Jah Tung – The Reggae Missionary

 

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His is a mellow and easy-going vibe with a sense of inner peace and a knowingness that his style, sound and purpose is that of a higher calling. Jah Tung embodies the essence of all the elements of spiritual Reggae, using his craft as the vessel for spreading positivity through lyrics and of course music.

Fast becoming a respected and sought after performing artist in Sydney, Jah Tung is amassing a follow ship of fans of his reggae, roots and  hip hop artistry since he first emerged into the scene back in 2013 with the release of the “ASD Mixtape” with All Systems Dread. As a fiercely proud independent artist, Jah Tung has identified with the lack of demand for reggae artists and the overall roots music movement in the community and has set about to infuse and create his sound and awareness of the importance and necessity of Reggae music to hold its own within the urban music industry in Sydney. Working with a plethora of solid local artists such as Smacktown, Soul Benefits, L FRESH The Lion and Matuse to name a few, Jah Tung has solidified his position as a respected reggae artist in the scene.

With an energy and positivity that radiates through his being as well as his music, Jah Tung is a refreshing and welcome addition to a growing and talented local artist roster. With the 2015 release of his “The Soulfood EP’ having put him on the map as a lyricist to watch, Jah Tung has a lot more than just an appreciation of reggae music to share with our community, but an overall message of unity and positivity that ultimately comes from the Most High!

Hi Jah, great to connect with you – how are you doing?

Give thanks for the opportunity Ms Hennessey. It is a blessing to keep the link with like-minded ones in this scene.

Really intrigued and excited about your musical journey so far. Can you tell us who Jah Tung is, your style and sound and what you hope your music will bring to the greater urban music community in Australia and on a global perspective?

I am a spiritual messenger on a mission to spread the word of The Most High, the word of truth, oneness and love. Jah (coming from Jehovah, Yahweh) Tung (tongue) is a name that holistically encapsulates my vibe and journey, not just musically, but in all aspects. I am a Rastaman, which, to me, means that I follow the natural order and believe in Oneness in all things, in accordance with the teachings of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I the First. I am a youth worker by day and a lot of my music is also aimed at the youth, as I acknowledge the responsibility and the power of influence that comes with the privilege of being a singer and player of instruments.

I see a lack of OVER-standing in regards to reggae in Australia, although it is currently growing rapidly, which is reflective of the social status and cultural awareness of the community. The sad truth is that Australia still has racism ingrained in its very core. Reggae music came from a time and place of cultural, spiritual and racial oppression and therefore is only now starting to truly be embraced by Australia’s masses, which I believe is due highly to the spiritual and cultural tensions being experienced in this country right now. The fact that after the initial Sydney vs Everybody release (Jan. 2015), people felt the need to address and even attack participants’ race, religion, fashion, skin colour and even accent, as opposed to their message content, skill, flow, delivery and sound, really highlighted the underlying issues. Again, after a performance only last week, I was confronted as I left the stage about whether I am Jamaican and why I am “hijacking” the Jamaican culture/language and using it for my advantage. This very idea that “a white guy singing reggae in patwah (patois) must be racist” is racist in itself and was never faced when performing and recording internationally or with Jamaican artists or other Rastas. Australia still very much suffers from a black and white complex and although the problems have existed for a long time, the real roots of these issues are only just beginning to surface in the last years and people, both locally and globally, are being forced to recognise Australia’s flaws and shortcomings. I strive to deliver conscious messages to break people’s misconceptions of race, faith, culture and of course music, one at a time. Truly a worldwide revolution a gwaan right now!

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What are your perceptions on Australia’s urban music community, encompassing the sub genres of reggae, hip hop, soul and so forth and what do you hope and foresee your role as being in this industry?

I believe, although there have been many greats over the years, Australia’s Urban scene is really only just beginning to flourish in its fullness. I am relatively new to the actual Hip Hop community, having only begun involvement around 2012, although perhaps the likes of Ernie Pannicioli would appreciate when I say that the spirit of Hip Hop has always been within. It was more about me recognising what Hip Hop truly meant, at a time where I could clearly see Sydney’s (even Australia’s) Hip Hop movement displaying unity and love across a range of mediums, sub-genres, fashions and vibes. The genuine Raspekt was extended to me same way, as I was welcomed into the movement, almost as an old, long-lost friend. I hope that I have, and continue to, provide valuable contributions of cultural, spiritual, lyrical and musical enlightenment to help complete the picture of Hip Hop down under, a picture that, I feel, is truly missing the backbone of spirituality and especially black consciousness, as well as the VITAL knowledge of its roots in reggae.

Who would you say is your greatest influence / inspiration in your musical journey thus far and why?

There have been so many influences that cross fertilise each other with inspiration that it’s very hard to separate them musically, spiritually, culturally, emotionally or intellectually. Musically, my first influence was Michael Jackson, as I used to dance before I could sing or play instruments. So the journey definitely began with MJ. Spiritually, obviously, His Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I the first is a cornerstone in my turning toward Rastafari philosophies.

And though all sources nourish and nurture each other, I must make mention of Akae Beka (Vaughn Benjamin of Midnite), an elder who, among many others, has been fundamental in the opening of my third eye and expanding of my consciousness although he would simply say “There are no teachers except for one’s own zeal to know…”

What are you currently working on right now – future EP’s etc?

I was blessed to record an album and even some music videos inna Berlin, Germany last year with the legendary Dirty Ragga Squad, which will hopefully be released soon!

I am also working on a mixtape of original “versions” on well known “riddims”. This means taking the familiar instrumentals and voicing my own lyrics and melodies on top from Channel One classics to modern hits by Chronixx, it will be a free downloadable mixtape full of big, recognisable tunes!

The best piece of advice you have been given and follow to this day?

Great question! Probably to keep a balance in all things. The duality of the Rastaman is that we keep the meekness of the lamb and the bravado of the lion! Too much meekness will see you trampled by the lions, losing the opportunity to connect again. Too much lion will stamp out the humility required to nurture the truth to the fullness. To know which situation require more lion or more lamb is the balance that we all strive to uphold. This principle can be applied to anything in life.

Any artist collaborations you are working on at the moment and if you could list your dream team of artists to work with who would they be and why?

Apart from the album with DRS which also features some local German artists, I have been continuing to collaborate with local Australian artists such as 316, RayJah45, Ras Bellyful and many more. I hate getting this question because inspiration comes in endless waves! I’ma list 10 cause it’s too hard to narrow down. 

*Akae Beka (Vaughn Benjamin of Midnite) – because NONE can come close to his lyrics OR his unfiltered, care-free, ‘non-performing’ delivery.

*Michael Jackson- need I explain?

*Quincy Jones- all-time favourite producer.

*Lauryn Hill- lyrical mastermind and one of my favourite voices to this day.

*Erykah Badu- just her entire vibe.

*Sly (Dunbar) & Robbie (Shakespeare)- well-known drum and bass section and composers.

*Protoje- lyrical mastermind.

*Kabaka Pyramid- lyrical mastermind.

*Ladysmith Black Mombazo- because I have always said that if I ever was lucky enough to work with these guys, I would probably happily retire from music with no further musical ambitions.

*Prince Ea- inspirational and humble poet.

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If you could be a hip hop superhero, who would you be and why?

Jah Tung! I don’t believe in this separation of greatness from man. I believe we are all divine Kings and Queens and that is all we need therefore I wouldn’t change a thing.

 

For more on Jah Tung visit:

Bandcamp: https://jahtung.bandcamp.com/releases

Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/jahtung

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/jahtung

( * All images by Christopher Woe)

 

Hip Hop and Beyond,

Ms Hennessey

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