Machu Ezra ushers new sound into Jamaica Image

by Biko Kennedy

Not only is his voice and production selection garnering comparisons to the likes of The Weeknd, Elijah Blake and JMSN; Machu Ezra is determined to change the close-mindedness surrounding Jamaican music by offering an alternative edgier palette. caught up with the crooner for an indepth interview. Check it out!

JAmusic: Music lovers globally will always be looking for that new, impeccable sound that can be looked upon as leaders of the new wave of vocalists. How would you define a musical genius that can eventually become a vocal leader?

ME: To me a musical genius/vocal leader is an artiste who is not afraid of taking risks and is constantly thinking outside the box but knows how to captivate people with it. To become a vocal leader you have to be confident in your sound and your art and not let people change you.

JAmusic: Some of the most genius artistes have thrived when taking chances and innovating. How important/present is that on the Reggae/Dancehall soundscape today; from what you've seen and that might have help in composing your latest single ‘Ride or Die’?

ME: The dancehall/reggae industry is an industry that produces the same type of music on a daily basis. Only few artists take chances and try something different but majority stick to "protocol". Don't get me wrong I don't believe in fixing something that is not broken because our reggae music has opened up so many doors for us and has made many Jamaicans see all corners of the world because of the distinct rich sound attached to our music.

My only concern is that since we have our distinct sound there is no room for anything else but that sound. We must all now conform and make THAT type of music or else we will not be successful. I have been put in so many boxes and it got me so frustrated which is why I did not come out with any new material since January 2013. People in the music industry would ask me "Why don't you try and sound like Christopher Martin?" "How about a Romain Virgo type of song?" "I think you should try and emulate that Bob Marley raspy tone, it’s really working for singers right now"

I had to ask what about my sound? What about me? I respect those artists but why can't I make a name for myself? This is the reason I came out with Ride or Die first. It really is a statement to all those people who tried to put me in a box when I clearly live outside of it. It’s time for Jamaicans to appreciate a different type of sound coming from Jamaicans and disc jocks should be the first to help make the change. They are playing international music anyways, Why not support local difference?

JAmusic: How do you think a single such as ‘Ride or Die’ will impact your growing fan base as well as attract new listeners?

ME: People that have been following my music cling to it because they can always expect a story. I love writing stories about my life, my friends’ lives and what I see around me, so they know whatever I come with is nothing but the truth about me. I'm most honest in my music because I have such a hard time expressing myself in real life. So Ride Or Die is just another form of self-expression on a very different beat because it fit the mood and they love that and if you love true artistes who speak from the heart you will love Machu Ezra. It’s my story and I'll tell it how I want to.

Ride Or Die is not necessarily the direction i'm going with my music but I love that sound and it is one aspect of me that I had to address and create. 

JAmusic: Your style seems to be a blend between The Weeknd, PartyNextDoor, X.E.X, Meek Demeo, JMSN with hints of Elijah Blake, Emmany and Eric Bellinger. Is this intentional and are these male vocals persons you try to emulate?

ME: I can't believe you know JMSN, I thought I was the only one (chuckling). I do listen to these singers, mostly The Weeknd, JMSN and Elijah Blake though. I wouldn't say I try to emulate them but I believe we are strongly influenced by who we listen to a lot which is a good and bad thing. I don't try to copy but sometimes I will be in the booth and after I've finished recording I realize where that sound came from. Sometimes you just can't help it, it’s what you've become and once its genuine nothing is wrong with that.

JAmusic: What's the biggest risk you've taken artistically; one that went over surprisingly well and one that might've gone over people's heads?

ME: I think Ride or Die which is produced by BVD ONE is the biggest risk so far musically for me. I was a little afraid at first but once I finished the song and heard how amazing it sounded and not to mention the place it takes you when you close your eyes and just get lost in the sound and lyrics, I knew people had to hear it. I think it’s going well so far from the responses I've gotten. I don't think I’ve done anything that has gone over people’s heads yet.

JAmusic: Who's the artiste that keeps you on your toes? Pushes you to go harder?

