I-Cient-Cy, the name I-Cient-Cy Mau might not ring a bell with a lot of people yet, but perhaps we should remind them that before I-Cient-Cy Mau & The Mau Mau Warriors there was Papa Finnigan & Junior Ranking.
I-Cient-Cy Mau: "True, I performed with Papa Finnigan for over twenty-five years, a relationship which produced 4 to 5 albums. Our debut effort was entitled 'Two The Hard Way' and was released by Heartbeat Records in 1983. We were pretty close with Michigan & Smiley and our musical style was pretty similar."
After having worked together for more than a quarter century, was it a difficult decision to move on from Papa Finnigan & Junior Ranking?
I-Cient-Cy Mau: "Not really. In my life I've always followed Jah calling and I truly believe this is what Jah has ordained for I&I. But whether it was as Papa Finnigan & Junior Ranking or now as I-Cient-Cy Mau & The Mau Mau Warriors, it's all music. I can only be thankful that I was given the talent and opportunity to express myself in this way."
Instead of drawing on well-known historical figures like Marcus Garvey or Haile Selassie I, you looked to the Mau Mau, the Kenyan freedom fighters for inspiration.
I-Cient-Cy Mau: "As an ardent amateur of African history, one day I read about the Mau Mau warriors in Kenya and started identifying with Dedan Kimathi (Born Kimathi wa Waciuri, Dedan Kimathi was a leader of the Mau Mau which led an armed military struggle known as the Mau Mau uprising against the British colonial government in Kenya in the 1950s. Despite being viewed with disdain by the Jomo Kenyatta regime and subsequent governments, Kimathi and his fellow Mau Mau rebels are now officially recognized as heroes in the struggle for Kenyan independence. His capture and execution in 1957 led to the eventual defeat of the uprising by the British colonial government, red.). The I-Cient-Cy part of my stage name just came from the fact I had been in the music business for such a long time, that people started referring to me as "the elder" or "the ancient one"."
With The Mau Mau Warriors, you've surrounded yourself with an actual band. Why is that so important for you?
I-Cient-Cy Mau: "It's all to do with being able to create that true roots sound and in my opinion that's something you can only achieve when you collaborate extensively with a tight-knit group of musicians. Just like Bob Marley had The Wailers, I-Cient-Cy Mau has The Mau Mau Warriors. I don't believe it's just by chance Bob's music is still engraved in the collective memory; it was in great part because of the captivating sound The Wailers managed to produce and that's something I also want to strive for with The Mau Mau Warriors."
One of the standout tracks on 'When Words Come To Life' is 'We Are From Trench Town'. What does Trench Town represent to I-Cient-Cy Mau?
I-Cient-Cy Mau: "To me Trench Town is to Jamaica what Hollywood is to California; a place where all the stars live and a lot of music professionals flock together. For some reason it's also the area most people migrating from the country to Kingston first end up. In 'We Are from Trench Town' there's a part that goes: "We love to share, that's the reason the elders taught us to care…", which might be one of the reasons people like to settle there."
Did you always manage to make a living from your music?
I-Cient-Cy Mau: "Music has always been my driving force, but Trench Town is very near to Coronation Market, which is one of the biggest food markets in the Caribbean and since I've never been afraid to till the soil, you'll often find me there buying and selling produce. I'm also a regular at Culture Yard (Located at 6 & 8 Lower First Street in Trench Town, Culture Yard was the residence of Vincent 'Tata' Ford, one of Bob Marley's teachers. Bob Also resided there for a while and together with Ford composed 'No Woman No Cry' which recalls of his time there. Today Culture Yard hosts a small museum which presents the phenomenal history of Trench Town along with articles, instruments and furnishing used by Tata Ford, Bob Marley, Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer, red.) where I act as a guide for foreign visitors. If you're ever coming to Kingston, just ask after me and I'll show you around!"