Interview November 21, 2017
Macka B Speaks on Veganism, Consciousness and Well-Being

I’m ashamed to admit that the first time I’d consciously heard Macka B’s music was this summer, when a video kept showing up all over Facebook of him laying out rich wisdom about the benefits and uses of cucumbers in infectious rhyme. If you somehow missed that video (titled “Cucumba”) Watch it now:

It garnered mountains of love all across the Internet, racking up tens of millions of views across various platforms. But, as I later learned, it’s just the tip of an iceberg. Macka B, a British reggae artist born to Jamaican parents, has an eminent musical career stretching back decades, earning him respect as one of Britain’s top dancehall toasters, a much-loved reggae singer with many a positive message and, in recent years, a prominent ambassador and champion of veganism. Although “Cucumba” is just one of many creations in a hefty stock of musical vegan advocacy, it launched Macka B into unexpected heights of fame—and for good reason. It’s fun and funny, it’s catchy, witty and informative yet short and sweet. We highly recommend checking out all of his “Medical Monday” and “Wha Me Eat Wednesday” videos (of which “Cucumba” is one”)—be warned though, they’re highly addicting. They take a wide world of fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices that may be intimidating or esoteric and make them all exciting, welcoming and so appetizing. 

Afropop’s Sebastian Bouknight and Akornefa Akyea recently had the privilege of sitting down to a fine vegan dinner with Macka B and his retinue when he was in New York for a few days. We ate at Ital Kitchen, a cozy Jamaican ital (Rastafarian) restaurant in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. We were the only people in the restaurant while we ate and got to talking with the chef. Although the chef also hadn’t known of Macka B, while we ate, several of Macka B’s songs came over the sound system via the restaurant’s Spotify Radio. Good vibes indeed. Between us we tried the tumeric stew, a vegetable stir fry called “Stir It Up Nice,” a vegan Thai stew and some ital vegan jerk chicken (veggie chunks). Once we’d ordered, we started talking.

 

Sebastian Bouknight: Can you introduce yourself? 

Macka B: Greetings, this is the big Rastaman, reggae artist, DJ, anything you want to say, Macka B.

So we’re here at Ital Kitchen in Brooklyn. What’d you order?

Tumeric stew, it’s got asparagus, coconut milk, chickpeas…seems good!

Do you have a favorite dish that you go for? 

Depends what I’m feeling…ackee. Yeah man, I love ackee. Callaloo, ackee.

Since you know everything about nutrition and everything…

I don’t know everything, I just know what I know. 

[Laughs] So what is ackee good for?

It’s got vitamin C and fiber. Its good and it tastes nice.

Of course. So I have to say, a couple months ago somebody showed me your viral “Cucumba,” video and I loved it so much. The very next day, honestly, I went and got some cucumbers and started making cucumber water. 

[Laughs] You feel it?

Yeah it’s so nice! I’m sure you get that all the time.

Yeah, it’s good still. Even if your children take it to school, it’s good.

How long have you been doing this nutrition bit? You’ve been making music for a while—is the nutrition thing more recent?

Not really. Seven years ago I did the track called “Wha Me Eat,” which is telling people all the things that vegans can eat, because people get confused when you say you don’t eat meat and fish and dairy products, you know? They say that there’s nothing left, you know? So I made the song telling people all the things you can eat. It was popular.

Yeah, it was a great song!

Yeah, and there’s a remix on the new album. That was “Wha Me Eat” and become like a vegan anthem you know? People made memes of it and shared it, millions of views and things, you know? So that was good. 

It’s got a great video too! That little kid at the end dancing is having so much fun.

[Laughs] Yeah, my grandson. Yeah, he’s vegan as well, you know? But then, this year we decided to go a bit harder into the social media. So this is my son [introduces his son sitting next to him]. He does all the videos, edits and all those kind of things. So we went a bit deeper, we decided to do a “Wha Me Eat Wednesday,” where we tell people who never had a vegan meal before to go and try one and, if they should like it, post the comment and tell us about it—would you consider having another one, you know? And it was popular!