ME: Elijah Blake pushes me all the time. Lyrically he is a genius and sonically too; he writes so well and for so many artistes and he is my age. James Blake is a top contender in new music also. He's Grammy worthy. Maxi Priest also pushes to me go harder; he is the closest thing right now in Jamaican music that I would say I could sound like. I also can't forget my number one lyrical wife Lauryn Hill - enough said.

JAmusic: When you got into the music business where did you think you'd be today or where did you see yourself fitting in at the moment?

ME: I put out my first song Exposed produced by Phillip Myers in 2012 and that was me diving into an industry I knew nothing about. I didn't know and still don't know what to expect or where I fit in. I put myself in a lane differently from everyone else because there is no one like me at the moment in Jamaica.  If you told me then that I would have won Heineken Inspire 2013 and would be performing at Caribbean Fashion Week or at the Bob Marley Museum I would not have believed you because I still believe I have a lot to learn but I know my talent and potential speaks for itself. 

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

ME: I want my musical journey to inspire singers/poets/dancers etc. that even if you feel that you are not good enough or not in keeping with your societies norms, that there is a way as long as you play your cards right and keep your eyes on the prize. When i get that prize it will be for you. I still struggle with my craft and have my days when I feel I'm not up to par but I shake it off because I believe in my music and my ability. Just don't give up because I haven't yet. When I do you can. (Laughing) just joking.

JAmusic: What's one song that you hold close to you because of a particular line or better yet what's the most philosophical quote you've heard in a song that you hold close to your heart?

ME:  I think one quote is unfair so I'm breaking the rules (smilng).

"To survive is to stay alive in the face of opposition, Even when they comin' gunnin' I stand position"- Lauryn Hill

"Tell me if love so nice, Tell me why it hurt so bad (badang) If love, love, so nice, Tell me, tell me why I'm sad."- Junior Kelly  || "If it makes you happy, It can't be that bad, If it makes you happy then why the hell are you so sad?" - Sheryl Crow

"May we all live long, and may we all be brave, and the bridges we burn, only light our way"- Miguel

"A friend once said, and I found to be true, that everyday people, they lie to God too, So what makes you think, that they won't lie to you." -Lauryn Hill

JAmusic: We live in an era where the average person's attention span is limited to what they want to see or hear. What are you doing differently that will hold their attention?

ME: Well right now I am just being me and I don't try to be different I just am. I think people who are naturally different from the rest have the ability to hold people’s attention without trying too hard. I just hope I'm doing that.

JAmusic: With success comes a lot of negative feedback, how do you react or deal with negativity?

ME: Every time my friends are receiving negativity in their life I always say this "The negative is there to make you stronger, without them you would be weak and spineless". I follow this notion too. Without critique and criticism in our lives how would we build our self-worth?  I need the negativity to create something even better than before just to prove not only to them but to myself that I can overcome a false prophet who has tried to bring me down.

JAmusic: What kind of future plans have you set for yourself as an artiste (to accomplish and maintain)?

ME: This is a hard question because my personality never looks into the future, I take one day at a time and I live in moment BUT I want to see myself as Jamaica's next break out Retro RnB artiste with a hint of Reggae madness. How am I going to accomplish and maintain that? Self-belief. Watch and see.

JAmusic: What insight can you give on the power of music and its ability to communicate certain messages verbally and non-verbally? And what do you think your music represent?

ME: Music has this ability to take over your whole being and let you feel emotions that no one can bring out of you, not even you yourself. Music is dangerous and powerful because it can influence all your decisions for the day. Just the rhythm alone can cause you to do things you never would have said or done on a daily basis.

Music is my purest way of communicating to the world. I hate explaining myself because it makes me feel Exposed. My music is my bible, it is the code to cracking Machu Ezra and it is his therapeutic release.  My music represents the truth about me. It is my national flag, my safe haven and a place for listeners who feel they need someone to relate to because I am so honest. It also represents freedom of doing what you want to do, no holding back, just do it because it’s yours. I hope nothing will ever change me.

"We hide ourselves in our music to reveal ourselves"- Jim Morrison

Click here to check out Ezra’s website and keep up with his latest content!

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