I Kong and Mikey Lee -The Making of The Way It Is album

By Angus Taylor

2019 marks 40 years since the international release of I Kong’s classic LP The Way It Is. Recorded in 1977 and issued in Jamaica a year later, the half Chinese Jamaican Rasta’s debut is considered one of the deepest, musically accomplished roots reggae albums of its competitive era. 

The Way It Is sets the soulful voice and mystic lyrics of Errol “I” Kong, nephew of pioneering producer Leslie Kong, to rhythms built by perhaps the most star-studded cast of musicians ever committed to a single reggae project. Where traditional wisdom and tough circumstances dictated that Jamaican recordings be made as quickly and cheaply as possible, I Kong and executive producer Mikey “Jah Mikes” Lee, had grander plans. The horn section alone boasts ten players, including Tommy McCook, Herman Marquis, Dirty Harry, Deadly Headley Bennett, Vin Gordon, and a young Dean Fraser

Sadly, the two Sino-Jamaicans’ prioritising of artistic vision over business acumen resulted in them losing control of the distribution of their album. The LP was released abroad without their knowledge and they never received royalties for their hard work and considerable funds borrowed from Mikey’s father. I Kong semi-retired from the music to rural St Elizabeth, only returning in the 2010s for a redemptive comeback with Switzerland’s Najavibes. Mikey Lee left the business completely, working in ecological farming and advising top reggae stars behind the scenes. 

To celebrate the 40th anniversary of one of the world’s most acclaimed roots reggae creations, Angus Taylor tracked down I Kong and Mikey Lee in Jamaica. Jah Mikes, who rarely gives interviews, preferred not to talk about the piracy aspect, but was willing to discuss the making of the record. I Kong, now enjoying a career second coming, was happy to share his memories of the whole beautiful maddening experience. Although Mikey and I Kong were interviewed separately, their transcripts have been edited to intersperse their recollections in narrative form. This interview is a partnership with United Reggae and World A Reggae.

MIKEY LEE:
I met I Kong at Hellshire beach. He was there with Jimmy Cliff. I was just coming out of the sea when I saw the dreadlocks and thought “That guy looks like Chinese”! It was the first Chinese Rasta I saw. I recognised Jimmy Cliff so I went over and bigged him up for The Harder They Come movie. Then I looked on I Kong and I said “You are Chinese – you Rasta?” I was interested. 

Mikey Lee © Veronique Skelsey

I KONG:
We reasoned. I would sing songs a capella. Everybody would always chant and listen. Sometimes we’d be there up on the beach and a drummer would just drum, acoustic style. One day Mikey said to me “Who you record these songs for?” I said “Eh? I never record those songs yet.”

MIKEY LEE:
We went to Two Sister Cave and he started singing some songs. In those days I used to buy 45’s every weekend and I was asking “Where I could get these 45? I’ve never heard these songs”. He said “Hey, they’re not produced” and I saidWhat do you mean produced?” I was like 16 when I met him. I decided I was not going to college so I bugged my father to give me some money to go to the studio. It took some convincing but eventually, he gave me the funds. It was like I was in the water but I couldn’t swim. I was just going along with the vibes. 

I KONG:
Mikey was the executive producer. I never had any money. He brought some money from his dad, who was a businessman and also a Justice of the Peace. Mikey was their son and Mikey said he wanted to do this, so they supported him. I give thanks to his dad – he’ll be forever part of the history of this thing.

I Kong © Veronique Skelsey

MIKEY LEE:
Most Jamaican Chinese are shopkeepers. But my dad had a gas station. He had trucks. He was self-employed. Actually, when I was trying to pay him back the money after I started working and getting a wage he saidNo, it gave me that experience of that part of life”. Because none of his children ever approached him to do something like that. 