So we said all right, we’ll go in a bit deeper and go for a “Medical Monday,” where we try and tell people the medicinal value of certain fruits and veg. So we starting off talking just like I’m talking to you: I would say, “Oh this is this fruit, it’s got these minerals, these vitamins, you can do this, the antioxidants, it’s got this, it’s got that.” And people liked it and we got a lot of views. And then I said all right, let me talk it in a Macka B style—rhyme. And when I did that, the first one was, I think, an avocado, and it got like a million views on my Facebook and I said we might be on to something here. 

So how many Medical Mondays have you done so far?

We started in March and it’s November now so we’ve been doing them every week. Wha Me Eat Wednesdays as well, so every Monday and Wednesday there’s been a post. So I did “Cucumba” and it got like a couple of millions views on my Facebook and then some people called Unilad asked if they could post it and they got like nearly 50 million views. And they put it on Instagram and everyone started to share it. People like Naomi Campbell starts to share it—but she didn’t even know who it was! But she still put it on, that’s how powerful it was. And people like Tracy Ellis, Diana Ross’s daughter, she shared it and she knew who it was. And it carried on from there.

I feel like it’s one of the best forms of education, you know? When it’s catchy, memorable, when you can sing it too. Like the ABCs almost. 

Exactly. And the thing is, a lot of the youths got into it as well, you know? Remember, they’re the future and they’re the ones that have to change the world. I got a lot of messages from mothers saying, “Thank you,” because their youths are going to school with greens for the first time, you know? And a lot of those who follow us on Facebook are young people, so it’s a great thing.

Yeah, it’s really inspiring. I feel like sometimes even adults are less willing to eat vegetables, you know?

 But yeah, the youths are going to change the adults, you know? And I get people saying, “Hey Macka B, you really helped me.” You know, even last week, in the U.K., somebody said that they have cancer and they’ve been watching my posts and it’s been helping them, you know? ‘Cause it’s not all about just becoming vegan, you know? I get messages from some people saying, “Hey Macka B, I will never, ever be a vegan, but give thanks, you’re making me eat healthy,” you know? That’s it.

It’s a beautiful thing. And you’ve got the song “Excess Baggage,” about exercise. You’ve got the whole Macka B lifestyle.

 Yeah man, cause exercise is like medicine. Certain diseases like Type 2 diabetes, they can be reversed with exercise and the right diet, you know?

[Macka B’s juice is brought to the table]

So what’s that juice?

It’s called “Yes I”—açai berry and sea moss with mango. 

Sounds delicious. So before you started doing Medical Mondays and Wha Me Eat Wednesdays, what has been your driving force musically?

Consciousness, you know? Awareness, cultural vibes, you know? Talking about things that happen in the community…Especially the black community, you know? Trying to right some of the wrongs through music. Trying to highlight some of the injustices. That’s been me. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Very conscious and a lot of militant lyrics too—also some with humor. I find when you put in humor, it kind of breaks down the barriers of certain people, it kind of breaks down their defenses. Even if it’s something they might not ordinarily listen to, through the lick of humor in it, they might smile and then they start to think about it. That’s the first way to change somebody, you know?

True. I was listening to some songs from your recent album Health Is Wealth, like “Mama Africa” and “Nah Go Back Deh” where there’s a guy saying he’s not going to go back to Jamaica because things are dangerous.

Yeah, the social commentary, you know?

It’s great! You say you wear your heart on your sleeve—like “Mama Africa” is very vulnerable, it’s very open.

Yeah, I tell it like it is. Real experiences that I’ve really been through. Even “Nah Go Back Deh,” it really happened. I was in a shop and the man was saying, “Yeah, I’m not going back to Jamaica.”

Yeah, I can really imagine that conversation listening to the song. Have you thought about doing a cooking show or something like that? 

Maybe not a cooking show, not yet, but who knows in the future?

I feel like a big barrier to veganism is just not knowing how to cook vegan food well.

 Yeah, but a lot of vegan food doesn’t have to be cooked. That’s the thing, you know? Look how much fruits there are. You can have ‘em just raw, you know? And it’s good to have like 80 percent raw food and like 20 percent cooked food.

