Written By Stephen Cooper
With his signature sweet voice and a successful career spanning over four decades, Don Carlos is unquestionably a legendary figure in reggae music. The worldwide appeal of Carlos’ unique style of conscious roots reggae music is well-documented; an often-cited example well-worth watching on YouTube is from a concert Carlos gave in 2010 in Nairobi, Kenya; a massive crowd of an estimated 150,000 joyous fans turned out despite a sweltering African sun to dance, to praise Jah, and to listen to Don Carlos sing.
On April 8, 2017, I interviewed Don Carlos for approximately twenty minutes after he and his band Dub Vision performed before just a few hundred lucky fans at the Belly Up Tavern in San Diego, California. The many topics we discussed included: the controversy involving non-conscious dance hall music; new music he has released; a relatively new family-owned recording studio called Jus Time Records in Portmore, Jamaica; the importance of having a good sound engineer; the Jamaican government’s failure to properly invest in Jamaican music; and the influence that reggae stars Dennis Brown and Gregory Isaacs had on his career. What follows is a transcription of the interview modified only slightly for clarity.
Q: Mr. Carlos, there exists a bit of controversy concerning what I would call “non-conscious dance hall music”; music that promotes discrimination, violence, a certain slackness and hyper-sexuality, the debasement of women. Is this controversy over-hyped or is this a serious problem that hurts reggae music?
Don Carlos: Yeah, that is a problem. Because you see, they are trying to divert the true message of the music. And that’s not right, you know. We have this music to enlighten the people. To teach the people about positive things. Instead of trying to break the vibes in a negative way. Every song from my mouth is supposed to be a positive pertaining to the Most High. Instead of negativity, you know?