I KONG:
Mikey loved the songs. I wanted to record. And finally, I met a man who wanted to record me on my terms where I had freedom to do what I wanted, how I heard the songs in my head. As the Father put in my head. Because I used instruments on that album where people used to say I’m mad! “Them two Chinese boys – that can’t work! Most of reggae have to be 2 chords, they play 4 chords and 6 chord reggae – that can’t play in a reggae!” I’d say “Those guys, they never hear what I hear in my head” and Mikey said “Well ok boss, go on. I love what I hear you doing”. Mikey gave me total freedom. I guess because back then Mikey was just learning. I was the first one who really introduced him to the business. The first thing I did when Mikey and I started parring was I took him to every artist I know. I introduced him to everyone. The good, the bad and the ugly! (laughs)

MIKEY LEE:
That was a good experience growing up as a Chinese Jamaican in the 70s moving around Rasta and musicians. I was privileged to meet all the Skatalites, Rico Rodriguez and all of them from ska days to reggae. I was happy to meet I Kong because through that relationship I met Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Jacob Miller, Joseph Hill, Ken Boothe, we were good friends with all these people. 

I KONG:
We started the album in late 1977. It was released in 1978 on Tommy Cowan’s Talent Corporation label. Mikey was the executive producer. I was the producer, the singer, the writer, the arranger. On a couple of tracks I was helped in arrangements with certain instruments by the great Geoffrey Chung. Geoffrey was my brethren. Geoffrey, like Jah Mikes was one of the few people who had faith in I. I could do as wanted to do with my music. Geoffrey never said to me “No Ricky, that can’t work”. He’d just say to the horns man “Blow”. I had to tell them what I heard in my head. He always said “Boy, it’s like you have a gramophone in your mouth Ricky. You make all of the sounds them”. 

MIKEY LEE:
I got my father’s van and would go pick up [musicians like] Sticky and Skully, just going around the place picking up people and doing the production. It was a great experience but  I didn’t know anything about the business! In those days Jamaica was kind of rough in the 70s and 80s, political. You didn’t see a lot of Rasta in the streets. They were more in the country, in the bush.

Mikey Lee © Veronique Skelsey

I KONG:
The only song [from the album] I’d recorded before was The Way It is for Tommy Cowan’s Top Cat label in 1972. All the songs were written by I man – except I Wish which I didn’t even know it was somebody else’s song. I don’t know if Jah Mikes or somebody came to me with a paper with these lyrics upon it. I just sang the flipping song. After the years went by I discovered it was a like a church song. A brethren brought my attention to it saying “I Kong, the man there thief your song!” Then we dug deeper and found they had copyrighted it so it must have been their song. 

The album was recorded at Harry J, Lee Perry studio and Dynamics. Dynamics wasn’t put on the album jacket. A lot of the work was done at Dynamics. We mixed the album there and we did quite a lot of overdubs because as you notice there are a lot of people on it. We had the whole of the brass man with the band, so it was like everybody one time. And other songs we overdubbed. Sylvan Morris is credited as engineer at Harry J, Lee Perry at Black Ark but I can’t remember those. 

MIKEY LEE:
Lee Scratch Perry was at Black Ark studio. I was really amazed at this little man you know?

I KONG:
At Dynamics the engineers were Geoffrey Chung, Jerome Francisque, who was a brethren from Trinidad who also played trombone and Phillip Zadie, a young engineer who Geoffrey was grooming. I don’t know what happened to him but if Geoffrey saw promise in him, he must have been good. 

The harmony arrangements were by Geoffrey Chung, I Man and Orville Wood. Orville used to sing with Pam Hall as Pam and Woody. Orville was my good friend, we go a long way back. One or two times he came and he said “Ricky that could work” so I have to give them a credit for that. Not like saying he did work right through and arrange the whole song but if a man gives you an idea, I give him credit for it – why not?

MIKEY LEE:
Almost all the bass was by Family Man [Barrett].

