ItaL rOOts RaDio
Hosted by: Sweet T & MAdCast-Fuji
ItaL rOOts RaDio - Setting the Trend Since 2010
ItaL rOOts RaDio is committed to the promotion of Reggae music and its culture. With a focus on Jamaica, the Mecca of Reggae music, Sweet T & MAdCast-Fuji explore its impact on the world. Through Reggae music, ItaL rOOts RaDio seeks to raise social and spiritual awareness as a means to address issues of freedom, equality and justice for all.
An Interview with ItaL rOOts R aDio
BUZZ: You’re Italians representing music from Jamaica, what moved you two, to get into reggae?
MAdCast-Fuji (MCF): We are both first generation Canadians. We were born in Toronto and raised in an Italian household. Daughters of immigrant parents and grandparents, we grew up in an extended family and were taught the value of family and loving supportive relationships, along with independence, strength, self-sustenance, and resourcefulness.
Growing up and through to early adulthood we listened to a variety of music from top 40 pop to disco, new wave and punk, house, acid/soul jazz, hip hop, always preferring that with a heavier bottom end.
Looking back, I know that in my early teens I heard some Bob Marley tunes on the radio, but I didn't know who he was. After his death, I remember watching the news one day and seeing clips of his funeral in Jamaica. I was amazed and wondered, who was this man that had such an impact on so many people? But I didn't find out until much later.
I had no idea what Reggae music was, or its influence on music I was listening to, until the late 80s when I finally started paying attention. I had a boyfriend who loved Dancehall Reggae and would make mix tapes for me - that was my introduction to it and I loved it. It didn't matter that I couldn't understand the lyrics; I could dance to it. Shabba Ranks, Chaka Demus & Pliers, Tiger were some of the big artistes at that time. In 1990, I went to Jamaica and attended my first Reggae concert under the stars with the bass groove of the Reggae Ambassadors, Third World, vibrating through me. I surrendered.
Later on, I started frequenting the legendary Bamboo Club on Queen West, and hearing live Reggae bands. In the mid-nineties, I tuned in to conscious Reggae, Rasta Reggae - people like Luciano, Sizzla, Capleton, Garnet Silk, Everton Blender, Buju Banton. Since then I've never gotten off this train.
The messages of this conscious music resonated. They helped me get in touch with my roots. You see, during my university years and in my early career, this modern, urban, individualistic society had sway over me. I had learned to shun and to negate the values I learned growing up, the lifestyle I had lived with my family. This music re-connected me to it - to my Italian roots; to the values and principles I had learned from my parents and grandparents. It truly resonated with me, with my spirit.
When I learned about the Reggae scene in Italy, I had to travel there to experience it and I quickly saw that the music had the same impact on Italians in Italy as it did on me here in Canada. Italians were singing in their dialects instead of the standard language they learned at school. They were speaking out against the corruption of the society, and upholding the values of family and community.
The music introduced me to Rastafari and helped me raise my own level of consciousness. It helped to open my eye - my Third Eye. Reggae guided me to connect with my spirituality.
Sweet T (ST): We didn’t choose Reggae, Reggae chose us. For me, it’s as simple as, I heard the call and followed. The journey is a spiritual one. Reggae music is a music of and for the people. It’s about awareness, unity, equality, and justice. However, there is a story.
I started listening to MAdCast’s reggae cassettes before I started buying and recording my own. We were sisters, but we didn’t start hanging out until the 90’s. We discovered we had similar tastes and much in common. We were going to a lot of live shows together. One night we were at the El’ Mo’ - Tony Rebel was in town. That concert led to my volunteering as a driver for the leading concert promoters at that time, Jones and Jones Productions. My first gig was to pic up Gregory Isaacs at the airport with Allan Jones. I volunteered for another show before Denise Jones hired me as her production assistant. I did this for a couple of years before moving on.
I did some production and distribution with independent labels before taking on a full time role as an independent publicist. At the same time, I began my journey in radio. I was doing some publicity for a client over at 105.5 when my late friend, Delroy Sterling asked me to read some flyers for him on the program. I remember first off saying no, but it really wasn’t hard for him to convince me. Plus, it was the least I could do to pay it forward. Delroy had always been extremely supportive of me and any of my projects. I loved it and next, came the offer and opportunity to co-host and co-produce UrBANSPACE on 88.1 FM. And it was during these six years that my affinity for radio flourished.
I loved being on air and interacting with our listeners, the artists, musicians, producers and industry players. It was an exciting time for Reggae music. The scene in Toronto in the nineties was thriving, but there seemed to be a lack of coverage so I started documenting our views in features, reviews and interviews. We interviewed everyone who came to town; Anthony B, Sizzla, Sean Paul, Capleton, Marcia Griffiths, CeCile, The Mighty Diamonds, Half Pint, and Beres Hammond to name a few. And although MAdCast wasn’t on air at the time, she was always there, documenting everything with her camera. She had her eye on everything.
BUZZ: What inspired you to produce ItaL rOOts RaDio?
ST: Well, in 2006, I left the show I had been co-hosting and co-producing for 6 years on CKLN. I returned to Europe and spent a significant time in Italy exploring the Reggae scene there, that we had discovered in 1998.
