Keznamdi, creating musical gems through limitlessness Image

by Biko Kennedy

Fela Anikulapo Kuti once said "Music is the weapon of the future," and with the musical stratosphere currently prepared for a dramatic change, Keznamdi might just have the soundtrack that'll set free a lot of bottled emotions.

With a combined name that ultimately means 'the prince who saved his father's name' - Kez originates from Ethiopia and Namdi from Nigeria -very few Reggae stars arrive as fully formed as 21-year-old Keznamdi. Hailing from the McDonald musical clan, parented by Errol and Kerida of the band Chakula, Kez has been cranking out musical gems from as young as age five but with his EP Bridging the Gap, Kez has created an avant-garde collage of sounds encapsulating the past, present, and future of Reggae.

We caught up with Kez and the topics of conversation - from his musical journey to his somewhat cushion in the industry - were as varied as the EP's sound.

Jamaicansmusic: What's the purpose on your musical journey? What's the message you're trying to give?

Kez: Really just the message of love; to spread it, give it and receive it.

Entertainers tend to say that music is life, when it really isn't. There must be a personal life; who is Keznamdi outside of music?

Kez: Well football was really my thing ever since. I always wanted to become a professional football player and if it wasn't for my knee I'd probably not be doing music in this capacity right now. Because I went to University in the States on a Dean's scholarship to play football but I tore the ligament in my knee and that really set be back so I took up music seriously and never let it go.

What's your single greatest moment of personal failure and looking back on it now, did it make you stronger?

Kez: My single greatest moment of personal failure would be just being scared and instead of believing in what you really want to do and attacking it head on I'd just sit back and hope certain things will play out to my advantage. But now I'm really taking control of my destiny.

What goes into the creative process when you're in the studio cooking up a record, from start to finish?

Kez: Just creating music is a give and take process because you're creating something out of nothing. So there's really no equation like a + b = c. Just being in this interview could lead to spark an idea or even just walking in the grass outside but usually for me it starts out with playing the guitar with a little melody then words start to blend with it and then we'll bring that idea to the studio then develop it.

How do you feel about the Jamaican musical landscape today?

Kez: It's in a very good position. I really love it because the Jamaicans are more acceptive and open to new sounds now. Because I remember just a couple months ago, I think if I had released my EP then it would have been over looked. Even a few years back anything you released had to be strictly Dancehall or strictly Reggae or else your music basically would only reach a certain demography but now everyone is searching for that new, fresh sound. But even with all the fusion of sounds taking place I wouldn't say we're neglect that authentic Reggae/Dancehall sound because it's still there; just paired with another element. And every artiste out there is playing there role; you have some out there playing that strict roots reggae sound then you'll have the fusion…but it's definitely not neglecting that authentic Reggae sound as much as it is progression.

A lot of 'older heads' in society will say that the songs coming from this generation of artistes are saying a lot about nothing with the exception of a few…now with the Reggae Revival movement currently underway what role are you playing to slowly change the face of Jamaican music?

Kez: I agree with the fact that some artistes are doing music really just for the profit of it and no longer the love but right now I think there is a balance, because a lot of people don't respect some musicians' work and worth; they just think they come on stage and sing and that's it but you really can't neglect the fact that we have a family to feed and this is our means of income. But having the right balance of pure love for your craft and its worth, your work will speak for itself. Honestly I don't know who gave it that name 'Reggae Revival' but I can say that there is a conscious movement currently taking place and it's a beautiful thing to see our generation taking a step to produce 'conscious' music and make it appealing to others the way it once was. The 'conscious' movement I'm definitely a part of and I'm honoured to be a part of. I think right now we're in an era where we're creating a new genre; we just haven't given it a name as yet. But the sound that I go for is limitlessness; there are really no boundaries to it. 

You, Protoje and Chronixx are some of the next generation musicians who got involved in music from a very early agel. Is there a parallel there in terms of this new movement of music in Jamaica?

Kez: It's very interesting when you look at the next generation of artistes coming out and there's really a lot of us; daughter and sons of musicians. I think it really comes down to us sitting and watching our parents do music and it's almost like we didn't have a choice cause music really choose us. So there's definitely a big parallel there but you'll still have those great geniuses out there that aren't from a musical background and will come out and do great stuff. It's an interesting thing now to see how all the youths of musical parents are taking control. There's this new movement and it's not just happening in Jamaica. All around the world I'm noticing we're in a new age where there is a new level of consciousness entering this earthly plane. It's becoming the style now to be conscious. It's becoming the fashion now to be a humanitarian and we have to give thanks for that.

Can you describe how it feels to be in this cyclone of good fortune that you're experiencing from birth? 

Kez: To be honest I wouldn't think of it as a foot in the door but more so a foundation. Sure my family has been in the industry for a while now and I've been around music basically all my life so me entering the industry professionally it's more that I have a cushion going in. But it's still hard to let people hear your music. We'll do our part in producing good music but if someone doesn't want to listen to it we really can't force them. But I still have my family to get advice from like I can ask my mother about a contract or my sister as to whether to do a show or not so it's a beautiful thing, it's like a good team.

What are you trying to achieve as a musician?

Kez: I definitely don't want to make songs that last for a day or a week. I'm aiming to produce great songs that will last for generations to come. It's all about music of substance and not something shallow. I'm not going to say I want to win 20 Grammy's by the time I reach 30 or sell out certain major arenas around the world…it's literally taking it a step at a time and living in the moment and not in the future or the past. Leaving all the managing stuff to management and I'll focus on creating great musical gems.

You can hear Keznamdi's Bridging the Gap EP below and get it on iTunes now

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