I KONG:
Family Man played bass on Life’s Road and quite a few other tracks. Aston and I had been friends for many years. He used to play on the Red Hills Road strip. Aston went through one or two bands before he became an Upsetter, then a Wailer. Like Hippy Boys and a next one who I don’t remember. But it seemed like forever that me and Fams would move. I liked his vibe and he liked my vibe and he liked the ladies and I liked the ladies! So we were a good team! (laughs) 

I remember one time, Family Man said “Come here, are you sure you don’t know music?” I said “I don’t know music. I don’t read, I don’t write. Everything I hear in my head. It’s Jah works”. Because I used to sing these songs when me and him would drive and then I would give him a line and he would say “Alright Ricky” and he would use his mouth like I would use my mouth. We were making music, driving and enjoying ourselves! 

Val Douglas (Skatalites) played bass on a couple of tracks but I can’t remember which. Val and me had been friends for from the Studio 1 days. Even before [I Kong’s first harmony group] Jamaicans. Long, long before. Geoffrey Chung played bass on I Wish if I’m not mistaken. Spread [Bedasse] also played bass which he isn’t credited with! We gave all of this information. But we never even checked it! It was years after that that Mikey said “Wait, how come I’m not on it as producer?” My name wasn’t on it as producer either!

MIKEY LEE:
On drums we had Horsemouth Wallace and Mikey Boo Richards

I KONG:
Mikey Boo played on all the songs apart from The Way It Is. Mikey and myself go a long way back and he’s a fantastic drummer. Fil Callender played the title track. I know that the 1978 version of The Way It Is was done at Dynamics because Fil was the drummer. There was an incident with him not being able to access drumsticks. The studio store room was locked and he made two sticks from a wooden clothes hanger. That’s why everyone says “Boy those drum sound different”. Because of the sticks. They were not really drumsticks. They were improvised sticks. We had a ball doing that. Fil is great.

MIKEY LEE:
Yes, that little short guy! (laughs) The wooden coat hanger! I Kong’s memory is good man. It’s better than mine to tell you the truth. Bob Marley used to call me the silent one. Because I used to just sit down and look and watch. I wasn’t saying nothing! (laughs)

I KONG:
Cat Coore from Third World played the lead guitar on The Way It Is – that rock thing. Set Jah People Free was Mikey Mao Chung… Geoffrey played on at least two tracks. The pick guitar Geoffrey did, I don’t remember if it was on Life’s Road or one of those tunes. Mao also played on two. Fil played some rhythm guitar.

Bunny Rugs from Third World played rhythm guitar on Set Jah People Free. We knew each other from childhood days. Me and Bunny recorded as a duo for Lee Perry. Bushweed Corntrash, Freedom Fighter on Beat Down Babylon Junior Byles rhythm. So Bunny came to studio one day and said “Yo Ricky I want lick guitar for one of them tunes”. I said “Which one you like play?” Bunny always had good vibes. Just his jokes alone were enough to crack you up! (laughs)

Organ was played by Robbie Lyn, Winston Wright and Wire Lindo. Wire played the clav too, I think. Wire is my brethren and Fams brethren so it was a logical thing. I think some of the songs that Wire played were also the ones that Fams played on. Me and Robbie go so far back! We are like brothers. Robbie is such a great giant and a gentle soul. A real gentleman. I can’t find adjectives enough to describe Robert. Multi-talented. They gave solace to me when the other people were doubters. They said “Ricky go do it – you can do it” and “Ricky your ideas are way out there Rasta but we love them!” So it worked. I give thanks for that. But then Jah was steering the ship so we couldn’t go wrong!

Winston and I were friends for many, many years. It’s just the next brethren who believed just like Mikey and all the rest of them. I’d go by his house as Winston had insomnia. He slept in the days but he worked in the nights preferably. Most of his great moments were done at night. I would get an idea and I just like to hang out and have somebody musical around because I don’t play. I could call Winston at any hour in the night from 6 and say “Yo Winnie, send the taxi for me and I come”. And he’d send a taximan and we’d go to his yard and he’d have his little studio. It was as big as the bathroom but we had fun.
Pablove Black played the piano and I’m trying to remember if he played clavinet. I think so but I’m not 100%. So did Ibo Cooper. I had known Ibo from when he was a member of the Inner Circle. Because The Way It Is the 45, Ibo was the one who played whereas the album version was Robbie Lyn.

