SIZZLA - THE EARLY YEARS
Miguel Collins aka Sizzla Kalonji was born in the parish of St. Mary on April 17, 1976. He moved to August Town at a young age and began his career in the music industry in his early teenage years. At that time, he was also attempting to begin a career as a mechanic, as his father (Father Magnet aka Daddy Sizzla) operated a garage. The career as a mechanic would soon take a back seat to the music and eventually fade.
Sizzla recorded many unacclaimed and obscure singles for various producers throughout most of his early years. He also spent many years as a young mentee of Homer Harris, who was an elder responsible for steering Sizzla on his destined musical path as a youth.
(Sizzla and Homer Harris)
Sizzla's style at that time was in stark contrast to his mature and developed flow today, as is to be expected with any young talent that is beginning to blossom. Sizzla did not really begin to ''come into his own'' and become the artiste with whom we are now familiar until the mid 90's when he was signed by Fattis Burrell, who was the owner and CEO of XTerminator Records. Xterminator has produced and managed some of the biggest current talent in Reggae such as Buju Banton, Luciano, Beres Hammond and others.
At that point in the mid 90's after signing his first deal, Sizzla obtained a visa and began touring overseas with Luciano and Beres Hammond as an opening act for them. Sizzla also began growing his locks at that time and began preaching a Rasta oriented message as opposed to the mundane music of his previous years.
The point at which Sizzla arrived on the scene is pivotal due to the fact that a ''Roots Revival'' was occuring at the time, with Garnet Silk and Luciano as it's frontmen. In the earlier Dancehall music that was characteristic of the mid 80's to mid 90's, ''slack'' lyrcis were the order of the day. These were lyrics that promoted of guns, sex, etc. Hence the term ''slack''. The main purveyors of this genre of Dancehall were artistes such as Shabba Ranks, Admiral Bailey, Ninjaman, Supercat, among others.
Garnet Silk, who was by all means the main figurehead for the Roots Revival movement, was killed at his home in Manchester, Jamaica in Decemeber 1994 due to a gas cylinder explosion in his yard. Upon the loss of Garnet Silk, the movement anticipated the arrival of a new figurehead to lead the Roots Revival Nation. However, it took a few years for Sizzla to emerge as the undisputed leader of the movement.
When Sizzla initially signed to Xterminator he had a relatively slow start. He released a few singles that received good rotation and scored his first big hit in 1995 (''No White God''). In the tune ''No White God'', which remains a popular anthem to this day, Sizzla espoused his Bobo Ashanti ideal of a Black Messiah, an ideal which he realized during his frequent pilgrimmages to ''Zion'', otherwise known as Bobo Hill. It was at Bobo Hill where Sizzla was initially crowned by the Honorable Priests as a Bobo Ashanti. The lyrics in ''No White God'' were markedly different from his previous Rasta inspired lyrics, in fact, they were perceived as ''inflammatory'' by more mainstream audiences at the time. It was evident that Sizzla had begun to tap into his musical potential and expand it on a deeper level as a result his pilgrimmages to Bobo Hill.
Soon after ''No White God'', Sizzla released his first acclaimed album entitled, ''Praise Ye Jah'' for XTerminator, which was an international hit. At this point, Sizzla's relations with Luciano began to deteriorate due to the fact that the two had begun to blaze different trails within the same music. Luciano represented a mild force, while Sizzla began to become heavily associated with his true element; fire. While Luciano and Sizzla recorded many musical combinations together and toured together frequently is Sizzla's early days, Sizzla was entering a new dimension in his career and devloped into the Fire Man that we are now familiar with.
Not long after the release of ''Praise Ye Jah'', Sizzla released an even more critically acclaimed classic album entitled, ''Black Woman and Child'', under a different producer named Bobby Digital, who has produced the majority of Sizzla's classic albums including ''The Real Thing''. ''Black Woman and Child'' was the album responsible for catapulting Sizzla into the Reggae stratosphere and soon after, Sizzla adopted the name ''Kalonji'', which means victorious.
THE NEW KALONJI
Kalonji began to garner more negative attention in the late 90's due to the release of ''slack'' tunes which were sexually graphic in nature, such as ''Pump Up Her Pum Pum'' and others too numerous to mention. Previously, Kalonji was known as a strictly ''roots'' artiste, and many of his hardcore fans became disenchanted by Kalonji's seemingly raunchy lyrics. However, Kalonji offered a simple explanation when confronted with this criticism by simply stating that, ''Man and woman are the natural order of things. Man and woman bring forth life''. Kalonji would also issue this line of reasoning in response to later criticism by gay rights groups.
The release of sexually graphic material marked another turning point in Kalonji's career because it added a dimension of versatility to his repertoire. He began to record on more hardcore dancehall riddims that are seemingly contrary to the ''roots'' music and also began to frequently denounce homosexuality in his songs.
Kalonji soon became an anomaly due to his unparalleled versatility and it became difficult to classify his music strictly within the genre of Reggae. This trend has continued to this day as he has experimented with Jazz and R&B with an arguably great deal of success. In addition, Kalonji has been one of the most imitated artistes in Reggae since he emerged on the scene.
While Kalonji was experimenting with different aspects of the music at that time, he also enrolled at the University of Technology in St. Andrew where he studied architecture, again proving that he is not only limited to making songs.
DA REAL THING
When the name ''Sizzla Kalonji'' is mentioned in Reggae circles, it usually provokes an extreme response in all those who are present. This is the mark of a truly innovative individual whose name will undoubtedly stand the test of time due to the fact that the particular responses which are evoked by Sizzla's name and his music are of no consequence. The sole fact that the responses are extreme is the only issue at hand because this in of itself signifies Sizzla's power to affect the Reggae-loving masses positively or negatively in a very potent way. Even those who happened to be turned off by his music and message will have to admit that Sizzla is a truly gifted artiste at the very least. On the other hand, those who are positively inspired by Sizzla's music may claim that he is the ''King of Reggae''.
In response to all of the criticism from his former fans who longed for the ''Black Woman and Child'' classic Sizzla days, while simultaneously denouncing his increasing penchant for performing ''slack'' tunes, Sizzla released what is arguable his best album to date, ''Da Real Thing'' in 2003. This album consists of strictly roots and lovers rock material, while every single tune featured on the album eventually became bonafide hits and eventual classics. The various singles on this album spent numerous weeks on the Jamaican and international Reggae charts. The lead single for this album, ''Thank You Mama'', which is a tender ode to his mother, Mama Lou, was even played in some conservative Christian churches in Jamaica, which is a testament to the wide appeal that this album had on many levels across different demographics.
Before the release of ''Da Real Thing'', some of Sizzla's fans had become disappointed due to his forays into other realms of the music. ''Da Real Thing'' album definitely lived up to its name, and certain tracks from the album still enjoy heavy rotation in the Reggae scene almost fifteen years after it's release. Not to mention the fact that Sizzla has since released dozens of albums since then in addition to thousands of singles. This huge musical output that has become characteristic of Sizzla over the years led many critics and detractors alike to assert that the bulk of his recordings were subpar and rushed. This still remains a huge criticism of detractors today. In addition, many detractors have claimed over the years that Sizzla ''fell off'' and his career was over. Eventually Sizzla had the last laugh with the release of ''Da Real Thing''.