Reggae has of course since decades gone international and widened its fan base, but I have known individually quite different reggae fans within the Netherlands. Black and white (and Asian, or mixed etc.). Males and females. Old and young. Some with little education, some highly educated. Of different class backgrounds. Some combine liking reggae quite equally with other genres (e.g.: some with African, funk, soul, some with hip-hop, some even with non-black music genres), while others on the other hand adhere almost “strictly” to reggae music, and do not get into much else. Some like roots reggae more than dancehall or vice versa. There are even reggae fans – believe it or not - who do not smoke the “ganja herb”.
Furthermore, some have an interest or sympathy for the related subject of Rastafari, some do not, or even despise it. The latter, despise, I find somewhat odd since Rastafari is not the same as reggae, but is nonetheless connected to it.
These differences (and similarities) between and among reggae fans/lovers intrigue me, also in relation to personal backgrounds. That’s the reason why I would like to interview specific individuals who love reggae.
Before this I have interviewed 7 persons – reggae lovers I know, “breddas” (meaning “brothers”, or "friends" in Jamaican parlance) of mine – here in the Netherlands.
I started the series on this blog with a post of June 2012, when I interviewed Abenet. In April of 2013 I interviewed Bill. After this I interviewed Manjah Fyah, in May 2014. For my blog post of August 2015, I interviewed, somewhat more extensively, (DJ) Rowstone (Rowald). In August 2016, then, I interviewed Vega Selecta. In October 2017 I interviewed DJ Ewa. Then, for my post of September 2018, I interviewed for the first time a woman, namely Empress Messenjah or Empress Donna Lee.
This time, close to August 2019, I interview another “sista” of mine, whom I know from the Amsterdam reggae scene. Her name is Carol Samson, also known under her selectress/dee-jay name Sound Cista or Sound-Cista. Carol is partly of Surinamese descent.
I chose to interview her, because I in time saw and heard her play as deejay/selectress more and more – these last years - , mainly at the Reggae-minded club Café the Zen, in Amsterdam East. She did also do other things in/for that Café. She also played on occasion in some other places and clubs in and around Amsterdam, and even outside of the Netherlands, as she got to play on a beach venue in the Spanish region of Valencia, not far from where the famous Rototom festival is held, in August 2018. She says she, as part of Jah Sister's (with DJ Jessi), will play there, in Valencia, Spain, again this year 2019, later this month (the 25th of August).
Her musical selections as selectress I enjoyed a lot, with a focus on good New Roots, and sometimes older Roots, by artists like Bushman, Lutan Fyah, Morgan Heritage, Capleton or Richie Spice.
Moreover, we spoke quite often the last years, in nice, open conversations, about Reggae music, but also life in general. Still, there is more than enough I do not know about her yet, arousing my curiosity. Underneath the photo you’ll see my questions and her answers, translated to English.
Where were you born and did you grow up?
I was born in Amsterdam. Before I reached the age of 1, we moved to Suriname. When I was 6 years old we returned to the Netherlands. I grew up in Amsterdam South East (de “Bijlmer”).
Since when do you listen Reggae music?
Since I was 15 years old I came into contact with Reggae Music. That is: other Reggae music than Bob Marley’s or Peter Tosh’s.
What attracted you to it, then?
The beat/rhythm and its lyrics. Reggae’s song lyrics were more about life, attracting me more than mainstream pop on the Dutch radio (like Hilversum 3).
What other music genres did you listen to?
I listened sometimes to what was in the hit parades, preferring most soul, funk, R&B, hip-hop. At home with my parents, growing up, I heard Salsa, Merengue, Bachata, and Bigi Poku (Surinamese music). From my period in Suriname, as a child, I remember that my parents also used to play a lot of Soul music, by Otis Redding, Percy Sledge, Al Green, the Temptations, Aretha Franklin, Oscar Harris, and Ray Charles.
Has there been a change in your musical preferences since then?
Yes, I also like old school hip-hop and rap, fado music, bossa nova, but I listen most to Reggae
Do you have any preferences within the broad Reggae genre? Does, e.g., Digital Dancehall appeal to you as much as Roots Reggae?
I love Roots Reggae, “conscious” Reggae, both old and new. I really have no affinity with Dancehall. It does not even resemble Reggae anymore, in my personal opinion.
Is there really no Dancehall you like?
Some Dancehall songs are okay, as long as it is no slackness. I like for instance What If by Busy Signal. Overall, however, I do not really see it as Reggae; I really love Roots Reggae, nice basslines, and music that touches you. I don’t have that with Dancehall..
Since when are you a Reggae selectress/dee-jay?
I bought my first dj mixer in 2014. In 2016 I played for the first time for an audience in Café the Zen (Amsterdam), on “open decks” evenings. In November 2017 I got every first Saturday of the month as regular playing gig in Café the Zen. That was the birth of Jah Sister’s, as I play since then every first Saturday of the month with my dj sis Dj Jessi.
How do you consider the gender (male-female) balance among Reggae deejay’s/selecta’s in Amsterdam/the Netherlands?
I know (Empress) Donna Lee as first female Reggae deejay/selectress in the Netherlands. In the present time, there are quite some more lady Reggae deejay’s/selectresses than before, in the Netherlands.
It is still a bit skewed and unbalanced, however. Most deejay’s are still men. That does not always need to be a problem, though. I played/spinned together with several deejay’s, and do not notice that much difference.
Are you active in other ways within the Reggae scene as well? E.g. radio, organizing events or otherwise?
For years I was a decent mother, caring for two children. When they left the house, I started doing more with my music hobby. I have been collecting Reggae music for years and wanted to do something with it.