The funde or talking drum was Leroy Mattis “Mabrak”. Leroy and myself go a long way back from the Wareika days. When I used to go to Wareika and listen to people like Count Ossie and Don and Roland and Jerry and all of them. Cedric Brooks also played that drum. Orville Wood played percussion, and so did Charlie and Goldie – two Ras from the Wareika days too. Carrot Jarrett was on congas. His brother and I were very good friends. Then you’ve got Skully and Sticky on percussion. People where me and them always had good relationship and they were always interested in playing on anything I would do.

MIKEY LEE:
I gave Deadly Hedley his name. After the sax solo from The Way It Is I looked on him and I said “Hedley, you deadly!” (laughs) And he stuck with that name from ’76.

I KONG:
There are 10 horn players of the album – Tommy McCook on sax… Tommy played flute also, which isn’t credited on the album jacket. Herman Marquis, Dirty Harry, Deadly Hedley, and Dean Fraser who I think, took to his first studio session. Dean was telling some people that at the Bunny Rugs memorial because a lot of us were gathered. He saidRicky was the first, man” and it’s really true. It all came back. I remember they said “This youth is going to take too long to get the song” and I said “Wait, if he just jumps up and starts to play he’ll never leave you”. It’s a long way me and Dean go back. Jah just points me in the right direction. And me and those people always gel. Because I don’t really see myself as an entertainer or a singer. I am a messenger.

We had Vin Gordon and Jerome on trombone too. Thomas Fulchner blew the French horn. He is from the military band. Everyone said “Rahtid Ricky! French horn?” I said “Yeah! French horn”. And then the night that he did it, everybody went crazy! And Fulchner didn’t even want to take the money! When I said “This is your pay”, he said “No sir”. I said “No man, everyone gets money – what’s wrong with you?” (laughs)

Arnold Breckenridge was one of two brothers who played trumpet and sax. They were very good and they used to do a lot of session work. At one time I think they did some work with Byron Lee and some other bands. Egbert Evans played the trumpet. I think he played sax too.

The reason I used so many horns was, I fell in love with Bobby Blue Bland’s band back in ’65-’66 when I met him in a club in Florida. He had this big band and I love that big band sound. The brass section alone blew me away. So I saidYeah, I love that there”. Plus, they would teach me in Sunday school about the angels blowing. That’s why I put in the French horn because in my mind that’s how it should sound. As I said I’m not a musician. I don’t read or write or play music but I heard those sounds and it worked! (laughs) Jah steer the ship, we couldn’t go wrong!

MIKEY LEE:
In those days artists were a family thing. It wasn’t like now with a lot of ego thing. Because Beres Hammond, Judy Mowatt, Prilly Hamilton, they were lead singers for their own bands and they came to give him a support. The backing vocals. On a couple of tracks, you know?

I KONG:
Judy Mowatt. Lifelong friend. Great voice. From Gaylettes. Fantastic lady. Love you Jude! She was working on her Black Woman album. Anicia Banks, I think she was related to Judy. Not 100% sure but she was also a member of the Twelve Tribes band. Nice lady too. Candy McKenzie. She was I think Bunny from Aswad’s sister. She was here visiting. Orville was also on backing vocals. 

