ARTICLES INDEX STAR!

MARK RAGSDALE ASKS 20 QUESTIONS TO JAH PICKNEY

1.  How did you come by the name Jah Pickney?

When I was 12 years old, I wrote a fan letter to Christafari after hearing their first album, "Reggae Worship".  I wrote to tell them that I was very happy to find a Christian Reggae band, and I also told them about the calling God had on my life for a ministry to Jamaicans.  Mark "Tansoback" Mohr (founder and lead vocalist of Christafari) was very impressed with my letter and was inspired to write back.  In his letter, which was the
beginning of our good friendship, he gave me the name Jah Pickney (which
means God's child in Jamaican patois) due to my age and God's early calling
in my life.

2.  How did you get into Reggae music?

I believe that the rhythm of Reggae music is a thing that you must be born with!  It doesn't seem very easy for people to adopt it or learn it.  It is so different from the rhythm we are used to in Canada or America.  I know that even before my existence God had a plan for my life, so when He created me He created me with the a love and natural ability for the Reggae rhythms. As I look back throughout my life I realize now that all the songs I ever
loved growing up were either Reggae or had a similar beat, but it wasn't until 1993 that I realized that this music was called "Reggae".  At this time the popular Inner Circle song "Sweat (A la la la la long)" was always on the radio, and I fell in love with it.  When I found out that this song was what they call "Reggae" I started collecting more and more.

3.  How did you get into Dancehall in particular?

Even before I knew what Reggae was I loved songs that I heard on the radio like Shabba's "Mr. Loverman", and Shaggy's "Oh Carolina".  As I collected more Reggae albums I got more and more opened up to the different styles of Reggae and learned that these songs were also considered Reggae.  I eventually heard the likes of Tony Rebel, and Tiger, and it literally amazed me as I couldn't understand one single word they said.  As I would listen to Reggae the dancehall style seemed to pop out more. It was so different from Canadian music, and I loved it.

4.  You play all the instruments on your first CD "Jah Love".  Where did you
learn to play?

My ability for music is totally a God given gift.  I have never had lessons, and I don't even understand why I can do it.  Music is very big in my family.  My Dad plays guitar, my Mom plays piano, and my brothers play drums and guitar.  I didn't play anything for a long time.  I didn't seem to have really any musical talents, but as my family wanted us to all play together I struggled to play the bass guitar (playing only what my Dad taught me to
do).  My first instrument of my own was a harmonica given to me from my
Grandmother.  Soon after I discovered my love for Jamaica and Reggae I had a desire to play hand drums.  When I was about 12 or 13 I got my first hand drum for Christmas.  I would just bang away on that drum, it didn't sound good but I loved it, so it was sure to get better.  As I listened to Reggae I began to imitate what they would play, and soon I was doing this on piano, drums, bass and everything else.  The more I listened the better I got. Being a one man band I couldn't play all the instruments at the same time
so that is when I got a Keyboard Sequencer Workstation.  Since then I have been
programming, and playing instruments into the sequencer so I have a full back up band at the push of a play button.  I first started by learning other songs by ear and putting them into my sequencer to get the hang of Reggae composition and soon I was writing my own.

5.  What was your reason to release "Jah Love" by yourself instead of signing to an established label?

Given my location, I am the only one around who knows Reggae in and out, so in a way I was forced to venture into this project on my own.  However, I do enjoy it this way because being on my own gives me the freedom to produce an album exactly how I want it to sound, and to be the producer myself.  I also felt God had called me right then to establish this part of my ministry and to focus on my music.  If this album was to be released under a major label I may have had to wait a few more years before its release, and I felt that God's timing was then.  With my independent label "Jah Yout Productions" I have found that things are going smoothly and God is doing big things with my music.

6.  How did you end up going to Jamaica by yourself in 1997?

I was originally supposed to accompany Mark Mohr on his annual Jamaica for Jesus trip, but due to Christafari's heavy concert schedule the trip was almost cancelled.  Mark then had the idea that I could fly down by myself and stay with some missionaries that lived there, and I could continue Mark's work as he couldn't be there.  This was a little frightening for me because I was only 15 years old and I was going to a third world country I had never been to and I was going to stay with people I had never met.  But
my faith in God was strong and I went.  On this trip I was involved in Street witnessing, and witnessing to children at two different orphanages, as well as helping to build a Christian School, but the main focus of the trip was to minister back stage at the largest Reggae festival in the world "Reggae Sumfest".  It was my vision that if we won the artists for Christ they would go on to spread the Gospel to thousands.

7.  Did anything of significance happen on that trip?

Oh yes!  When I first arrived home I was a little disappointed that I hadn't seen anyone accept Christ on the spot, but my Mother assured me saying that I had done my part, I had planted the seed and it is up to God to make them grow.  Soon I realized this was true when I received an e-mail from the missionaries stating that Lt. Stitchie (one of Jamaica's biggest Reggae artists) had become a Christian through the Bible that I handed him back stage at Sumfest.  Stitchie has now gone on to sing the Gospel through his dancehall Reggae and has one many souls for Christ.  He is now signed to
Christafari's label Lion of Zion Entertainment.  He has also become a dear friend of mine, and a big help in my ministry.

8.  Have You been back to Jamaica since?

Not yet, but I can't wait to go back again.  Right now focusing on my music ministry has taken all my time but hopefully I soon can combine these ministries, and perform in Jamaica.

