The Congos

Who is gonna stop dem now … The Congoman is comin\‘ … back!!!

In 1977, Cedric Myton, Roydel »Ashanti« Johnson and Derrick »Watty« Burnett recorded one of the best but also one of the most mystical Reggae albums ever with Lee Perry in his now legendary »Black Ark Studio« … »Heart Of The Congos« was born … Two years later they came back with another masterpiece called »Congo Ashanti« which was first released in Europe on French label CBS. Then in 1980, Ashanti Roy left the group and even if Cedric kept on recording some nice albums and doing concerts under the name of »The Congos«, their fans will be very happy to know that the original Congos are back … Indeed, the three original members decided to get together again to offer us a brand new album called »Swinging Bridge« which is produced by French label Mediacom and distributed by Nocturne. They just toured this new album through western and northern Europe … During one of their shows in Paris, Cedric Myton, lead singer, accepted to answer some questions …

skug: Everyone uses to summarize your career with your first album »Heart Of The Congos« recorded in 1977 at Lee Perry\’s »Black Ark Studio«. Do you really think that it\’s your best album?

Cedric Myton: I don’t really know what people will decide. I love it. It\’s my original album, my first album but … time will tell …

And which song do you think that has been your biggest Hit until now?

Well »Fisherman« is one of our biggest Hits, »Food For The Rainy Day«, »Youthman«…many good songs we have. But you know, now the people will have a little chance to listen more … now for culture taking back deep roots all over the world …

What about the »Fisherman Style« one riddim album released by Blood and Fire?

Yeah it was my idea. I told Ashanti that it was something that we should do now that we are getting together and it pay off too …

Yeah lots of Reggae Stars performing on that Album…How did you choose them?

Well it\’s a vibes ya know …Some of them chanted too (in the Nyahbinghi Grounations, Rasta meetings, when they were young).We were just I & I Idren together …

Did you know all of them before? Even the Youths …?

Ya man we are married to everyone for a long time … U Roy, Big Youth, Max Romeo, Freddy Mc Gregor, Gregory Isaacs, Mikal Rose, Tony Tuff , they are all me Bredrens and all a dem youths dem Lutan Fyah, Lucan I, all a dem youths are good youths …

Now coming to the Congos history …

Why did the band split in 1980?

Well it was something like a misunderstanding … Everyone felt big enough to grow on his own … Everyone was independent ya know … So now time come again to find unity. The Congos need unity, even in Cabinda, even in Ivory Coast, even in Africa right now … The Congos in their all need unity. That\’s what we do have to say first: Unite yourself first so that the African Congos can unite!

I\’ve read that you and Ashanti Roy had been part of »The sons of Negus« … Did you discover Rastafari through the teachings of Ras Mickael and Brother Joe?

Yeah man, we were searching ourselves as young youths and Rasta was the only refuge to us … We used to go on those elders and reason with them and chant and play the drums and all dem ting dey …

So you belong to the Nyahbinghi order?

Ya man, from ever since. Nyahbinghi stand firm. Everyone comes from the Nyahbinghi, it\’s the foundation …

Could you please tell us which one was your greatest memory during the Black Ark sessions for »Heart Of The Congos«?

We have many memories with Lee Perry, him attitude sometimes … Sometimes he worked the whole night and tomorrow him just scrapped his whole work and start back the same thing …

Is it true that Lee Perry subjected you to a physical training before the recording sessions?

Not really. When we went check Perry we were so fit I and Ashanti … Ashanti is a Karate expert … we trained very hard … up to now … hard training man …

So you still practice a lot of sport …

Ya man, everything\’s just the same …

Now let\’s talk about Africa … In Open The Gate of Zion you sang »repatriation is a must« …

It\’s all spiritual, it\’s all physical, it\’s all natural! And Yeah man, eventually it\’s a must but Repatriation is done after a free thing … someone can just buy a ship and ok the people go back overseas … it\’s all in the stars …

Have you ever been to Africa?