I knew Beres for years and years. That day he was passing through and he just held a harmony and it was good. I don’t know if he’d remember, it was such a long time and he was just passing, but Beres is always a good brethren. Beres is one of those great one-of-a-kind voices. Beres had the thing that I love – the same thing I find in myself – soul. We love Soul. Prilly Hamilton who was also the first lead singer for Third World. He was my very good friend. And Winston Wright did a bit of singing on The Way It Is. (laughs)

MIKEY LEE:
There was an incident at the studio where the security man thought it was burning down. Because we were smoking chalice! They opened the door and because of smoking chalice for a couple of hours the smoke just exhales – but it was ganja smoke. And we had notorious people in the studio. Notorious. I Kong was a part of the gang! (laughs) I was hanging out – he was part of the shit! I Kong, he has so much history and he knows the names. I was just there.

I KONG:
We were smoking some so much herb because when I record, I don’t ramp to smoke herb, you know? We are inviting in Jah because I don’t really see myself smoke herb to get high like most people. They say “Ricky, what do you smoke herb for?” I say “To talk to Jah. Get close to the Father”. We were smoking hell of a lot. Plus when we were recording a lot of people were saying “Come, a little party they keep with pure food and bun ting and record album same time”. That’s the way I wanted it. I feed off of the energy of people.

The security came to tell me there was a brethren outside the gate… so when he pushed the door it’s like all of their smoke there inside. For hours inside we were smoking there. Winston Wright and the whole of we. I think only Geoffrey didn’t smoke. And if my memory serves me right Robert Lynn. But I don’t remember if Robert was there that night when this incident took place. 

But I know that when this brethren pushed the door, out came all of the smoke! Impossible smoke in there so it actually looks like a flipping fire! So he started bawling out “Fire!” The phone rang so he rushed back to his booth and it was Byron Lee. He told Byron “The studio catch fire! Some Rasta man! Ricky Storm I Kong!” Byron started to cuss and we had to tell Byron “You think I’d burn down the studio? What happened to my money? You think I’m an idiot? You waste my time, money I pay for my studio, just come off the phone”. So I hang up. Just one of those little things that happened along the way. (laughs)

MIKEY LEE:
I Kong used to sing under the name Ricky Storm. But I had this vision to have an all Rasta Chinese band and tour China and Japan. Ricky Storm doesn’t look like a Chinese name. So I saidHey your name is Errol Kong – I Man Kong”. And he took out the “Man” saying “I Kong”. This was long before people started being named I Wayne I this or I that. We came up with it like I Man Kong. So that’s how he changed it to I Kong. King Kong publishing was my idea. On the album it says King Kong publishing. 

So it was I Kong and the King Kong band who would tour. Because I was saying the same effect he had on me to see the first Chinese Rasta, I imagined a million Chinese seeing him and saying “What? What is this? He looks like us but what is he doing?” It was 1977 or ’76. I had that vision with Geoffrey Chung, Mikey Chung and Charlie Chung – those three brothers were musicians. We just didn’t have a drummer and a keyboard. So that was the vision that we had back in those days. But I’m happy to see how the world has become one village now.

I KONG:
I think we were wanting to do something with my surname, because of my legacy coming from uncle Leslie and of course my father. We were thinking about Kong, this Kong, that Kong, all kind of King Kong. I said “No, I’m not a king and I’m no gorilla” so we went round and round and round and I think I said “I The Kong”. And Mikey said “No, drop out “the” – “I Kong”. And then Joe and Frank Jones said “Yeah man! That sound good! It’s catchy!” So I said “Ok cool we’ll go with that”. And we became I Kong

MIKEY LEE:
The costume he wore at Sunsplash was actually made in Miami from this costume store. I just had this comic named Kung Fu back in those days, a cowboy Kung Fu and he had this costume. I just redesigned it with the red, gold and green. It was expensive back in those days when you think about it! I was going to school so it was every week, save up! (laughs) But he got a good write-up for it. The costume was good in those days. I think I would have been a good manager if I had continued with it. I just came up with the look.