Is that kind of what you follow?

Kind of, yeah. Although when you’re in a colder climate, you have to eat more cooked food, you know? But things like smoothies, they’re raw food. 

Akornefa Akyea: I’m vegan mostly, but off and on. You know when you’re relating to black people—my family’s from Ghana—and if you say that you’re vegan, they say, “Oh my goodness, are you dying? What’s wrong with you?” Obviously Jamaica has a very unique relationship with veganism in that its part of the Rasta culture, but when you’re with other audiences, other black people in the diaspora, what kind of communication issues do you come across talking about veganism?

Yeah, well I’m prepared for it, that’s the thing. It can be hard, especially the chicken. That’s one of the main things. But they gotta realize—and they are realizing now, especially in America. A lot of the people who follow me on Instagram and things are young black people, you know? [People are] becoming aware that a lot of diseases can be attributed to what you’re eating, what you’re putting into your temple. There’s too many of these diseases in our community. Everybody’s got high blood pressure and too many people have got diabetes, but these things can be easily reversed, you know? So sometimes you’ve got to realize about the food we’re eating—sometimes it’s called soul food but some time it was slave food and we’ve hung on to that slave food. For instance, in Jamaica you have things like chicken back—the back of the chicken, the unwanted part. But that’s what they had but they still hold on to it even today. We have to reverse these things, you know? 

A lot of black people are in places where there’s so many fruits and vegetables, you know? I went to Sierra Leone and they’ve got so many fruits, but they’re not using them enough. They could make juice but they’re having Coca-Cola. They have ackee in Sierra Leone but they don’t eat it—they call it “dead man poison,” cause if you don’t pick it right it could poison you. But it’s there! And they’re not utilizing what’s there and what’s really good for them. So it’s harder, but I can see a positive change with black people and it’s gonna come from the youths, educating the older ones, but it’s definitely changing.

 Akornefa: It’s incredible that… I mean Jamaicans are awesome… but that the revolutionary act of eating vegan, that leap, was made. But across the diaspora, you don’t see that same kind of commitment to fresh eating.

Yeah, a healthy body leads to a healthy mind. And the less animals you eat, the less violent you’d be as well. ‘Cause there’s certain things that are not conducive to us, you know? It makes you calmer as a person, you know? You’re dealing with life. And also when animals are killed, they take on a certain stress at the time of death, there’s a certain hormone released. Then when people eat that, they also take that on. You’re becoming stressed but you don’t know why. And also all of these chemicals they’re putting into the animals—the hormones and antibiotics and things—it’s all accumulating. So we just have to make people aware, that’s the thing.

Sebastian: Were you raised vegan?

No, no.

When did you become vegan?

I stopped eating meat when I was 16, but I carried on with fish and dairy. But then I said, “Boy, fish is an animal as well—it’s got a face.” So I stopped the fish and I stopped the dairy. With the dairy, I used to get bad stomach aches, like gastritis. Then I found out a lot of black people are lactose intolerant, so I stopped the dairy and the gastritis disappeared. That’s how I know a lot of things—it’s what you’re eating. So it’s been about 20 years that I’ve been vegan. It’s good, I give thanks. You see me on stage, it’s pure energy, I run up and down like a little youth. Yeah man.

Right on. How much is veganism connected to Rastafarianism?

Yeah man, ital [Rastafarian dietary restrictions]. Rastafari is a natural people, you know? A lot of things Rastas been saying for a long time ago are just coming to pass now, you know? Like marijuana’s legalized in certain states in America. And the same with food—Rasta’s been saying that natural food is the best for you. We deal with life--life over death—so it’s entwined. Natural, ital, unprocessed.  

Do you know where those ital rules originated? Who formulated them first?

I don’t know about the person who formulated it, but it just came about. They were living off the land and saw the benefits of living off the land, you know? It’s just a higher consciousness when you’re dealing with life, you know? You don’t really want to kill things.