No, not yet. It\’s still knocking at the door … maybe next year I think … Well the furthest we\’ve done is the »Reunion Island« (a French Island in the Pacific Ocean close to Africa) in last April but we\’ve never been in Africa …

Cedric, during all these tears you released some albums under the name of »The Congos«, why did you decide to keep this name? Did you already hope that one day the three original members will get together again?

I knew it would take time for everyone to come together ya know but I used to keep the name »The Congos« because I earned it. You know, this is my whole life. when everybody run away, I was the one that stood up right over America ya know, I plaid all over America …

»Cock Mouth Kill Cock« is a very nice album but I saw in the credits that the whole lyrics had been written by you and your wife Cedric …

Well »Cock Mouth Kill Cock«, it\’s a different thing. Bunny »Striker« Lee, a good friend of mine (a.k.a »the cool operator« or »the duke of dub«, a famous producer of the 70\’s who worked with King Tubby), gave me some riddims and I wrote some lyrics … Three and a half album I did for myself. He gave me the riddims, the studio time and everything so … He did a very great job for me and I\’m very thankful.

Ok, so it was your own album, not the new album of the original members as it has been said in some music media?

Yeah, personally. And some more they are still not out. As I said they are three and a half album that I did with Bunny »Strika« Lee. The Cock mouth is one and there are two more albums that are still not out … very nice riddims … They are all original Tracks from the 70\’s … But Bunny Lee has all these tracks in his cabin ya know …

So now let\’s talk about this new album »Swinging Bridge« …

Well »Swinging Bridge« is a very special album to me right now … all that comes from the day we went to Tuff Gong to see Lee Perry. Michel, Nocturne\’s boss, joined of it and so we linked from the talk. We did some background vocals for Lee Perry\’s new album. We did the song »Exodus« produced by Tyrone Downie (Wailers\‘ Keyboarder) and we said to Michel »we have some tunes« and he replied »Alright, let me listen them …« He listened to them and he said »Oh yes I love them …« So as he said he loved them, we said "Let\’s get together!«, we get start but eventually we\’ll get bigger in the long … So the album is now on Nocturne. It\’s still a good company for France. So Big Up Nocturne!!!

What\’s the meaning of the title?

Well, one of the songs is called »Swinging Bridge«. So we were thinking of the name of th album and we found this song so dominant that we decided to call the album »Swinging Bridge«.

What can you tell us about the lyrics, the atmosphere of this album?

I think the lyrics still remain the same, maybe just a little more revolutionary and outspoking. Before we used some other words but today we use some rougher words…Revolution!!! And all a dem terms … some will say »they get crazy« but what is really crazy is the times we are living …

Your new album, just like your second album »Congo Ashanti« in 1979 has been first released in France. Some people say that France is the second home for Reggae, do you agree with those statements?

I think England was the second home for Reggae but England lost his throne … England lost his throne to France for Reggae … So France take away the England throne for Reggae Music … (laughs). Them loose them Crown … (laughs)!!!

I saw you on stage in Paris on May. Your performance was so fresh … I mean Ashanty doing the splits while skanking, you dancing and singing with those incredible reflexes to catch the microphone and your hat when they were fallin\‘ ...

He laughs … while remembering the scene …

Ya man, It\’s all been going on man …

What\’s your secret to keep such strength?

A lot of exercise man and Ital food (Rasta food based on vegetables, fruits and fish …) … keeps ya strong!!

What do you think of your new audience? I mean what do you feel where you hear a full hall of young people singing songs that you wrote 30 years ago?

It\’s good man, it\’s still growing, it\’s a baby …

Now that the original Congos are back, what do you expect from the future?

Grow on work again as we did before … But those times it just comes like you plow up the ground and saw the seed … well we gonna repeat it all again and saw the seed again and let it grow … so we are searching for an harvest …

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