Jamaican Music Music Interviews

Ajaniah Sule- The Rising of A ‘Reggae Prophetic Voice’ in the Wilderness?

Background: His birth name is Glenroy Pinnock, but he chose ‘Ajaniah Sule’ as his distinguished identity.

Ajaniah was born in Trout Hall, raised in May Pen Clarendon and is the third child of six children, three boys and three girls. He pursued a formal education at Clarendon College and his educational pursuits led him to the University of the West Indies. He stated that before he went on to UWI, he taught in the education setting for some time, as he wanted to experience the ‘practical’ side before embarking on the ‘theoretical’ side in the field of education.

Ajaniah’s memoir includes being a former informal DJ for various sessions, obtaining a Masters Degree at the University of the West Indies in Applied Mathematics with components of Physics. He is currently a full time Lecturer at University of Technology and part time Lecturer at UWI and Jamaica Constabulary Staff College.

The launching of his debut album AJANIAH-Free Chants of Reggae Chapter One. was completed at the University of Technology campus on December 16th, 2006. His debut video, Black and White, features the compelling contemporary sounds of mental freedom, and is a continuity of the passion and message of past legends such as Bob Marley.

Meet Ajanaiah…12/10/07

First of all, WELCOME to Jamaicans.com, Ajanaiah!

Now, first things first, AJANIAH, is that your real name?

(laugh) No, its not. It is a combination of Isaiah and John, but I used the spelling ‘JAN‘, instead of the Anglo Saxon ‘JOHN‘; hence A-JAN-IAH. ‘Sule’ has African roots, meaning ‘a very studious person‘. The name my mother gave me is Glenroy Pinnock.

Why did you choose this name as your pseudonym and what does it mean? What significance does it have to you?

I chose this name because it is a defining name for my mission. I believe I am on a mission and there could be no other name that is fitting for my journey.

Now that’s out the way (smile); you seem to be one the world need to look out for. How did you create your unique music/sound/lyrics? I could see Bob has some inspiration there. Were there others?

Yeah, Bob Marley and Peter Tosh were my inspiration. I work three full days out of the week. When I am through with those days, I go to the serene hills of Manchester to create that connection to nature., And while I am there, I would indulge myself in some Bob and Peter. In those tranquil moments I look around in my mind and reflect on what is going on in the world to my people. The tune and words would come to me in chants and so I begin to chant and make my songs. Anyways, long story short, one day I decided to step out and I called up a producer and decided to pursue an album.

When did you start writing songs?

I started jotting down words and musical expression of topics when I was about 14 /15 years old. Global Warming has been a topic that has been revolving in my head, but now I am able to put words to musical chants in my head and write the song in its entirety. I feel that the real journey began when I was studying at UWI. Because of my studies, I did not pursue music fully during that time. After graduating from university, I was free to be totally engaged in my music pursuits. .

What is the ideology behind the name for your band ‘Real Roots ’?

Real Roots is a mathematical conotated word (I’m a math teacher laugh). In mathematics, it means that the root of the quadratic equation cannot be negative. We are always positive, no negative energy; b squared minus 4ac must be greater than zero, that means there is no negativity. Once you have positive roots , energy will be tending towards infinity. So ‘Real Roots’ does not deal with negativity.

You prefer ‘live’ music. Why do you think this is the way to go in the music industry?

I think when you look at most songs nowadays by local Jamaicans and international artists, the songs are ‘technologised’ , and the longevity of the songs are not expected anymore. Bob songs are still reigning as undiluted songs. I could not take another root except the ‘live’ root. Live music creates another energy; a living energy.

What are you trying to provide your listeners with through your sounds?

I want my listeners to identify the authentic sounds, and through that sound, energy will uplift my people, and bring them closer to the spiritual side. I want the sounds to explain to the human mind that “You are important“. We try to expand upon the mental side of the human being; my approach is a holistic approach to the way you listen to music. If you listen to my songs, you should get a physical, spiritual, and mental upliftment. I want to show that there is a connection with the mental and the spiritual. It is a holistic approach, as I have said. There is a logo on the back of my album, with an ‘S’ and ‘P’ enclosed in the letter ‘M‘. This is a latent logo that signifies, the physical, mental and spiritual. I will demonstrate love for body, soul and mind. Demonstrate love because we don’t believe in segregation

When were you aware of your passionate love for music?