 Akornefa: You know how you said that Rastafarians were talking about marijuana, for example, and now many people have come to accept it… Is there an aspect of Rastafarianism that’s not widely accepted by people or one aspect that you find you have to defend very often? 

You still have to defend the ganja in some circles. You still have to defend Ethiopia, you have to defend Haile Selassie, you have to defend Marcus Garvey, you know? They’re not widely accepted. They are [somewhat], but in a lot of circles they’re not—they’re still demonized.

 Akornefa: You do see marijuana at the forefront of political conversations. So yes, it still needs defense, but it’s transcended a little bit more, you know? Are there other parts of Rastafarianism that you wish, “If only people would understand this, then it’d help their lives so much more?”

 Well, the repatriation to Africa, you know? The Afrocentric mindset. There are a lot of people in America who say they’re not Africans. But some of them, they’re darker than me, you know? There’s still that mindset about Africa—I know you come from there so you know the greatness of it—but there’s some people who think it’s all starving people and animals living there. But when you go there it’s built up more than…some of the roads I’ve been driving on in New York, like 10 times better. [Laughs]. So Rastafari is very Afrocentric, wanting people to relate more to Africa and the greatness of Ethiopia.

Sebastian: You sing about going to Africa for the first time in “Mama Africa”—where did you go on the continent for the first time?

Yeah man, Gambia. It’s good vibes. I’ve been to many places. Senegal, Botswana, South Africa, Kemet [the ancient Egyptian name for Egypt]. I love Africa, you know? Not just to perform—we just love it as African descendants. It’s like a jigsaw puzzle, you know? Sometimes you have to go back to the land of Africa as an African descendent and you kinda see why certain things are the way they are—why you move this certain way, you know? It’s a great thing.

Have you been to Ethiopia?

No, but I’m going very soon. But really, all of Africa was once part of Ethiopia. Like a lot of the boundaries are European-made boundaries, so we don’t really have to just go with the European boundaries.

 Akornefa: I know a lot of African countries have names given to them by European powers, but is Ethiopia like that? 

They say it’s Greek for “Land of Sunburnt Faces,” like that. But before that, it was Abyssinia and all that.

Sebastian: Right, and Axum. Were you raised Rasta?

No, that came on later. As youths, in school, sets of friends started to investigate and things. We see Rastafari coming from Jamaica and we talk with them and we start to read—read books, read the opinions of Marcus Garvey, read some books written by His Imperial Majesty [Haile Selassie] and Leonard Howell—they say he’s the first Rastaman from Jamaica, who kind of started us off in St. Thomas, Jamaica. So we read about all these people and it just lit a consciousness within us. So we come together and we had a sound system called Exodus Sound. And we started reading the Bible and all these kinds of things and come up in Rastafari together. But then, sometimes you realize that some of the things you read and some of the things you’re taught are not as they seem. So we realize further in life that a lot of the Bible was plagiarized, taken from other African sources.

Interesting—what do you mean? 

Yeah, a lot of it is plagiarized, a lot of it is coming from Kemet—from Egypt , you know? Some things in the Bible, there are older sources. There are older floods. So the stories have been copied and revamped. Even the name, Macka B. When I first took the name, it was from the Maccabeans. In the Bible, there’s an Old and a New Testament, but there’s a period in between, which is the time of the Maccabeans. They were like what they call holy warriors. Judas Maccabeus. You’ve got the Maccabean Bible, which has the Old and New Testament and the Book of Maccabeans as well. So when I was reading it, I was thinking, “Yeah, that’s how I want to be with my music, you know? A holy warrior.” So I took the name Macka B, ‘cause my name was Mack anyway and everyone used to call me Macka, so I just put on the B.

 [Laughs] Perfect!

 Yeah. But as I was saying, some of the Bible has been plagiarized. I’ve got a book called “Africans Who Wrote the Bible,” by an Akan writer from Ghana. So he had a lot of the names in the Bible and he said, “These names are some of the names taken from the Akan language and used in the Bible.” So I was reading some of the names and then I saw “Maccabee” and I said yeah? What does Maccabee mean? So it means “one who talks his talk, one who says what he has to say” in the Akan language. And when I tell anyone from Ghana, they go “Ahh!” but they pronounce it a little different.

