Emile chants down Babylon
Jonathan Emile

CANADA-BASED reggae singer/rapper Jonathan Emile is intent on highlighting the happenings in the world and bring about an awareness to societal issues.

He puts it all in his current chart-topping single Babylon is Falling, a collaboration with British reggae singer Maxi Priest.

Babylon is Falling is currently spending its sixth week at the top of the Rebel Vibez Top Ten Canadian Reggae chart.

“The real inspiration for Babylon is Falling came from looking at the misery and violence in the world while having been exposed to roots reggae for so long. The first version of this song was written years ago, when America invaded Iraq and as the years passed, it just became more and more prescient. For decades, the Rastaman and our leaders have been speaking about the need for change and the unsustainability of the exploitation of people and the earth. We've been chanting down Babylon for 400 years. Without positive change, we see decline. I was just inspired to bring this old message, this warning, about reckoning to a new generation — just to carry the torch of roots into the future,” Emile told the Jamaica Observer.

Emile spoke about working with Maxi Priest on the song's remix.

“I was lucky enough to have a link to Maxi via a contact at Tuff Gong International. Maxi is a legend, and a pioneer. When the collaboration was proposed, I didn't even know it would have been for this song in particular. When I heard that Maxi would be interested in a collaboration, I essentially handed over my unfinished album and said: 'Anything di General wan touch, he can speak on”. Maxi chose Babylon is Falling. The rest was just logistical of how and when we would work on the song. We were lucky enough to work on it in January of 2020 before the pandemic hit.”

He continued, “Maxi is a fountain of knowledge and experience. The ease and energy he brings whenever he steps into a room it's like an aura. When we were writing together, he brought such a singular focus and energy to the session. I could only hope to be as driven with unlimited energy as him as my career moves on. His creativity and ability to switch flows, divine new melodies and communicate that emotion, is just inspiring. The whole thing was just a masterclass in connecting emotion and feeling into lyrics. We did our writing session in a hotel room in NYC. It's a moment I'll never forget.”

Emile said the response to the song has been positive.

“The response has been incredibly positive. I'm grateful for it. We are number one in Toronto, and we also achieved second place in the UK Reggae people's choice for 2021. Anyone who's taken time to truly listen has really appreciated the song — it's all I can ask for. The love received is just something I'll be putting back into the next tunes.”

The singer, who is a cancer survivor, explained how his musical career got off the ground.

“I guess you could say music has been a part of my life from my earliest years. My parents made it a point to expose my sisters and I to a wide range of music. Neither of them is a musician, but they realised the cultural, emotional and spiritual role of music. But they also emphasised the academic and literary side of music, underlining the genius in composition and lyricism. I grew up in love with music. It was just a part of life, every family dinner, every gathering and at church service of course.”

He continued: “I guess music really started being a central part of my life when I was going through cancer. Over a period of two years, I underwent chemo, radiation and multiple surgeries. During this time, music was also a therapy and a healing. Even though I was just learning to play guitar and write, it helped me express and articulate my deepest emotions, love, thoughts and fears. It allowed me to tap into something bigger than myself. Since then, I have never stopped using it to communicate and to articulate.”

Emile was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma which affects the bones. Born in Montreal, Canada, to Jamaican immigrants. He also resided in Jamaica for a short time.

“I'm a Jamaican citizen but I've never lived in Jamaica. I've visited more times that I can remember. Savanna-la-Mar is like a second home to me. That is where my mother is from, that is where my grandmother still lives. Westmoreland is where I've spent weeks and months as a child and an adult. Most of my trips to Jamaica were spent between Montego Bay, Negril and Savanna-la-Mar. It's like a pilgrimage every time I come back. Some of the brightest and most uplifting moments of my life were spent there, playing as youth, healing from cancer, Christmas with family, escaping alone with my wife. It's my Mecca, my Israel — with all respect due,” Emile shared.

Emile has collaborated with the likes of Etana and Jamaican producer Melio. He has a collaboration with Jesse Royal which he hopes to release next year.

To date, he has released one EP ( The Lover/Fighter Document in 2009), and three albums, The Lover/Fighter Document (2015), Phantom Pain (2017) and Space-In-Between (2020).

BY KEVIN JACKSON Observer writer

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