His latest album Sound The System is a real landmark. In addition to his talents as a singer and deejay, Alborosie writes the majority of his own material and plays virtually everything we hear on his records. He’s the modern-day Renaissance man – a global citizen who demonstrates mastery of traditional reggae whilst pointing the way forward for himself and the genre. Evoking classics of old, his music doesn’t just sound great; it has meaning. Alborosie may not be Jamaican by birth, yet he promotes reggae music in its truest sense. With dreadlocks almost touching the floor, he’s a proud Rastafarian armed with rebel philosophy, yet there’s a celebratory air to his music that’s impossible to resist at times.
“At the end of the day, what’s changed about reggae music is why and how people play it,” he explains. “During the sixties and seventies, reggae music was coming from the Vietnam War, the hippies and ganja, as well as Marcus Garvey and Emperor Haile Selassie I. Black people were searching for their own spirituality and so reggae had a meaning, but everybody is jacket and tie now. It’s not like before, when reggae artists used to fight the system, but when you listen to this latest album, you will see that the revolution is still in there. I’m still on the same mission and I’m still sticking to the cause because I will never switch.”
Real name Alberto D’ Ascola, he was born in the Sicilian town of Marsala. After relocating to Milan during his teens he played in a variety of bands before joining Reggae National Tickets, who regularly toured Europe during the mid-to-late nineties. One day the Tickets were invited to perform in Jamaica – an event that inspired Alborosie to quit the band and change his life around. Soon, he was living in Jamaica and working as an engineer at Gee Jam studios in Portland, where he worked with many leading foreign and Jamaican artists. Twelve years later and he’s in the vanguard of an exciting new era for reggae, and with a quartet of critically acclaimed albums to his name.
He’s travelled far from his origins in every sense, although his Sicilian heritage peeks through on U Got To Be Mine, which has a Mediterranean feel. “Puppa Rosie” hasn’t abandoned his own culture, and it’s this blend of compelling, yet seemingly disparate influences that makes him so unique. His palette is much broader than most reggae artists. You can tell by listening to Memories, featuring Kemar “Flava” McGregor – a musing on life and death set to a shuffling rhythm wrapped in strings, and with a harp dancing through the mix. This is reggae of another level and daring in its conception, but then Alborosie has never been one to play it safe. Instead, he insists on following his own path and has kept on evolving, whilst retaining the warrior instincts that have become his trademark.
“Yes, because it is better to live as a warrior for a day, than a rabbit for life,” he says. “I still try and keep myself strong. I stick to my roots reggae and put real feelings into it, but there are very few people doing that right now. Reggae music has become globalised, yes, but people nowadays want to make it. They want to be somebody. They want the dollar sign. Don’t get me wrong. I need money to pay my light bill and maintain the studio, but I don’t do music for money and I don’t believe that you can make good music that way. You have to do music for its own sake and then eventually money will come, y ‘know? I believe that, but if money nah come, well then I will be a carpenter. I will survive.”