards, he says, “I think it was…artist…newcomer…I think it was Newcomer of the Year or something like that.”

Regardless, he remains a lively reggae artist with a distinct sound, one Ujah describes as conscious reggae.

“I don’t know how people differentiate these, things but conscious reggae is just more like you talk a lot about reality stuff, conscious vibe, you know what I mean? Some people call it singjay, some people say it’s hardcore reggae, but I call it music regardless.

“If I get a song that I feel would be better in the hardcore dancehall style, I’ll drop it in the hardcore dancehall style, but I always blend it with a little singing in certain songs, you know? Just flavour them sometimes, because I love singing and I love dancehall style.”

However Ujah does a song, the message of his music is always positive. “It’s just like consciousness. Try to direct people to the most high Jah Rastafari the creator, you know what I’m saying? So these are the kind of vibes I brought to the table, because when you have children you have to know what you’re saying, to elevate these children out there. The youth of today be the men of tomorrow, and if you don’t teach them the right way, believe me, they gonna go the wrong way.”

The power of his conviction becomes clear as he continues, “If you teach them to fire a gun, believe me, they gonna grow up and fire. If you teach them to love Jah, they gonna grow up and love Jah, you know what I mean?”

His performance promises to deliver on what he preaches, as he warns his audience, “Prepare for some consciousness and righteousness, you understand me, because we good to go.”

Leave a comment