I KONG:
The Chinese attire. Well it’s my father’s heritage that I chose to take. I started saying “Wow those people back then, Genghis Khan and Kublai Khan, those men had the first emperor. They had some wicked clothes you know boss”. And when I checked myself in my mind’s eye, I looked upon those things there and I said “I feel like a little guy like me is a giant still”. Because I always saw myself as a little one. Because mostly I was the smallest one even as a youth. I would move in several little street gangs with friends but I was always the smallest one. But they’d find out that more time, it was me coming like I would lead the thing because  I didn’t like to follow. So even when I don’t do it consciously, subconsciously I do so.

I KONG:
The cover art and design is credited to Orville Bagga Case. He did the lithograph. But whole of this concept was me, Jah Mikes and my two brethren. The one that took the photograph: Frank Jones as he was known until he changed his name to Janhoy by deed poll. He’s very much alive and kicking. And also my good brethren who we called Joe 90. He was a photographer and a customs broker. He’s alive now and my brethren, we grew together. 

We thrashed out this whole concept because those two, they heard me chant my music and loved it and always supported me. On the cover you see the rainbow start from Africa because when I trace it, someone called my attention and saidRicky, you know Jamaica can fit in up here on the shape of Africa like a jigsaw piece”. And because I’m good at the art thing, I love to draw, I sketched out the map of Africa and I sketched out the map of Jamaica and when I checked it out it really is coming like it’s a jigsaw puzzle. So I said “Wow”.

The shirt I’m wearing in the photograph, I don’t remember who actually gave me it. It’s a poncho, like the Mexicans wear. But when I looked upon it, it reminded me of Joseph and his coat of many colours. Some people said it doesn’t look militant enough. But I don’t like to follow people. I said to Mikey “It’s that me a deal with”.

I view my music as music of racial integration. It reminds me of Jamaica itself because it’s out of many, one. The whole concept of the album, the title track speaks for itself. The Way It Is because all those things I sing about are the way it is. It’s like the story continuing. Throughout the concept of the album. It’s really the my first concept album and up to now really the only concept album that I have done in my recording.

The harp signifies the harp of King David when he gave solace to King Saul who was a bad man. That’s how me and the badness were friends – because every bad man I know whether he is left, right or centre, they love music.

The jacket says art conception by I Kong and Tommy Cowan but Tommy just put that on there. This was all done, as I said, by Mikey, myself, Janhoy the photographer and Joe 90. It started that way and then it expanded, people kept coming in but I said “no I won’t change it”. And Mikey said “Ricky if that’s how you want it, that’s how it’s going to be”.

The album was distributed by Federal Records. That was what Tommy said. Actually, I think they did. Because it was Khouri, Richard or someone like that… The jacket says marketed by Talent Corporation. That’s Tommy’s company. Well obviously, he did market it, because it reached England and all those places! (laughs) Tommy is good at that. I still give a man his due. (laughs) I cuss him, but he’s my brethren still. (laughs)

MIKEY LEE:
When the album came out there was no producers name! (laughs) But I don’t want to mention nothing about the pirate thing. I mean it doesn’t make any difference. I don’t really talk about a lot of things. Because I can do something to make a change but if it’s just to talk about it then I’m not going to do anything about it.

I KONG:
We didn’t know what was going on until suddenly we started getting bits and pieces of information. People were saying “Boy, The Way It Is, Ricky you’re big! Mikey you must be making large money!” We said “What?” One of the English sounds was really belting it. So all of that started to give me some ideas of what was going on. But as I said, we didn’t know the business so we didn’t know the extent or what was what. We were novices. Now I can laugh about it but when I was young, I didn’t laugh. I did screw, bad-bad.

Put it this way. People say this and people say that, but I don’t really have it in black and white to say that. I did screw one time but I don’t screw anymore because if I dwell in the past, I’m not going to know my future. So I just want to do the things because the Father granted me a second chance and I give thanks to people like the I them.

MIKEY LEE:
There was another pirate version. People took off songs off the album and put them out like Babylon Walls, they put it out on a compilation. And some of them I don’t even get credited for. So as I said I just screw those days there.