9.  How did you end up hosting your own Reggae radio show?

As I was first getting into Reggae music I was surprised to hear that here in Belleville on a local College Radio station there was a Reggae program called "Reggaesplash".  I was excited to here this news so I tuned in every week, and called in for requests all the time.  Soon the DJ got to know me as I was his biggest fan, and we became friends.  After a few years of listening to this program the DJ told me that he was graduating and was moving back home and Reggaesplash was going to be cancelled unless he could
find a replacement.  As he knew that I knew my Reggae and that I had a large collection he asked the Station manager if I could take over Reggaesplash when he was gone.  The Station manager agreed to letting me take over so I was trained and soon Reggaesplash was back on with its new host Jah Pickney. On this program I have the freedom to play whatever Reggae music I want, as I use my own CD collection, and it is a specialty show.  It airs every Saturday night from 7:00 until 8:00 on 92.3 FM CJLX.

10.  How have sales of Jah Love been?

Sales have been going quite well.  The distribution is still not as widespread as we would like it to be, but considering the amount of availability it is going very well.  When the album first became available on the Lion of Zion website store they sold out very quickly and requested more ASAP.  So I am very happy with the way things have been going.

11.  How did you hear of STAR and how has STAR helped you?

I heard about STAR from Mark Mohr before it had even started and was just a vision.  I signed up as soon as possible and it has been great.  STAR has been great in helping to promote my music.  When the album first came out STAR was quick to get clips on their site and it was one of the first albums being sold on the STAR store.  It is also a great source of  contacts with others involved in Christian Reggae or Ska.

12.  Any funny or interesting stories from show/tours you have done?

There are a few things that have happened.  Nothing major.  In my performances we include a light show as well as the use of a fog machine. One time when still experimenting with the smoke machine it was placed at the front of the stage facing me and in one of my hard songs the operator just totally pumped the smoke.  It looked cool but as I sang I started to breath it in until I started choking.  I covered up alright, and just
avoided standing right in front of it, for the rest of the show.  Another time we blew the power on the lights and I had to sing in the dark for one song until we got the lights on again.  That's pretty much it.

13.  Any plans yet for a new album?

Yes.  Production of the next album has already begun.  I have been preparing the songs since the release of Jah Love with no break in between.  I have been busy in the studio as well as busy designing the cover art, and writing up the album notes.

14.  What can we expect from this album?  Any changes in direction or music?

There are definitely some changes musically.  It will include a wider variety of Reggae styles stepping closer to Roots and Lovers Rock, yet also keeping the hard dancehall.  The soft songs will be softer and the hard songs will be harder.  There will be more tracks on this album as well as more live instrumentation.  This album will be entitled "From the Heart" and lyrically covers more personal emotions and experiences.

15.  Being a white dreadlocked man from Canada, do you get any strange
looks walking down the streets?

There are always people staring and whispering.  It is starting to lesson now that most people have seen my face in the paper or in the local record stores, but I suppose it will never cease altogether.  In fact on my next album I have some lyrics written about this subject.  When I am in big cities like Toronto, which has a large Jamaican community it is not that bad, but here in the little "country" town of Belleville it is a strange sight to people.

16.  Any long term plans?

I just want to continue writing, recording, performing and producing my reggae music for Christ.  I also want to establish a solid ministry taking trips to Jamaica, and performing more world wide.  I want to worship Christ with everything I do, and listen to His calling and go where He tells me to go.  Eventually I would like to have a family and to pass my music and faith down through the generations.

17.  What was your reaction when Stitchie called you from Toronto?

I hadn't seen Stitchie since his choice to accept Christ, but I had established a friendship with him over the phone.  When he called from Toronto and asked me to come and share the stage with him to sing and complete the story of his salvation, I was thrilled at the opportunity to see him again and to be included in his ministry.  I was still in school at the time but my Mother called the school and said "Sorry, Tim's not coming
in today".  We went directly to Toronto and Stitchie and I had a wonderful reunion as brothers in Christ.

18.  What lead to him calling you?

Stitchie was very grateful when he found out who it was that gave him the bible at Reggae Sumfest.  We built a friendship by phone and we hoped to someday meet again.  He had been sharing his testimony all over the world and in it he mentioned the white Canadian boy who gave him a bible at Sumfest '97.  He sees me as an important part of his new life in Christ. When he was going to be in Toronto, sharing his testimony, he couldn't pass up the opportunity to meet me again and introduce me to his audience.
 

19.  What artists/bands are your influences?

In my music you can clearly hear influences from such artists as Degree (General Degree), Tony Rebel and even some Christafari.  In my newer songs my influences are Degree, Stitchie, Everton Blender, Tony Rebel, Buju Banton, Christafari, and Bob Marley. My all time favorite artists are, Degree, Tony Rebel, Buju Banton, Bob Marley, Prodigal Son, Burning Spear, Christafari, Beres Hammond, Glen Washington and many many more.

20.  Any advice for people starting out in the music industry?

Music is fun.  Enjoy it, and never give it up.  Be strong, it can be rough. Have faith in God, and always give Him the glory.

21.  Do you have any opinions of the current state of the CCM industry?

Christian music is getting better and better.  It is becoming more authentic and productions are even starting to surpass secular music.  I remember when all Christian music sounded the same, but now you can get Christian music in any genre you want that is equal to or better than the secular scene in quality and production.  This is especially true in the Christian Reggae scene.  A few years ago there was no such thing and now there are lots of Christian Reggae artists recording very authentic and excellent music.