Woah! 

You have to check it.

[We are served dinner and start eating and continue talking. During dinner, Macka B notices that one of his songs in playing over the sound system in the restaurant. He says to the chef, “Who sings this song, Ras?” The chef goes over to check (it’s on Spotify Radio) and realizes it’s Macka B. Everyone laughs and Macka B gives thanks to the chef for the food, saying “Yes chef! It’s good, king.”] 

So some of my songs from a long time ago—like 20 or 30 years ago—they still relate to now. Twenty years ago I did a song called “I Don’t Want No Big Mac.” In it I was saying, “They’re probably putting horses in there.” Then a couple of years ago in England there was the big scandal with horsemeat [being covertly mixed in with beef in frozen dinners] you know?

Sebastian: You’re a prophet! 

I don’t believe in coincidence. Everything has a reason.

Have you experienced any good moments like that recently? 

Every day. Every single day. People wouldn’t believe it. Some of the things that happen, like they’d say, “Oh that’s a coincidence.” Every single day. That’s how you know you’re kinda in tune, you know? When I’m doing the Medical Mondays and the Wha Me Eat Wednesdays, most of the time I’m writing them or compiling them between 4 and 5 in the morning. It’s a spiritual time, just you and the I-niverse. That’s when the vibes come. Yeah man, it’s great. Nothing is by chance.

What did you do this week for Medical Mondays? 

I did cloves. You know cloves? Not these [gestures to his clothes and laughs]. Next time you have a toothache, you can use the clove. And you can also make a thing called the pomander. You get an orange and you stick in the cloves—the best air freshener. Yeah man, the smell—it’s real nice, just leave it on the table till the smell gone, a couple days. 

I know I can just go online and watch it but would you be able to do it for us right now? 

[Laughs] That’s what you’ll have to do. Not anymore, it’s gone. They come and go, I’d have to learn it over again. Gone into the I-niverse.

Do you come up with them the day before?

No, the same morning, the same day. We don’t know what we’re gonna do from one to the next, it’s not planned. But the great thing is that everything I’m going to talk about is personal experience, things that I’ve actually used. That’s why I think it comes across like that because I’m putting myself into it, you know? I did one a couple weeks ago about buchu. It’s a South African herb—it’s really good, antibacterial, antiviral and all those kind of thing. I didn’t hear of it until I went to South Africa in 2000 and I took my other son with me. He came down with some cold symptoms, mucus and everything. I didn’t have anything with me, so they took us to see an African bush doctor in Cape Town on the street selling his things. And he introduced us to buchu—buchu and garlic. And like that, it went; the cold went just like that…It's green with little leaves.

You make tea with it?

Yeah, you make tea with it. It’s nice, man. It’s got a distinctive smell. Like if I had some here and walked through the door, you’d know.

A good smell?

Yeah man, a good smell. 

I feel like sometimes the stuff that works the best smells the worst.

 Yeah man, but sometimes you have to burn taste, you know? You have to forget taste, cause a lot of the bitter things are good for you, a lot of the sour things are good for you. The taste gets in the way. Everyone wants sugar—your taste buds get corrupted when you’re young; you want sugar and salt. That’s how the system controls people, with the food. They could take this piece of paper and put sugar in it and people would eat it. 

I hear you. I take care of a garden and one of the best things about working there is when the kids that live next door come through and get into the stuff we’re growing. There’s this one 6-year-old girl who loves tomatoes more than anything, she eats them like candy.

Yeah man, and that’s why they have to fool the children—the children don’t realize what they’re eating [when they eat meat]. A child wouldn’t eat a lamb, you know; if a lamb was sitting right there and they prepared lamb for the child and said, “That’s what you’re eating,” they would never ever eat it. But they separate the animal from the meat. So that’s what they have to do to the youths. It’s like if you were driving down the road and you run over a chicken, what’s the first thing you’d think?

You’d probably feel bad, you’d feel some pain.

