Some four and a half years since the release of their second album, Reality Chant, Christchurch based Dubwize released their eagerly awaited third album earlier in the year. The new album is legendarily-dreaded front man Snypa Levi’s solo offering, entitled Dubwize Presents Snypa Levi: The Sojourner.
Music Feeds: So let’s go back a bit to start. You migrated to New Zealand way back in 1988. What prompted that move? Were you chasing something, or did you just feel like it was time for a change?
Snypa Levi: Yeah, I was chasing something alright… a woman. Also, I was looking for a change as well. I think I could see the road America was going down and didn’t like it. I was prepared to immigrate to an island in the West Indies, then the NZ option was flashed before me, and the rest is history.
MF: What made you decide to return to NZ in 1995?
SL: It was always my intention to return, the initial trip back to the States was only meant to be for six months, but my second son was born there, I started working and playing in a mean band, etc. Also, I felt as though I had some unfinished business in this part of the world. It’s always been my belief that Jah sent me here for a reason.
MF: How did you hook up with the Dubwize crew?
SL: We linked up through a mutual friend, a Christchurch cat who was living up by me in The Bay of Plenty. He moved back down South and spread the vibes. Next thing I knew, I was on a plane down there for a show and in the recording studio the next day.
MF: What was it that made you think you’d want to work with them?
SL: I think it was the dancehall element of Dubwize that attracted me. I’d been dealing with Roots quite a bit in the time leading up to us linking, and I’ve always been a dancehall fan from way back. I love my roots and dancehall both.
MF: So what do you think of the music scene in New Zealand? Is it healthy, thriving?
SL: Well the music scene is definitely thriving, but I don’t know if I’d call it ‘healthy’, not in a spiritual sense anyways. The industry seems to want to push a lot of commercial rock and pop-hop on the people, which is cool, it’s better to make music than war… but in these times that we’re living in the people need to be fed.
MF: True that. What do you think could be done to improve the scene over there?
SL: There’s so much to write about, a lot of pop music is just so shallow and empty. I was blessed growing up in California with all the great community radio stations playing reggae, jazz, blues, soul, African, etc. New Zealand needs more of that. The people just aren’t aware of all the great music out there, so they tend to just gobble up what Big Brother feeds them. I suggest going online and exploring.
MF: Your new album, The Sojourner has been a long time in the making. With such an extended recording process, was it difficult to maintain the consistency between tracks?
SL: Yeah, there’s definitely something to what you’re saying about maintaining consistency over time. There are themes in there; if you listen you can pick them up.
MF: What’s your favourite track on the album?
SL: You’re not gonna make me choose between my children, are you!?
MF: Haha. Nah, you’re right, that wouldn’t be fair. Now, reggae and dancehall both have a long tradition as a means of social commentary. Is it important for you that your music carries a message? Are you conscious of saying something when you write a song?
SL: Oh, it’s most important to me that the music carries a message. I write the odd ‘pop-ish’ tune, but hey, I like to go out and have a few drinks and dance and have a good time, so I’m still writing about my realm of experience. Like I said before, in these times we’re living in the people need to be fed. I mean, look at all the topics people touched on in the sixties, then look at the state of the world today. We need conscious music now more than ever. I just can’t understand how people can just write about nothing…. what brand of booze they drink, what size rims they’re rolling on, all the meaningless sex they have with Shorty and Boo… This world’s heading for a big shake up and people need to be prepared and strengthened.
MF: Damn straight. Part of that shake up has gotta be your upcoming gigs at Bass Driven and Reggaetown. What can punters expect when Dubwize invades the stage?
SL: We bring an experience, the next day you’ll still be digesting it and feeding off it. Be prepared to dance and have a great time… We like to leave a lasting impression.
MF: So are there any bands, musicians out there you think our readers should wrap their ears around? What do you listen to when you’re not making your own music?
SL: I listen to artists like Natural Black, Lutan Fyah, Tarrus Riley, Ritchie Spice, Luciano, Bushman, Gentleman, Natty King, Anthony B, Queen Ifrica, Morgan Heritage and much more. Go out and seek great music and you’ll find it.
MF: That’s what we’ve been saying all along! What’s in the pipeline for Dubwize? Will you guys be working on another full release? Do you think we might see more ‘Dubwize presents’ titles in the future?
SL: Well, I’m about a quarter way through my next album, so keep an eye and ear out for that in 2010. Dubwize is really just a name that we’re holding onto to keep the link strong between us and our fans. Messenjah has got his projects going under the ‘Reality Chant’ banner and I’m going hot and heavy on my solo stuff. To me Dubwize is more about when we were the staunch soundsystem crew holding it down in the South Island. We’re entering a new phase now, just kinda holding onto that Dubwize name so our Kiwi fans know it’s us… ha!
Blessed Love my people!