Iconic Jamaican musician, Freddie McGregor, is no doubt one of the world’s best melody makers. With an illustrious career spanning over five decades, the legendary reggae singer and producer is yet to tire doing what he does best. He is slated to perform in Nairobi for the first time. He speaks with Elly Gitau
How do you feel to finally perform in Kenya?
Kenya is a place I have grown to love. I appreciate the love and excitement I have experienced here. It’s only my second day and I already have more than 100 requests for songs that my fans want me to play.
I didn’t know that some of these songs were even known here. It’s a blessing. On Google, Kenya is my biggest marketplace and I have waited for this proper visit for many years. I have always wanted to be here with these beautiful people that I have always longed to see, talk to and perform for.
How has the music journey been for you?
This talent is something I asked for and I am a living proof people should be careful with what they ask for — because you might get it. I have been through many hardships, but I’ve managed to stay firm and focused.
My work has been making music, which has been loved by millions of people across the world. But all these people can’t come to Jamaica, so we recognised that we have to take the music to them. You’ll have to have love for all these places to even think of going there.
How was the feeling when your Nairobi show was postponed last year?
I was disappointed. The reason for its postponement was primarily because of the uncertainty surrounding the elections, but that didn’t break my heart to want to be here now. Kenya shares a lot of similarities with Jamaica.
What is your advice for the young generation?
I would love the Kenyan youth to stay focused. I would encourage them to seek education. Education is the key. It is what is going to lift us as a people out of a lot of suppression and bondages. It is important that we rise above where we are today and this is only successful through education.
Unlike us, the youth of today have a lot of platforms for seeking knowledge, including the Internet. Use such avenues for the betterment and empowerment as a nation to move forward.
Is Jamaica as violent as we usually see on music videos?
Jamaica is a beautiful country. Its portrayal as violent is just a misconception. However, some of those things happen, but one of the reasons I wanted to come to Kenya as an entertainer was to spread the message of love, peace and unity.
That’s what our music stands for. We need the right kind of entertainers to send this messages and I don’t want Kenya to be one of the countries that has been saturated by negative lyrical content.
And that is why Bob Marley became so famous because he showed the world that we the people of Jamaican shared one thing in common; one love, one heart and when we get together, everybody feels alright.
Reggae music has evolved a lot over the years. What is your opinion on the new styles such as dancehall?
The dancehall genre is a beautiful and a nice addition to our musical heritage in that the younger generation will always find new ways of doing things. But as long as it’s positive, nothing else matters.
We have amazing youthful singers such as Chronixx, Protoje, Assassin and Busy Signal, who are really trying to do the right thing and those are the artistes we are trying to push and promote.
We really don’t care much for those who are dealing with the other side of it. Personally, when I hear a nice dancehall piece, I dance to it. If you provide the youth with the tools to grow, they will.
How is it doubling as an artiste and a producer?
Setting up my studio, Big Ship Records, was one of my best decisions ever. I have been able to nurture and develop talents. Through it, I have interacted and worked with so many artistes such as Papa San, Judy Mowatt, Shaggy, Lieutenant Stitchie, Tiger, General Degree and Sean Paul, among others.
I’d love to do more though. I produce my work too. I play instruments as well such as drums, bass and the keyboard. When I am in the studio, I try to learn more.
What would you tell this vicious gang in Nairobi called Gaza that idolises imprisoned Jamaican dancehall artiste Vybz Kartel and thrive in crime?
I want them know what they are doing is not right. Vybz even tells the youth in interviews that he’s not encouraging them to do those things. He’s just trying to sell his product, his brand. You don’t have to follow him.
Would you like to invest in Kenya?
Yes. We would love to buy some land in Kenya because Africa is for Africans at home and abroad. Your message for President Uhuru Kenyatta who is a great reggae fan. I invite you to our concert as our special guest because we love you.