It started way back when I was residing in upper Clarendon, Summerfield. When I was coming home from High School in the evenings, I used to pass by a record shop and I was drawn to the shop because of the music they used to play all the time; Bob Marley, Gregory Isaacs, Garnet Silk, Jacob Miller, those sounds appealed to me and they grabbed me in my soul. So, that was when it all started. When I went to UWI, and they hosted these events called ‘Black Week-end‘, I performed with a group, and that developed in to what it is now a greater component of that love.

You hold a Master Degree in Applied Mathematics and Physics. How do you integrate education with music?

Currently, I am doing a research program to show a correlation between math and music. When you look at a number of youngsters today, their mathematical or analytical brains are falling in school. In searching for a solution, I pondered on the idea of conducting a study of the correlation between math and music. So now I go into various schools and play different types of music- dancehall, calypso, reggae, found out that students that gravitate towards the dancehall (heavy drum and bass) do not do as well in their academics, but the ones who will move towards the violin, one drop reggae, that’s the group I will receive better quality responses in my seminar. I am certainly not fighting against certain types of music, but if they listen to some of these tracks it can help in their mental focus on their academics. I have actually founded an Institute of Finite Math and Physics, and I have contacted the Ministry of Education on my proposal. I feel I am just expanding on the components of my mission. Right now I am seeking some sponsorship to do extensive research to prove that our youngsters can be more positive in their academics and overall contribution to society, but we have to check what they are listening to also. I wrote a song reflecting on the idea that mass media is responsible for what our youngsters are listening to. Some of the songs on my album, I use as musical therapy in school.

Where do you see yourself in the next 5 years as a lecturer? As a musician?

I enjoy lecturing and music. When I am performing, I am at another level. I am going to continue to be a lecturer during the regular school sessions, but I want to take the reggae music with the integral mathematical aspect of it and perform for Universities all over the world. I want to show another aspect of reggae music, not in the sense of marijuana or ’burn spliff’, but I want to show the educational spin that will uplift my people. I don’t even smoke nor do I drink alcohol.

Which artist do you think you sound similar to in the music industry?

I have been placed alongside Lucky Dube, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Luciano, and some say there is a Garnet Silk vibe.so I don’t even know which one I sound like.(laugh). I guess it is a combination of all of them. In terms of personally comparing with another artist, Ajaniah is Ajaniah, but in retrospect and to be honest, I feel I am at the intersection of Bob Marley and Peter Tosh.

When you look at the music industry, what are your thoughts on the current trend of the reggae industry?

When I look at the reggae industry, too much dilution going on and we are losing what the world recognize us for. Now we are taking on this ‘tech’ voice which the world is not looking from us, so we are diluting the reggae music too much. Secondly, the right kind of sounds are not being promoted the way that they should. Money has corrupted the music, we are not hearing the best songs being played from time to time, because they are being chosen due to who can pay more to the DeeJay. It is stifling the industry. It is the concept of ‘juggling’ when a DeeJay stifles the promotion of the widening of the reggae spectrum. If you are not on that riddim, you will not be. It looks like you have to travel abroad to be truly recognized and accepted by the international league, like Bob Marley and others. The industry also need someone who will be speaking the truth. But there are many people who want to speak the truth but they do not have the courage to do so. I am fighting an intellectual revolution, as I stated on my album in the song “ The Only Solution”.

A rather interesting title on your new album. Why the title ‘Free Chants of Reggae‘?

Because when you look at the definition of a chant, a chant is a repetitive chorus of singing vibration. I want the message to reach my people. I do not want my songs to be so ‘lengthy’ that it will not reach them, that is, the words go over their heads. Don’t want them to get lost in the many, many words; I want then to use these words as tools of life. And so they can sing along with these chants and the music easily reaches down into their souls and minds. I wanted to create an album with the feeling of different energy for each song.

