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Papa Julius: ‘Music Is Our Weapon To Show Love’

Papa Julius and his band, Zion Nexus, were the first reggae act to be presented in all the eight editions of Jodhpur RIFF. Frontman Julius Nartey aka Papa talks about the Rasta way of making music

Amitava Sanyal Nov 03, 2015
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Papa Julius at RIFF in Jodhpur. Photo: Kavi Bhansali

Papa Julius at RIFF in Jodhpur. Photo: Kavi Bhansali

This is your first time in India. How did the visit fall in place?

Divya [Bhatia, RIFF director] was traveling in Germany. And my step-father, a German, was driving them around. So he [Bhatia] got my CD and he came and heard us.

You are presenting a rare African act at RIFF. How do you feel about that?

I don’t know how many Africans are here. I have come for the Indians, to listen to them and for them to listen to my music.

How do you trace your journey from Ghana to Germany?

I was born in Accra, Ghana. As a 13-year-old I came to Germany. I have been in Germany almost 30 years now. I live near Dusseldorf. This time, I had to go home [in Ghana] to take more power and come for this tour.

My musical journey started when I was eight years old ”“ I grew up with a different kind of music, doing clown shows, working with acrobats. I also have another group with which I do some hip hop and other dance music.

The Rasta way is also the reggae way, yes. But there is also African roots music, which I mix with reggae to make my own style. Zion Nexus [the band’s name] comes from the names of old and new holy towns. I mix old vibes with the new.

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Your music sends out a message ”“ a message of the Rasta way of life and spirituality. How does it flow within you?

Well, I am Rastafarian. I was born that way. My family is a musical, Rasta family ”“ a royal family from Accra. The priest there made us grow up in a Rasta way. Normally, as a young man, your head is shaved ”“ like some people who grow up as Hare Krishna [Iskcon] followers here, but in a different form. We too had ours shaved before this [points to his lock dreadlocks collected in a Rasta hat].

Why is music so important in the Rasta way of life?

The music is our weapon to show love, not with guns and knives. Its message is about One Love, especially about the youth of today. For some time, we forgot about the youth. But it is something we have to focus on if we want our kids to grow up in a better world than what we did.

As Rastafari, we are always trying to create something. Because you get inspiration from the Mighty One, and you create.

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