[Imc-uk-radio] [Montreal] Preach Ankobia: a voice of Montreal hip-hop
christoff at resist.ca
Mon Mar 3 15:29:38 PST 2008
Preach Ankobia: a voice of Montreal hip-hop
by Stefan Christoff
* Read interview, download music-track from Preach Ankobia at link...
Contemporary hip-hop currents in Montreal are countless, in a city with a
striking cultural history. Hip-hop today is represented by a diverse array of
artists who lace words in the multiple languages common on Montreal's city
streets. One striking hip-hop artist in Montreal attracting growing attention
is Preach Ankobia.
Preach Ankobia is a hip-hop artist offering profound and poetic words on
contemporary realities of city life in Montreal; artistic work that touches the
pulse of social struggles in the city and current affairs internationally.
As a hip-hop artist working with the Kalmunity Vibe Collective -- a diverse
network of conscience musicians, singers, poets and artists celebrated in
Montreal -- Preach Ankobia represents a strong signal on Montreal's music
scene, writing hip-hop songs that could become contemporary anthems for social
Ankobia's journey began on Walkley Street in Montreal's NDG neighborhood --
Notre-Dame-de-Grâce -- a street renowned for police violence and poverty until
today, home to a diverse community facing a daily struggle against poverty,
racism and state violence.
Stefan Christoff: Can you speak about how your experiences growing up in NDG,
on Walkley Street, renowned in Montreal for police violence, informs your
Preach Ankobia: I spent my youth on a street called Walkley, which
unfortunately in the eighties was a hub of different criminal activity, a lot
of drugs went down. Remember encountering my first violent act at
Being a young child, at five or six years old and we had foot-patrol on
Walkley, police patrol, I remember always having the police around. I also
remember the relationship with those who were into shady activities; you know
what I'm saying? Over time you learn from their stories, while in the
neighborhood we all accepted each other for who we were at the time. Music was
my thing, although we were all a community.
Forming a relationship with the streets was important as a youth. Today I work
with an organization called Head and Hands, with their program Jeunesse 2000,
where I work as a youth animator, creating programs and workshops for the
youth, so that they have a comfortable and positive environment, which will
assist us in building community.
Stefan Christoff: Let's talk the criminalization facing different communities,
we could talk about Walkley Street or about Little Burgundy, about the
consistent reality of police violence that informs so many experiences from a
very young age. Does this inform your music at all?
Preach Ankobia: Definitely. In talking about Little Burgundy or Walkley, or
what police do to these streets, or how they have treated the members of these
communities, we must first go back to people like Marcelus Francois [an unarmed
black father of two shot dead by Montreal police in 1991].
A reality of police violence is something that has always been with me, you
know, I was a young child when many of these incidents took place, some taking
place while I was in my teenage years, but all in my community. Also many
terrible things happened to close friends at the hands of the judicial system.
It's important to not just talk about the police violence you know, but also
the entire judicial system.
It's not correct to just talk about what the police did to our streets, it's
also important to talk about what the world has done to urban society, to the
immigrants who came into this world, into North America, to try to make a way,
then ended-up building North America.
Everything viable in North America today was built by immigrants, while we
don't receive the wealth or the resources, we are placed in these holes,
leaving our children to have to claw their ways out of these ghettos, or
neighborhoods, you know?
It is in this situation that criminal activity emerges, that then leads to the
criminalization of our communities, hence the impacts of judicial system on us.
Criminal activity is what many of us, or many of my friends, were forced to do
in order to attain a more comfortable way of living, while many people get out
of this and many people don't, while some are [ironically] fortunate enough to
land in jail and not be at the end of a bullet, you understand, not be in a
Stefan Christoff: Let's talk about identities, about Diaspora in Canada, where
many carry hyphenated identities, despite common rhetoric on Canada as a
multi-cultural country, we will never hear about a Canadian simply when hearing
a news report about policing in immigrant community, we will hear about
Filipino-Canadians or black-focused schools recently in Toronto.
Preach Ankobia: Multiculturalism isn't a reality. I don't think that I have
experienced a truly multicultural society in Canada. There are many things that
this term doesn't recognize. This term multiculturalism, doesn't take into
account the fact that we as black people have to get use to living in a white
Going back to St. Vincent, where my mother is from, a place that is black or
Indian, that is of colour; the only time we see white people down there is as
tourists. As far as St. Vincent, it's important to say that for many of the
islands, we are still left with remnants of colonization.
Raised in a Christian household, we went to church on occasion, read the bible,
so I grew-up with the identity of white Jesus, grew-up with pictures of Pope
Jean-Paul. While today we do have our own beliefs, our own religions, as each
island maintains beliefs in religions like Voodoo, beliefs that are still
Stefan Christoff: Words that you write, the lyrics that you write, deal with
issues today in our world today. You have one song called 'War Report,' in
which you talk about the harsh reality of our time, which is a time of war.
Talk about this track.
Preach Ankobia: War report is a very direct message. As I began to examine the
events of September 11 many questions emerged. After 9/11 western powers start
pointing to the Arabs, the Muslims, towards Iraq. In looking at this scenario,
the game was clear, the maneuvering on the part of power was clear, which
allowed me to asses our current situation past the point that it's presented
within the controlled media, on television.
From this point on, I started finding media sources like GNN [Guerrilla News
Network], all of these underground news sources, full of articles and
information that I started reading widely, assisting me in putting this current
political puzzle together. Looking back to history, back to so many heinous
crimes committed in war, you wonder why no one put a stop to it, but when you
start digging you realize that there were people that tried to put a stop to
war or to colonization.
People did stand-up against oppression, people like Malcolm X or the Black
Panthers or the movement against the war in Vietnam and many other movements
throughout the world. On television many current freedom movements are
presented as terrorists, while people in reality are simply fighting for their
rights, for their freedom.
* Stefan Christoff is a community organizer, musician and journalist based in
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