Nowadays, I also promote the events of Café the Zen on Facebook, at times make a line-up in the case of different events on one night, or assist in other things when something is organized in Café the Zen. Furthermore, I make flyers for Jah Sisters, or for other deejay’s/selecta’s who do not have time for it.
I have also been a guest a few times on radio programmes.
Do you have a preference for Vinyl or Digital/CD? As listener and as selecta/selectress?
I have a preference for Digital carriers: vinyl requires too much weight and space. So, headphones and USB sticks, though I also always carry some CDs with me, and can play with anything: digital and vinyl, even cassette, if needed. In that sense, I am well versatile. To listen to, I appreciate both Digital and Vinyl.
Why the selecta name Sound Cista?
“Sound” from, well, sound, and Cista from “Sister”, changing the first S to C, from my personal name Carol. Sound Sister.
Does the Rastafari message in much of Reggae appeal to you? How does this relate to your own background, or beliefs?
I am not a Rastafari, nor do I have any religious conviction as such. I do however not eat any meat. In addition, I also do try to live in harmony with others. Regrettably, I notice that many – also in the Reggae scene – are polluted with the “Babylon” mindset, being very envious of others. They do not practice what they preach!
I mention this, because as a dee-jay/selecta/selectress, you come across a lot of envy and jealousy, people begrudging you, crossing you, or slandering your name.
I really do not have time for such “Babylon” things, and prefer to give my energy to positive people, on the same level and wavelength. The rest is unimportant for me, only distracting me from my mission: promoting Reggae, unity, and one love.
What kind of music (reggae) do you prefer to listen to now – at this moment -, what specific artists? Any new “discoveries” you would like to mention?
I prefer listening to Reggae, as I always searching for good music. In the past, Barrington Levy, Price Far I, Garnett Silk, Capleton, Lutan Fyah, Morgan Heritage, LMS, and Richie Spice were artists I listened to often.
Nowadays I hear a lot of beautiful songs, by both known or even totally unknown artists. At the present I listen, for instance, to the song Brother’s Keeper by Jerone, and Music Alone, by Ginjah.
REFLECTION AND COMPARISON
I myself now learned somewhat more about Sound Cista, or Carol, though she told me some of this before personally already. I hope the reader got to know now more about the woman behind the selectress Sound Cista, how she became a selectress, and her specific tastes and stances within the Reggae scene.
Her taste – and therefore her selection as selectress/deejay – are not so different from mine, being the reason why I personally enjoy her sets.
I prefer Roots Reggae over Dancehall too, although I focus perhaps a bit more on the Older Roots Reggae from the 1970s and 1980s. I am a Reggae (vinyl) selecta too, at times, and tend to play relatively a lot of chunes from the early 1980s or Late 1970s (by artists like Culture, Hugh Mundell, the Mighty Diamonds, the Itals, Twinkle Brothers, Don Carlos, or Pablo Moses) besides current New Roots by artists like Sizzla, Bushman, or Queen Ifrica. Sound Cista plays varied too, but a bit more focused on New Roots.
There is a bit more Dancehall I like, maybe, when compared to Sound Cista, though it is neither my main love within Reggae. So in that sense we roughly coincide, and seem to be kindred spirits.
The jealousy and envy – and lack of cooperation - she mentions among Reggae deejay’s, is also noteworthy. I heard about it before, also from others.
Those kind of negative human character traits can be found among all humans and in all activities (workplace, hobbies, art, and elsewhere), but in the Reggae scene it is a bit more disturbing, in light of the espoused One Love and Unity in it, some claim to uphold. Of course, this then starts to reek of hypocrisy and hollow words. Many do not practice what they preach, Sound Cista justly says.
The lacking cooperation in the local (in this case Amsterdam/Netherlands) Reggae scene is also mentioned by other people I interviewed for my blog before, such as DJ Ewa, as well as others.
Kind of a ego-minded, self-interested “cowboy mentality”, I have called it before, and it’s there certainly, which is a pity. If you really have talent yourself, or work on it, you do not need to begrudge or keep down others, I often think.
Yet, there is besides this also enough cooperation within the Amsterdam Reggae scene, as selectas tend to combine and play together, or have so, on several events. Often changing combinations, in Café the Zen (Amsterdam), or elsewhere. Positive movements!
This goes even beyond gender or racial distinctions.
Nonetheless, some note in Amsterdam a distinction - or even division - between a Reggae scene with events dominated by White people (including foreigners, and some connected to the squatter scene), and one by Black people, dominated by Black people, mostly local Surinamese or African people (as audience and selecta’s), and with a matching different song selection or clubs to visit. Less Dub and more New Roots for a more Black audience, for instance.
I notice a bit of that distinction, but do not see it as that significant. Good music is good music, and good Reggae is good Reggae. It is all Black music, overall, in its cultural and musical characteristics. The harmony vocals from Older Reggae like of the Wailing Souls, the Viceroys, the Abyssinians, or the Mighty Diamonds are heard maybe more on some “White-dominated” Reggae events, nowadays, but on the other hand exemplify the beautiful African and Afro-Caribbean vocal (and percussive!) “call-and-response” characteristic, quite typical in Black music, to give an example.
I miss those harmony and call-and-response vocals a bit in current Reggae (with much more sole singers than groups), though I like much of the New Roots too nonetheless, because of the many talented artists, good grooves and musicianship, intelligent lyrics, and strong songs being released by Jamaican artists in recent times too.
Sound Cista certainly plays a lot of these great songs as selectress..