For nearly half a decade now, Dutch artist Ziggi Recado and The Renaissance Band have been igniting dancehalls across Europe with a fierce blend of hip-hop, dancehall, and traditional roots reggae. Despite all this European success, he has yet to cross-over stateside, though his new self-titled album may just have the kick, punch, and pow needed to jump across the Atlantic and onto the sound-systems of American reggae-lovers. The album blends an intoxicating cocktail of hip-hop, dub, reggae, soul, and even a bit of worldbeat that sizzles and explodes with rhythm and fury, ripe for grasping ears and chaining minds to his rasta-powered chants and hooks.
Ziggi was kind enough to spend a few minutes chatting last week with The Pier about his new album, the recording process, and a few ugly facts about Holland’s radio system.
The Pier: Hey Zigggi! I heard you’ve been on the phone with writers for a few hours now, so I’d just like to thank you for sticking with it up to this point. Hopefully, I won’t ask too many of the same questions as the other interviewers.
Ziggi Recado: [laughs] It’s no problem, mon, no problem. This is my first media day with the American press so it’s something different for me. I’m going until twelve my time, so I still got a good hour and a half to go.
The Pier: Are you excited to be getting so much American exposure?
Ziggi Recado: Yeah, of course, mon, of course. The US is still the largest music market in the world, so I think anybody who is doing music in any part of the world would like to get something going on in America. This is great for me, mon. I love it!
The Pier: No doubt. So let’s start from the beginning, shall we? How did you get into reggae music??
Ziggi Recado: I grew up in St. Eustatius, that’s a small Caribbean Island with a population of about 3,000 people so it’s like a village. I’ve been hearing reggae music since then, really. A lot of Soca. Calypso, too, but that’s like the main music you hear. As a kid, I was really influenced by that. Later on, when I started to do music as a career, it was natural for me to be doing reggae music.
The Pier: What’s the reggae scene like in the Holland?
Ziggi Recado: Pretty small, mon. Holland is a very small country, of course, There isn’t a huge reggae scene so you don’t have many platforms to get your stuff out there. There’s not a lot of radio stations that play or support reggae music. There aren’t a lot of clubs or concert halls where reggae acts can go and perform. Nothing like that is really happening. You have one kind of a dancehall scene – “Jam Rock” is what it’s called in Amsterdam – that has quite a bit of a following, but besides that there’s just not much happenin’.
The Pier: I read an interview you did where you said it is difficult for ‘Black’ music to get attention in Holland. Could you elaborate on that please for our American readers?
Ziggi Recado: It’s extremely hard over here. Over in America you guys have rappers in the top 10, mainstream. Kanye West and all this balck music that’s also getting attention and doing very well. Over here in Holland, that’s unheard of.
The Pier: Really?
Ziggi Recado: Yeah, in fact, mainstream radio stations that you need if you want to get on the charts have a policy that they don’t play Black music. They tell you that straight up if you come to the radio station with anything that sounds like hip-hop, r&b, reggae – anything in that kind of strain – they’ll tell you “Sorry, we don’t play this.”
The Pier: Why not?
Ziggi Recado: I guess that’s their system, mon. I guess that’s how they’ve had their system for a long time. I could understand it if certain radios had their policies and then there were others who had a policy that they do play it so it kind of balances out. But that’s not the case. The only Black music that does get played is the stuff from the big label that comes over from America like Rihanna, but for guys from here, European acts, it’s extremely hard, mon.
The Pier: That’s a real bummer. Anyway, let’s talk a bit more about your music, on where do you get inspiration for the topics you write about? Do they ever come from real life experience?
Ziggi Recado: Life, in general, mon. Usually I write partially personal stuff. On most of my songs, if you hear a story it’s partially true and from me, and the rest I create from what I see or hear people going through or what I see in my mind. I just make music out of the rest of it.
Really my main inspiration is life itself. My main motivation is my kids. I have two little ones and they give me a reason to work and to take my shit as serious as possible.
The Pier: When you’re in the studio writing and recording, how much input comes from your group The Renaissance Band?
Ziggi Recado: When writing and recording it’s one hundred percent me. When I’m producing, then it depends. Sometimes I produce completely by myself and I let them lay down the proper takes. Sometimes in the process of production they’re there with me giving me their input, but in terms of writing lyrics and laying the song down, they don’t work with me on that. They’re from different islands, too, so a lot of them don’t even speak English very well or anything like that, so I don’t try to get them to mess with me when it comes to writing.
The Pier: Why are they called The Renaissance Band?
Ziggi Recado: We came up with this name like five or six years ago. I think back then it was just something different. I was a reggae/dancehall act that was who was getting some attention in Holland which is like unheard of comletely for dancehall. A hip-hop act once in a blue moon might get some, but reggae, that was completely off the charts. It was something new. Renaissance – change, something fresh. It made complete sense back in that time.
The Pier: On some tracks you incorporate some very eclectic musical styles. In particular, I’m thinking of the Indian percussion on “My Everything.”?
Ziggi Recado: I did it deliberately really. My last album was more of a traditional sounding reggae album. A lot of one drop beats, more of what you would expect from a reggae album. For this album, I wanted to be more free with the production. Still keep it reggae, but let myself be influenced by whatever. I listen to different music, so I was like “if I build a beat and I get some hip-hop vibes, I’m going to put it in as long as it feels right.”
The Pier: One thing that a lot of people who don’t listen to reggae tell me is that they think all reggae music sounds the same. Do you know what I’m talking about??
Ziggi Recado: Exactly.
The Pier: Well, then, as an artist who appears to be striving to push the boundaries of reggae music, what is your opinion on a stance like that?
Ziggi Recado: I could understand why somebody would say that. I mean, look, if you don’t really follow a genre then I think almost every genre would sound the same within itself if you catch what I’m saying. All hip-hop would sound generally the same just the same way as rock generally sounds the same. Indeed, reggae music has a pattern, a style, and for the last few decades I think while other music genres like hip-hop, rock, even pop have really progressed and the style has changed very much compared to 10, 20 years ago, reggae still has very much the same groove, the same way of sounding like it did back then. I think it is a positive thing if you come with reggae that’s a little more adapted to what’s happening now.
Thanks to Ziggi Recado for taking time out to answer a few questions w/The Pier. Go pick up his brand new album, now on iTunes by clicking HERE