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Macka Diamond explains misunderstanding with Lady Saw

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IFETOP10: How did you get your start in the music industry?

Macka Diamond: I got started I think from school days. I used to be active in all of the entertainment things – school concerts and stuff like that. But the real big game was, I was planning that as a leave school I’m heading straight into this industry that I’m seeing all these artistes. When I used to take the bus home, I usually be in the middle of Half Way Tree, where they usually have Skate Land. All the superstars were standing outside there in Skate Land, every top artistes were there. Every time I go on the bus going home, I was always saying i’ll soon be there, I’m soon coming over there. So it was like about 87, 86 or 87. That’s when after graduation I said this is it and I start going over by Half Way Tree at the Skate Land. Introducing myself to people and getting to know the business.

IFETOP10: How did you get the name Macka Diamond?

Macka Diamond: Well the Macka Diamond is a very strange situation you know. Back in the days I had a problem with name. I had to change my name several times because my original name is Charmaine Monroe. So what happened, I started off as Lady Charm. I try to make up a name out of my original name. Then comes a female artiste by the name of Sister Charmaine that break out before me. So what happened, it was a confusion. So everybody was like, you don’t need to use that name. I was saying I was actually the Charmaine and I didn’t use the Charmaine, but she came and used her name as a Charmaine and then she was running the place at the time. So then I start to say I’m Lady Worries. Then one day I remember working with a producer, he died now, King Tubby. There was a Major Mackerel song that was hot at that time – “Caan rush de dan man, caan rush de dan man” so I decided I wanted to counteract it. So I counteract it – “Caan rush de dan girl, caan rush de dan girl”. So I went to King Tubby’s happily now and said “I have a counteraction that’s gonna much of the place”. Him say “let me hear it”. And when I started to sing the song to him, hear him “the only way I put out that, you have to name Lady Mackerel”. Hahahahahaha! and there was I, like OH! But back in the days you so want the buss so badly. And I said “okay”, and I took the name because I had all these name problems anyway. So I took the name and the song was playing all over the radio. I was excited. And then I start to name myself Lady Mackerel and people started troubling me. Like “…thats why you salt so, because you Salt Mackerel” and they trouble me. Hahahahahaha!

And I remember it was approaching the 2000. But growing up in my community, other than that, I had a friend that adopted a little girl. And she couldn’t pronounce the Mackerel well. She use to come to the gate and she was like “Macka, Macka”. So the whole community was already calling me “Macka”. And then I had a sister living in New York, she use to just come to Jamaica to party with me and she was always wearing this blingy stuff and we called her Diamond. And when Diamond was coming from New York everybody was happy because I’m going to be partying and she’s bringing clothes and shoes for me and Lady Mackerel a go hot and mi inna dis blingy stuff, I’m going to par wid Diamond. And I remember one year when it was approaching the 2000. I say I must change the name because 2000 come and mi nuh buss. I need to reinvent myself. And I remember calling Lady G, and I said “Lady G, I’m going to change my name” and she said “Mi have a riddim too. I’m going to record you on the riddim man”. Mi seh “if I’m going to record on the riddim, mi ago use my new name”, but I’m working on the new name. And I remember that the December was coming and the other year was going to be 2000 and my sister came for this Christmas and I said to her “I’m going to change my name yuh nuh” and she said “what you gonna call yourself?” Mi seh, “Mi ago call myself Macka Diamond. I goin’ thief your Diamond name” she went “No problem, it sound good”. From that January morning started I just started to record and doing stuff like that, that’s my new name now, it’s a new millennium. I’m gonna make a change and wow the name just work for me. Then I started to talk about all this money thing. “Money Oh”, it’s all about the diamond and the money and everything. That’s when my career just took off from that. That’s how I really got the name.

IFETOP10: You came in the industry during the years of Lady G, Charmaine, etc. How important were these women to you?

Macka Diamond: When I came in the business actually Mumma Nancy was already established. I met her a couple times before she migrated and she was like, “I’m going to be migrating soon”. My times would be around more like Lady G and Lady Ann a bit, Sister Charmaine. But my crew of girls were like the Patra, Lady Junie, Junie Ranks, Lady G. They were great, especially the one named Lady Junie. Because I’m from Portmore, she used to be close to me and she was the one to let me know King Tubby. And I used to go to look for her at her house and I would be outside on her steps sitting down. At that time she was doing better, flying out and her songs were managed by King Tubby.  And she was the one who brought me to King Tubby and was bringing me out, you know. And then comes Lady G and all of us became friends and we started to hang out at Gemini Club and we had Sassa Frass there at that time. He was great with the female artistes. So all of us were more, you know, we were more parring together those days. There were a lot of them and it was fun. They were great. They were great people.

IFETOP10: Was Sis Nancy a role model?

Macka Diamond: Yeah definitely, as I said when I was in the school bus every year. Because I had to take the bus at Half Way Tree, and the bus would circle Half Way Tree before it would go home. And when I look over the Skate Land I use to see Mumma Nancy. I was like I’m going to come and join her soon. I’m going to be big like her. And I was always just pointing over there. I was talking to my friends dem on the bus saying “Thats Mumma Nancy you know, I’m going to be big like she. I’m gonna go over there and party”. And I used to see her a lot over there you know, and Lady G and all those girls with the men standing over there. So they motivated me a lot. I was like every day at school, I [skipped] my art class to say I’m going to go draw the trees around the back. But I was there entertaining the girls, beating on the paint pans and they were all like “Charmaine nuh easy” and sometimes I get punishment for it and told to stand up in a corner because no work was done. Art class was my favorite time. That’s the only time I get to Dj my lyrics dem. You understand? And mi like one lyrics dem. Mi use to have some lyrics deh, bwoi, if you hear dem now you laugh Ahahahahah!.