Yeah, you wouldn’t think, “Ah! That’s dinner!” You shouldn’t. If it’s natural, that wouldn’t be the first reaction. When an animal eats another animal, they see it and think “Ah, that’s food.” They don’t think anything else. So why don’t we think about food [in that first reaction]? ‘Cause maybe it’s not as natural as we were meant to think. 

Good questions. 

Yeah man, it’s a real thing.

Do you ever do work specifically with kids?

Yeah man, I’ve done mentoring as well. With the youth who are going down the wrong road, [I] mentor them and give them advice and try to uplift them and that kind of thing. I used to work with a youth organization. Even going to schools and performing, doing the vegan thing in schools. It’s been good, I love it.

Awesome. That seems like something you’d definitely be good at—you clearly have a lot of love to give to people and respect for the youth. 

Yeah man, even Nickelodeon was asking for something.

Oh, really? That’s so great. You’ve got a lot of good things coming.

Yeah man, it didn’t manifest at the time but you never know.

So back at home, are you growing any food? 

We grow a little bit, but we have allotments, you know? It’s good to support to people who grow the food. I’ve got the thing that I’m doing with the music, so I’m busy all the time. But a lot of people are growing food so you’ve got to support them and make a community out of it.

Right on. I feel like one of the most powerful things people can do to change their food habits is learning how to grow their food.

Right, from the seed to the plate.

Akornefa: On the music side, you’re keeping busy, basically putting out new songs twice a week, on Monday and Wednesday; constant original content. How has that changed your creative process? Because that seems kind of demanding—like most musicians aren’t doing that.

Well yeah, but I’ve got a good team too, right? And then I’m good with lyrics. I’ve been good with lyrics since ever since. And like I say, it’s personal experience and it’s something I enjoy, it’s something that I think is needed. The response that I’m getting makes me realize that it’s something that the people need to hear, that they want to hear. It’s not as difficult for me—if you saw when I do it, you’d realize “Macka B can do it.” Once you know what you’re gonna do, it just comes fast. If I’m writing it down, the writing looks like a mess cause it’s coming too fast.

Now it’s like social media moves as fast as your brain. It’s like, “Oh, now something can keep up with me." 

Yeah, and there’s so many things that I can talk about. The Medical Monday can diversify; it can be an herb, a fruit, a veg, a spice. I’ve done one about breathing. 

Breathing!

Yeah, it could be the way you breathe.

Sebastian: And even water.

Yeah, I’ve done water.

[Macka B’s song “Step Up” comes over the restaurant’s sound system, the second of his songs we’ve heard play in the restaurant]

You’re on rotation tonight! So what’s your daily routine, as far as taking care of yourself?

Well, every day it could be different. Depends what day it is and what I’m doing on that day. If I’ve got a show, it’s a different kind of routine, if I’m going somewhere it’s a different routine. But early rising, meditation, giving thanks for being here—those are the first important things I’ve got to do, you know? After that, every morning I have a smoothie. Jam-packed, you know? Lot of different things.

What’d you have this morning?

Moringa, baobab, flax seed, hemp seeds, cherry, blueberries…it’s powerful. Your body loves it, it tingles.

Mm, sounds great! What is moringa good for?

It’s very good, it’s one of the most nutritional plants on earth. Yeah man, it’s in Africa, Asia as well and in the Caribbean. It’s got a lot of good vitamins; one of the things that has got nearly everything that you need to survive. It’s a superfood, it’s a real superfood. And we sell them now as well. I’ve got a Wha Me Eat Superfood Range: we got organic moringa, organic baobab, organic hemp seeds, seaweed, blended greens, organic coconut oil. Yeah, man. 

Akornefa: That’s great!

[Macka B’s son shows us a picture of the products]

Oh nice! Did you design the graphics?

Macka B’s son: Yeah, yeah. 

He’s the brains behind it, you know?

Sebastian: Very cool. Are you working on any new music other than these weekly videos? 

Yeah, we’re working on something. We’re doing one about great African leaders. Just did that one, should be coming out soon. We’re bigging up people like Thomas Sankara and Patrice Lumumba, from Congo. Sankara was Burkina. And [Kwame] Nkrumah as well.

