|When Isaac met Isaacs|
|Saturday, 07 July 2012 19:10|
A prophet has no honour among his own people . . .
This adage rings true for Zimbabwean son Isaac Gabriel Kalumbu a.k.a. King Isaac — a Grammy-nominated Zimbabwean reggae singer based in the United States.
He is probably the only Zimbabwean musician ever recognised at such a platform. No Zimbabwean has recorded such a high-profile project with an internationally recognised Jamaican artiste.
Isaacs meets Isaac, his greatest album to date, is not his only musical product, he has four other albums — King Isaac (2002), Munokokwa Mese (2004), Legends of Reggae Present King Isaac (2005) and his latest international release, Here I Go Again.
The million-dollar question, however, is how an academic, Kalumbu, got to do seven duets with Gregory Isaacs — largely seen as reggae’s last pure voice.
He continued: “In 1998 I made my first pilgrimage to reggae’s Mecca, Kingston, Jamaica, where I not only recorded my first song, Keeping it Away, but also got my stage name, King Isaac.
King Isaac says he was discouraged by a lot of people from finding Gregory as he was largely seen as a lost cause, because of his drug-related problems.
He says it was in 2004, after performing at the late Sugar Minott’s annual Reggae in the Hills concert that he finally decided he would give it a try no matter the consequences.
“It was a Christmas Day performance and I had really bashed it. The rural folk of St Catherine had loved me. Sugar Minott and Frankie Paul were impressed with my performance and it was time for me to go back to the States.
As fate would have it, Gregory was not at his offices, but King Isaac was lucky to find a young man there who was willing to take him to Gregory’s house.
“The young man dragged me to the back of the house and started knocking on the window. I was petrified. As the young man continued to knock with no response from inside, my thoughts went to Gregory’s well-publicised drug use and guns, and so I started retreating back to the taxi when suddenly a mumbled voice sounded from inside the house,” recounted King Isaac.
“The young man who later turned out to be his son told me that Gregory had said he was coming out and so for 20 minutes we waited. Just as I was beginning to doubt the whole mission, a tall black guy appeared on the doorway and asked me to dismiss my taxi and get into his BMW. He didn’t even ask for my name.
“I introduced myself as a Zimbabwean musician who wanted to meet him and if possible do a song with him. He didn’t respond and so we drove quietly to his studio,” said King Isaac.
Tuesday at 3.30pm for a recording.
“Upon arrival I knocked on the door and a well-built man in dark glasses appeared and told me that Gregory was not there. I asked if I could wait and at first the man said yes, but after a few minutes he asked me to leave.”
“Back in the States I waited a few months then called him to inform him that I was going over there (Jamaica) in July. He asked me for the exact dates and when I got there he was waiting for me.
“We did the track One Cocoa. Afterwards while we were listening to the song in the studio with all his staff, Gregory just stood up and said to me ‘you and I should do an album’, but I told him I had not enough money.”
“I didn’t believe him, but before I left Jamaica he gave me three riddims. We were later to do Harsh Words, Take Caution, Early in the Morning, Lady Love, Winner and A Love, between 2005 and 2009.
Isaacs meets Isaac was a hit in Jamaica and in reggae circles in England and the States, which made King Isaac enter the album for the Grammys.
“I had wanted to surprise him if the album got a nomination, but I also didn’t want to inform him that I had entered the album for Grammys, because I was afraid of raising his hopes and then later disappoint him after failing to make it.
Although he did not take the gong home, as the Marleys dominated the genre, he still feels victorious.
King Isaac later stole the limelight at Gregory’s funeral where he performed the late great singer’s hit song Soon Forward. Since then he has become close with the family and is planning to do a tribute to Gregory with his son Kevin Isaacs in Zimbabwe.