Many artistes are pre-destined for greatness. There are people in this world who, from the beginning of their creative lives, they affect change and reach others by nature. This is the story of Makonnen Blake-Hannah, known as Makonnen "Maki-B" or his social handle "SpaceAgeRastsa."
Makonnen's musicality started early, at age 7, when he composed the theme song for Kids Paradise, a movie written and directed by his mother, renowned Jamaican author, Barbara Blake-Hannah. The song was performed by Tyrone Downie of Wailer's fame and sung by Jamaican songstress, Suzanne Couch. Then, at age 15, he apprenticed in studios ruled by "Computer Paul" Henton, Don Corleone and many others. This is where he learned one-half of his trade. Since 2008, Makonnen has a long list of hits including "Pain" by Capleton, "10th Stage' by Vybz Kartel, "Baddest Man" by Sizzla, and the hits keep coming. Yet, Makonnen is not just a musician, the other half, came through education.
Makonnen created TechSchool Jamaica, an annual technology summer school for the youth, aged 10-18. He has spoken twice at the United Nations, was the only non-American teen to be invited as a guest to a touring of NASA Kennedy Space Center, after being named a Top 5 Tech Teen in 2000. The list goes on, in terms of academic achievements.
So, what makes this man bring all this together? We found, during our interview, that love, overstanding and an observance of Rastafari are the ties that bind Makonnen to his accolades.
KNG2LA: There seems to be a new movement in dancehall/reggae that harkens back to an earlier sound, linking early the dancehall sound with hip hop. Where do you think this rebirth started?
Makonnen: First of all, for us youths who grew up in a certain area, it seems there is now a need to go back to our roots in order to create something authentic. But, I really think underneath it all it is a yearning to learn about our foundation; where this music came from. I think educating ourselves about it makes what we are doing right now more relevant, instead of it just being a 'retro is cool' thing.
KNG2LA: Do you think this sound is more accessible and powerful now? As dancehall and hip hop become more of a staple in popular music?
Makonnen: The sound was always powerful and that's what makes it lasting. Thanks to technology, it's much more accessible for everyone who wants to create. As we know, dancehall is an offshoot of reggae and hip-hop is an offshoot of both that was birthed out of Jamaicans living in New York City and sound system culture, with the pioneer being Kool Herc and others. So, as time goes on, the roots of where it came from, which is Jamaican and Jamaican culture and Jamaican music, have taken on a much larger role in mainstream music in North American and around the world. Not just from a standpoint of reggae and dancehall, but also becoming a popular genre and now an international form of music that people outside our country strive to create. Now you can see its assimilation by top mainstream artists such as Rihanna, Drake and Justin Beiber.
KNG2LA: Who influences you both musically and spiritually?
Makonnen: My music is a form of expression with a spiritual purpose, as I view reggae music as a vehicle for social change and transformation, which I know was the same thing that was on the minds of our musical forebearers, such as Bob (Marley), Bunny and Peter, Burning Spear, Toots Hibbert and others. Musically, my main inspiration comes from artists like Brigadier Jerry, Mikey Dread and Supercat, whose music I was exposed to, at a very early age, growing up around them personally. My musical style and delivery is a greatly influenced by those men and especially people like producer and sound system pioneer Jack Ruby, and musicians like Augustsos Pablo, Lee Scratch Perry and Earl Chinna Smith. So, that's why the sound I create is called "Rockers Revolution." It's a combination of all these things being brought forward into the 21st Century, what I call the Space Age.
KNG2LA: Positivity in music seems to be making a strong comeback. Why do you think this is?
Makonnen: Positive music never went anywhere, but because of what's going on in the world now, it's needed more than ever. People need positive things to remind them that life isn't all that bad and the world isn't as terrible as it seems. Music is something that provides a sense of hope and belonging in a time where things seem detached, more than ever. RASTA has been preaching this from Day One in our music. Our music has gone round the world and helped change the direction the world was going in at a certain time. Now is another time when reggae and RASTA music on a whole will help shape the trajectory of the world once again and help heal it.
Makonnen's debut album "Rockers Revolution" was released last summer. Listen here:
KNG2LA: A lot of people, all over the world, but especially on the west coast, look up to the Rasta way of life. Yet, they don't subscribe to all the teaching. Do you have any advice as to how they can pursue a healthy lifestyle and positive vibes, while they remain outside the commitment or oath?
Makonnen: First of all, Rasta has two components and this is very important to overstand. There is a spiritual component and a lifestyle component. The spiritual aspect involves things like reverence towards HIS Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie I and seeing JAH as the one true creator, among other things, even going as far as our Ethiopian Orthodox, Nyabinghi and Boboshanti religious orientations within Rastafari which are expressed in many different ways. Not everyone is able to take on the spiritual/religious components of RASTA, and there is nothing wrong with that; because RASTA says Peace and Love in all aspects. However, RASTA is also a lifestyle which can be accepted by all - the Ital way of living. Eat right, exercise, vegetarianism/veganism, this has been something that we have been preaching for years that is finally taking proper hold in the world, because of a need for humans to be more healthy and positive. I think peace, love and positivity is something that can and mus be adapted into your lifestyle, whether you say RASTAFARI or not, because being physically and spiritually health is something all humans should strive to be. So, RASTA does it's best to set the example of this and we see more and more people accepting it as right, because if everyone would live good with each other and promote love and positivity, we all know the world will be a better place.
KNG2LA: There are so many messages in your music that deal with peace and justice. Any peaceful thoughts or ideas you'd like to pass on to our readers?
Makonnen: First of all, justice and peace are achieved through equality for everyone, no matter the color, gender, where you come from, or what orientation you use to look at life - religious or otherwise. So, I implore everyone to be mindful and show RASpect for others. Empathy is a very scarce commodity nowadays, as everyone is looking out for themselves. We should always take time to think about our fellow human beings and know that we all aren't much different on the inside. We all have struggles and we all want to live our dreams. In the end, we all just want to be happy being who we are.
In a time where society is faced with so many questions, one answer remains true: faith and love seem to steer and bind human beings together. Makonnen, with all his achievements, remains centered through this understanding. And his message dwells in the music.
Pree the brand new video for Makonnen's latest single "Real Talk" ft. Rseenal, directed, shot and edited by Sno/Yosef Imagination and produced by Natural High Music.