Akornefa: Of course. 

Sebastian: That makes me think of the two songs on your recent album, “Legendary Reggae Icons” and “70’s Legendary Reggae Icons.” I love how you use your platform to big up other people.

Yeah man, you’ve go to show respect. We stand on the shoulders of them who come before. And imagine those that are still living! We give a lot of homage to the ones who have passed but there are some that are still living, still going on strong and if you see them they still sound the same and have the energy and are still inspiring, so I feel it’s just natural to do a song for them.

Of course. What else are you doing when you’re here in New York?

We’re going to be on Ebro in the Morning…you know Ebro shares the Medical Mondays on Facebook… Then we’re going to VogueVogue wanted to do something. 

Vogue! Wow. 

Yeah, they contacted me.

Are they going to dress you up too?

Nah, nah they can’t dress me up [Laughs]. It’s a health and beauty writer. She saw the Medical Mondays on Instagram and she said, “I love your Medical Mondays and your amazing videos and they want to do a feature, you know? 

Akornefa: You’ve been a musician for a long time, but how do you feel when there’s some people that may only know you from that one YouTube video or Instagram video?

It is what it is [Laughs]. Just give thanks. It’s not like I’m doing something that I don’t normally do or don’t believe in. Sometimes you find these artists who do something that’s completely out of their character and that becomes really popular and then they can never be themselves again. But me, it’s who I am, so I don’t have to change. It’s good. I was in the Sierra Nevadas in June for a festival and I went into a restaurant and the women went, “Ah, it’s the Cucumba man!” 

[Laughs] It is what it is. And now you have another platform on Vogue as a result. 

Right, and the great thing is that a lot of people are coming to my shows because of “Cucumba” and the food thing. And after the show they say, “Ah, I love reggae music [now].” It’s only a few food songs you know, and they’re going crazy and it gets them on to reggae music. They say, “What have we been missing all our lives?” Yeah man, we were on a vegan cruise a couple months ago—totally vegan—from the U.K. to Norway and back. We joined it in Norway just for two days, cause one week would have been too much [Laughs]. Most of the people there were vegans, but they weren’t reggae people, but they went crazy during the show. They said they were going to listen to more reggae music—they didn’t know it was so good. 'Cause the media doesn’t always push the reggae music as they should. 'Cause they know when people hear reggae music, they love it! Put reggae in an advertisement and they love it. That’s the power of reggae music.

Akornefa: It seems like you can say anything with reggae music and it becomes that much more powerful and cool.

Exactly. And some people say the vegan thing is getting cool…a lot of youths, when they make something cool, there’s no stopping it. 

Right, or even with African musicians like Lucky Dube or Tiken Jah Fakoly—when it comes to these conscious musicians, they seem to adopt reggae.

 Yeah, it’s a revolutionary music! They’re influenced by Rastafari and people like Peter Tosh with a revolutionary message. And those things came to Africa and kind of shaped Africa. Reggae’s massive in Africa. People love it, stadiums filled for it. We’re going to Côte d’Ivoire next year in April [for the Abi Reggae festival in Abidjan] and I think we might go to Ghana as well.

[The song “Why Am I A Rastaman” by Culture comes on over the sound system]

[Stops and gestures towards the speakers] See, nothing is coincidence. They’re one of the ones who made reggae so big in Africa: Culture. Joseph Hill. He’s like a messiah in Africa. When they played in Africa, it was like stadiums full.

Sebastian: Culture is the real deal. O.K., I know you just got off a long flight from the U.K., so we’ll let you go! Thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us, it’s been a real pleasure.

Akornefa: Thank you and so good to talk with you!

Yeah man, of course! Good vibes. 

Macka B (left) with his son, VP Records' Jennifer Valentin and Afropop's Sebastian Bouknight and Akornefa Akyea. Photo by Sebastian Bouknight.
Macka B (left) with his son, VP Records' Jennifer Valentin and Afropop's Sebastian Bouknight and Akornefa Akyea. Photo by Sebastian Bouknight.