One night, when I was back in Toronto, I was sitting in the garden listening to music; I decided I wanted to return to radio and BAAAM! ItaL rOOts RaDio was conceived.
ItaL pronounced I-taL is a play on words, representing a natural way of living and our Italian heritage. ItaL, derived from the English word vital is rooted in the Rastafari way of living - naturally with a focus on the life force, i.e. energy. Therefore, we are rooted in both our cultural heritage, and Rastafari.
We are also lovers of radio.
In 2010, when I returned to CKLN, my sister in life, and in music, MAdCast-Fuji joined me as my co-host. Together, we are ItaL rOOts RaDio. That same year we also began syndicating varying segments of ItaL rOOts RaDio to other shows in Toronto. They included:
The ItaL rOOts RaDio REVIEW - our weekly album reviews - became a regular segment on CIUT 89.5FM’s Morning Ride. The ItaL rOOts RaDio CHRONICLES also aired on CIUT, bi-weekly, on Reggae Riddims and the ItaL rOOts RaDio EURO REPORT was a monthly segment about the European Reggae scene that aired on 105.5FM’s Rebel Vibez. The latter ending in 2013 and the others, respectively in 2015.
It was after CKLN’s demise in 2011 that ItaL rOOts RaDio found a new home for our 3-hour specialty programme at Radio Regent. And the beat goes on…
BUZZ: What was the transition like from FM to internet radio?
MCF: Prior to Radio Regent, ItaL rOOts RaDio already had listeners around the world, tuning in from such places as Texas, China, Nigeria, Azerbaijan and Italy because FM stations were already broadcasting on the Internet. We also had local listeners who could easily turn on their radios and tune in while at work, in the car or at home. So, it took a little time to adjust to the idea of doing strictly internet radio because we thought we would lose that immediate contact with local listeners.
With any transition, you leave something behind, so yes, we did lose some of our local audience. Yet, we've gained many other local listeners as well. We use social media to promote our show and to connect with listeners. Twitter and Facebook are our tools of choice to promote the show and to engage listeners in real time conversations. Because the Internet and how we access it has changed so much over such a short period of time, people don't have to be at a fixed location, or at a desk top or laptop computer to tune in. Apps on mobile devices have changed all that. So, no matter where they are, as long as they have a device, and maybe a set of headphones, people can tune in from anywhere. As we continue to build our audience, I have to say, the transition has been positive.
BUZZ: What artists have been interviewed on ItaL rOOts RaDio?
ST: Well, we have a segment called Reasoning with ItaL rOOts RaDio and we like to think of them more as conversations with people and not Q&A’s. (wink).
Most recently we interviewed Marla Brown, the youngest daughter of Reggae Legend, and Crown Prince of Reggae, Dennis Emmanuel Brown.
In 2012 we had the pleasure of sharing the airwaves with Tessanne Chin before she was crowned “The Voice” in 2013’s season 5. We were also blessed with a Canadian-exclusive - Busy Signal’s first interview here, after his release from prison.
Over the years our other interviews have included: Ghetto Youth International recording artist, Wayne Marshall; Grammy award winner Gramps Morgan (Morgan Heritage); Etana, I-Octane, producer Shane Brown of Juke Boxx Productions and newcomers Randy Valentine and Chedda.
Here at home our guests have been multiple & JUNO award winners Exco Levi, Lenn Hammond and Odel; as well as JUNO Nominees Ammoye & Tanya Mullings. The House of David Gang have also been down to share their vibe with us on Radio Regent.
BUZZ: What do you think of other genres of Reggae, like dancehall?
MCF: I love music I can dance to; after all, it was through Dancehall that I was brought to Reggae music. And it was conscious Dancehall of the 80s, as I stated earlier, with artistes such as Capleton and Sizzla that carried me even deeper into the music and culture of Reggae.
Dancehall Reggae brings a different energy to the fore. There are a lot of Dancehall tunes I like and that we'll play. They're uptempo and can be a lot of fun. But I'm more mature than I was in the 90s and lyrics do matter to me now. From my perspective, there are too many songs that carry negative messages - often materialistic, misogynistic and violent - songs that will never be played on our show. We want to bring positive and uplifting energy and vibrations to all who are tuned in; some Dancehall music just doesn't bring that.
Many times we've been disappointed that a song with a great riddim won't get played because of its slack lyrics. Unfortunately, not everyone is of the same opinion, since it's these songs that seem to get greater airtime. They sell, and money ah run tings!
ST: I think that Reggae has become an umbrella for multiple sub-genres and frankly we love them all. There would be no Reggae had Roots/Rockers, Rocksteady, Lovers Rock, Ska and Mento not come before it. And there would be no Dub, Dancehall, Drum and Bass, Jungle, or Dub Step if it were not for Reggae. So essentially, they are all connected and the root remains, the mecca Jamaica.
As for the actual music itself, I love the rhythms, but lyrically, my mind and/or my soul need to be fed or turned on. Positive and uplifting messages do it for me. There is a time and a place for everything; my preference since the mid nineties has always been message music. I believe that music is a universal language. I believe it can heal mind, body and soul. It is a very powerful tool that can unite, uplift, inspire, speak out and bring awareness to injustices and inequality. I love playing music that will help humans to live in love, and that is why our motto remains, ItaL rOOts RaDio: music to feed your soul; and that is why we play Reggae music without borders.