Culturelicious: Interview with Roots Reggae Artist Odel Johnson

By Guest Contributor Jorge Antonio Vallejos, cross-posted from Black Coffee Poet

Odel Johnson is a multidisciplinary roots reggae artist.  Known as one of the North America’s best drummers, Odel has performed with many bands all over the globe including Juno Award-winning Messenjah.

The creator of two albums, Body, Mind, and Sold, and the new album Redemption, Odel has proven to be a great songwriter as well as percussionist.

BCP: Why roots reggae?

OJ: Roots Reggae is what feels natural to me since I have been exposed to it from birth.

BCP: You are a musician mostly known for his drumming. How long have you been writing songs?  Have the two arts complimented each other?  If so, how?

OJ: I have been writing songs as long I could remember; I’ve always loved poetry and story telling and have always shared them. Drumming has always been my outlet so they are fluent.

BCP: What is your process?

OJ: None really, I go with what I feel. Songs, and or poems, come from thoughts and melodies and harmonies that seem to come through natural muses that are in the atmosphere inspired by the elements, be it human or not. Then the words form with the music. I like to record live, hence all instruments are performed live to songs.

BCP: Who are your influences?

OJ: I am influenced by good music, from Bob Marley to Bob Dylan, listen to true expressions from all over the world, somehow my soul recognizes it.

BCP: Your songs are emotional, honest, and stimulating.  What do you try to convey to your listeners?

OJ: I am connected to the songs emotionally because I believe through my experiences that they are true expressions of what I feel.

BCP: Your spirituality plays a large role in your music. Why?

OJ: Faith.  I believe that love is the ruler of the universe and we all have it. Through music we get to express it and sharing music connects us spiritually. We all survive or not through it, depending on our own interpretations of it.

BCP: Do you see song as a form of prayer?

OJ: Yes.

BCP: The songs you have shared are very socially conscious.  Where does this consciousness come from?

OJ: I guess growing up in a village where social living is the norm where everyone is “POOR” we work together to get things done, it becomes embedded in my consciousness, so my writing reflects always on my desire to live community.

BCP: You have had extensive relations with the Hopi Nation (and other Indigenous nations) over the years.  Can you talk about that a little bit?

OJ: Music has taken me many places, and I always feel a sense of purpose wherever I go and every time I have been to any indigenous places I feel like the struggle against their own kindness, yet their spirit is so strong it instantly connects and bonds and is totally familiar.

BCP: What similarities do you see between Indigenous peoples and peoples of African descent?  How can/does music help such peoples and other peoples of colour who have had it hard historically and currently?

OJ: The fact that we all faced the same demon of greed and exploitation and still have songs as to where we find solace in our spirituality and could share similar experiences in trying to preserve and maintain our cultures.

BCP: What are you working on now?

OJ: Different projects are in the mix right now, more music, tours and developing outlets for more socially conscious products and producers.

BCP: When do you expect to have your third album out?

OJ: Early 2012.

BCP: What advice do you have for other musicians out there who are having difficulties with their music, or who have yet to see their first CD out, or who are afraid to perform their music?

OJ: Believe in what you do and be true to yourself no matter what it takes, you will find a way to release what is inside. The muse has its own will to be free.

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Racialicious is a blog about the intersection of race and pop culture. Check out our daily updates on the latest celebrity gaffes, our no-holds-barred critique of questionable media representations, and of course, the inevitable Keanu Reeves John Cho newsflashes.

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