Speaking of the album, you have an eclectic sound on this album. ‘Mood of Violin’ gives one the feeling of soaring in the sky. Is that what you intended for the listener?

Oh sure. Freedom. I want to release the burden and take away the burden from the listener. Its a song that can empty your crowded brain so that you can take on a new task of studies. A recharging/ refreshing song for the academic mind….or any form of intellectual endeavor. You can play before you start a meeting, play when you are about to study for an exam. I am not sure of another reggae album with that sort of mix. It is not just music, there is an education component, and I cannot separate them. I demonstrated it on the album and in my personal life as an individual. And that is how I want to be seen, and that is how I want people to integrate or associate ‘Ajaniah‘. I am also introducing a new genre of music which is called classical roots reggae. “Moods of the Violin” is what I am using for the Maths and Music programme in high schools, and inner city communities and tertiary institutions. There has been a great problem with Mathematics in the Caribbean, hence we are trying to alleviate this problem by introducing classical roots reggae as a form of meditation and therapy treatment whenever I do seminars. I also intend to take this programme international within the university circuit.

Who is the man behind the music? How would you describe yourself?

I am a rooted person and the person who has fear and reverence for Almighty God. I get my inspiration through the Almighty, cause I am a spiritual person. I humble myself unto his words for my daily path and life. I am a simple person in my trodding, but people describe me with a down to earth personality, I prefer to be of that character so that I can interact with people from all walks of life. ‘Ajaniah’ without social interaction is nothing. The function of truth is righteousness cause I see things in a mathematical connection. Once you see truth, you will move into righteousness. All of that will be demonstrated when you move around people that are different from you. When you see people, you don’t see color, religion or creed. Each song on my album depicts a certain component of my belief. And that belief is a belief that can see us living in a world of no segregation and strife.

What is the inspiration behind this album?

It is not an ambition, it is a mission. We are going to reach people in Jamaica by reaching to people overseas for people to fully understand the message and fully appreciate what I am saying. And eventually they will gravitate towards the message. All the songs on the album were written by me. The main message is an intersection of the spiritual, physical and mental components of humanity, and education being the key. My songs define those domains.

This is your first project. Did you enjoy the process?

I enjoyed the process of creating the album. I must give credit to my producer, Hugh, because when I chant my songs to my him, he flowed with what I had in mind. He allowed the songs to flow in the studio and as words were not really written on paper, we went with what we have and we built on that. He was able to have gotten the best out of me. But the promoting the album, due to the corruption in the music industry, has left a bitter-sweet taste in my mouth. A lot of people speak of the caliber of work, but it is difficult to break into the mainstream due to the corruption of the music industry. I will not be engaged in immoral things just to have my songs played; sex sells but I do not want to take that route.

So what should we look for in your music in the future?

In the future, my music will be similar to this first album; you will never have ‘Ajaniah’ straying from his path. Music will always be a teacher, defining love, there must be love, and concern of my brothers of less fortunate, with the educational component.

What is your message to all Jamaicans out there in the Diaspora?

The message to all my people, is that without the Almighty God we are nothing. It is about time we stop creating segregation in humanity. If we live as one in this world we can overcome all negative components, the word is love for all races of people.

Just want to say, Thank You AJANIAH!… For speaking so candidly in this interview. I enjoyed talking with you. All the Best to You and Your Future Endeavors!

Visit Ajaniah’s webpage: [email protected] OR www.myspace.com/ajaniah

E-mail: [email protected]


About the author

Debbie Campbell

Debbie is a Mental Health Counselor, and has been working in the mental health field for over ten years. A native of Jamaica, she has resided in the United States for more than twenty years. Debbie is the (2nd) second child of (5) five children. She came to the United States at age 17 to pursue her education in the field of Computers. However, her education pursuits led her into the field of Mental Health/Psychology. She obtained her Bachelors in Psychology in Miami and her Masters in Counseling in Oklahoma. Debbie's first book, 'Writings of the Soul: The Journey Vol. I' is only the beginning and a taste of what is to come in her writing abilities.