Jamaican-born reggae artist Kingly T has worked earnestly to amass an Indianapolis following for his conscious roots sound since his arrival in the Hoosier state in 2003. With the release of his fourth LP Life in the City, Kingly T is launching his most ambitious campaign yet to lure the ears of Indiana music fans to his classic reggae grooves. That push includes an album release party happening at The Melody Inn on Sunday, December 6.
I spoke with Kingly T at WFYI's studios in downtown Indianapolis. Kingly T is reserved and introspective in conversation, preferring to let his songs speak for him, so be sure to catch some samples of Kingly T's songs on the radio version of Cultural Manifesto. Tune in this Wednesday evening at 9 on 90.1 to hear the full interview.
NUVO: I know you're originally from Jamaica. Music has become such a defining element of Jamaica's national character and global image. Was music part of your life from an early age?
Kingly T: I grew up in Kingston, Jamaica. I grew up around instruments. My father was a musician and he used to have instruments all around us. He played banjo and the bamboo flute. Music is in my blood. He didn't do music professionally, he was a pastor. But he loved to play music. He'd call all our family together and say, "Let's jam."
NUVO: When I think of Jamaican music and banjos I think of mento, which is a Jamaican folk music that was very popular on the island before the advent of ska, rocksteady and reggae.
Kingly T: Yeah and my father was good at the mento thing.
NUVO: Aside from your family jam sessions, what were you listening to while growing up?
Kingly T: When I was a kid I listened to Bob Marley. It was inspirational for me. At that time, Jamaican people didn't gravitate toward the music of Bob Marley on a big scale. It was not until he died that Jamaican people recognized how big Bob Marley was. I liked music that was conscious. I liked music with a message.
NUVO: You mentioned that your father was a pastor. Did your embrace of reggae music's Rastafarian culture bother your parents?
Kingly T: They didn't understand it. Christians think differently than Rastafarians, even though we're pretty much the same.
NUVO: You attended the Jamaican School of Music as a young man. When did you decide that you wanted music to be more than a hobby in your life?
Kingly T: Once I left the Jamaican School of Music I went to the North Coast of Jamaica in Negril. I was recruited for a band by Hopeton Hibbert who is the son of Toots Hibbert from the Maytals. He came and recruited me as a guitarist for a band down in Negril. So I took off to Negril to join the band. After that I toured Japan for six months, I also toured in the Caribbean and Mexico. The rest has been music all the way.
NUVO: You came to Indianapolis in 2003. What brought you to the Hoosier state?
Kingly T: Well, sometimes a woman plays a part in decisions. [laughs]
NUVO: OK, understood. What were your initial thoughts of Indy? Did you get a sense this might be a good place for your music?
Kingly T: I thought it was cold here. [laughs] I always have a problem when the winter comes around. It's really a struggle with the reggae music here. I've been trying with it for years. I know people here love reggae music. But the people who are in charge don't give reggae enough of a chance.
NUVO: I know you're hoping that trend will change with the upcoming release party at Melody Inn for your album Life in the City. Tell us about the album.
Kingly T: It's a mixture of lovers rock and conscious reggae. There's one song called "Cool Down" track that I'd put in the dancehall category. It's a refreshing album for listeners of who appreciate all styles of reggae music.