I left Jamaica in ’77 and I left the album with I Kong. They shipped me off to school. They said “Hey no more hanging out with these, like gangster thing!” In those days we had a big migration like uptown Jamaica going to America for some reason.

I KONG:
Yes, I got to find out about the pirate version put out by Gilly. As I said I screwed one time but I can’t bother with those things there now. If I dwell in the past I’m not going to reach anywhere. And to be truthful if I saw Gilly right now me and him would laugh and smoke a spliff or chalice.
To be truthful back in those days me and Gilly used to have some nice times. I had one copy and Mikey said, “Give it if you want to give him it”. But we didn’t know whatever became of it then. As I said we were so naive.

MIKEY LEE:
Later I owned a studio with Gilly. We started in 1997. Just by chance one of my friends had a studio there in Miami. Anthony Gilbert just came out of a little thing and then I hooked up with him and we had a studio together named Gong Sounds. Rita Marley didn’t like Gilly, so she told me it’s nothing to do with me but she has a lawsuit against this name. But I had a Chinese gong with a microphone so it was nothing to do with Rasta. Or Bob Marley.

I KONG:
Over the years we had been getting, as I said, snippets of this and that from people going abroad like certain artists. Artists would come back and tell me “Boy Ricky, I never knew the album there and when I listen to it it’s a wicked album”. Mikey started hearing things too and poor Mikey now felt a way. He felt something like I pulled a fast one upon him. He thought that I made some money off it. But I was like him. I didn’t know anything. So the relationship between me and him did kind of strain. To put it mildly. But then over the years Mikey realised by coming into contact with each other that I’m still a little poor boy. Just like when they knew me. I don’t put on airs. I’m still Ricky Storm same way. I realised basically Mikey was the same and we never changed neither. So now we’re both stronger than before. He loves my son Skunga like his son.

MIKEY LEE:
I Kong for me is one of the most talented songwriters and musicians. When I say musician, he didn’t learn music but he hears it. So for me, that is even better than learning music because it’s in him you know? Anything he puts out he’s going to have a good message. I love his music, man. I really wish that more youths would write like that. It’s not about the hype that everybody’s hyping. His lyrics are conscious lyrics.

His son Skunga is I Kong in a new model. I love Skunga’s attitude and his energy. And the DNA, bro he must have his ear and everything. I’m sure he’s going to be great too. Like Chronixx and his father. So his legacy will continue. Skunga will produce music like that. That’s what I have been seeing.

I KONG:
Recently I went to France. I heard it again in Switzerland. I met people outside of those two countries saying “Hey this album”. Some French people said “I Kong you have an underground following in France, you know? You are a cult figure.” That’s what they told me. Like those rock guys. I’ve heard in quite a few other countries. It has been rated amongst the top 3 best ever roots rock albums. 

MIKEY LEE:
I’m not into the music business but I know all the musicians. Clive Hunt is one of my best,  Tiken Jah Fakoly and then Patrice from Germany. I’m not into the business but I have a lot of friends that are musicians and artists.

You know the greatest joy for me? Was when I was in Ivory Coast with Alpha Blondy. I met these Belgian selectors and somebody was asking them what’s their favourite reggae album? To my surprise they brought out the I Kong album which I didn’t even have a copy of! I was saying “Oh shit, I came all the way to Africa to see I Kong’s album in Ivory Coast!” When I told Alpha “I produced it, this is my first album” he was saying “What?” And the Belgian people were just going like “Wow”

So I’m happy that it went out because it was a good album of music. We might not get rewarded in certain ways. Work all day, don’t get much pay! (laughs) But we got paid differently you know? We have our health and a lot of people are not here now and so I give thanks to see I Kong and that he is still active and he’s going on doing his little thing.

© 2019 Angus Taylor for United Reggae & World A Reggae
© Photos by Veronique Skelsey


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