IFETOP10: How long have you been in the industry?

Macka Diamond: I can’t even count nuh more. Been in the business. People ask me how long have you been in the business, I can’t count huh more. A lot of people would say to me, ok! its about three decades. You know. I’m in the business from I was 16. I was actually the youngest female until Patra came.

IFETOP10: What’s the key to longevity in the industry?

Macka Diamond: Being in the business. What I would say to artistes that are just coming up. They just have to be focused. Longevity is just the love. Music is a relationship. I mean its like a husband and wife. You know it is very jealous. Its like, it is your other partner. So if you are a male, it is your wife, if you are a female, it is your husband, because it is jealous. So when you start ignoring it, nothing will happen. So that’s my key to longevity. I have spent a lot of time where I gave up certain parts of my life, just to be with my career.

IFETOP10: A lot of your music is about women, self empowerment, equal rights, having a good time. It seems as if you have a specific mission as an artist. How would you describe that mission?

Macka Diamond: Empowering is a key. Because what happened to me, I’m a Capricorn. I think because of the sign I rule under, we love love, we love people, we love realness. So I mean, I am a person that is, I like to sing about things that people can relate to. It doesn’t make sense I do other things as a fiction. It won’t make sense. So these are the things that make my music empowering to woman because I will just see somebody here in a situation and turn it into a music, you know and that’s what I do. I like to do something that people can relate. So if it’s laughter, fun or gimmicks. But at the end of the day, when they look into it, it’s a serious situation, or its a happy situation, or its a situation somebody can take and do something good with. You know, its like an art for me. Like, I like to sing something and you can imagine it.

IFETOP10: You work incredibly hard, always reinventing yourself, releasing new music, videos, collaborations. How important is it to always have something new going on?

Macka Diamond: It is very important, especially you know with dancehall music. It is a quick thing ssshhhhssshhh!, Always moving fast. You know! Sometimes I have to dress back and relax and think again. But it is very important because people always looking for something new, some new look, something fascinating. And it is very important for us to stay focused, you know!.  And that is where I said it comes in, where my music is like a relationship to me. So I sit sometimes and I talk to the music. I’d be at home by myself. I’d be like, what’s next? Something needs to come up and you know, and then it will just talk back to me, something in that atmosphere will just talk back to me. And I know that’s the next move.

IFETOP10: For audiences who may not understand, describe what the sound clash culture is about?

Macka Diamond: Well aaammm, our artist and sound clash culture is about, they enforce this thing in dancehall because it’s a competition they say. And aaaammm! who is lyrical and badder, can cuss people. I don’t know. Sometimes it is a thing that even if you run from it, you have to endure it because once you go on top, they’re going to start compete. So it is a part of the culture that they believe in. Which is good too because it makes money, especially with the sound clashes you can get your dub plates, you know, and dub plates is a part of our extra earning, which is good. And for two artistes to clash you can make money. So it’s a competitive part of the dancehall world that, I don’t really see nothing wrong with it, but it’s just that some of us get caught up in it and we have to just know seh, a so it set. But it’s something that even me cannot explain. It’s a world that has been created years ago, long before me and we just have to. It’s just a part of the dancehall.

IFETOP10: Is it just showmanship or does it get really serious sometimes?

Macka Diamond: For the clash thing, I know it gets serious at times and that is the only part of it I don’t really like. But once we’re making money and we’re just doing it for the money it’s good for me and I like it that way. But it gets tension. Because we dun know seh a so the dancehall set, its just crabs, its just war, we don’t care about nothing. Its like they seh eeehhh! its you or me. It’s just a no care situation. So you just have to stay strong. And even if you go into the situation and you don’t win you just continue your career. It’s just a part of life. You know.

IFETOP10: One of the most epic clashes of all time was Macka Diamond and Lady Saw. Tell us about that clash?

Macka Diamond: I would say it was something I was trying to tell her. I was trying to talk to her but you know the whole ego system of our dancehall. I was trying to say to her “Me and you at a level where we need fi do this. We need fi do it on a friendly basis. We need to do something with the people dem”. Because we si Mavado and Kartel a tek it ova, so I was trying to. But she took it more, you know, like aggressively, like more like, I was bad-minding her or something. Sometimes we’re talking to people in a musical language but they don’t understand. You know! Like I was saying “listen to me Mavado and Kartel doing this. Mumma you reach a stage already, you and Macka, lets take ova this place. It need two woman in that position”. But the woman dem are a little bit sensitive and I kinda understand it. You know, I guess she wasn’t understanding where we were coming from. I mean, the producers were planning it that way. That we can, she just need to do some more song and me do some more song and when you look me and her just tek ova the whole place. It would have been the first in history. You know. As two female would have really stand out doing that and just doing real songs. And just making the thing look good. But maybe someone else it will work with. And the female clashes are a little bit sensitive, because we get a little bit dramatic, sometimes. But one day I think it will work. When the women stand up to and it have a like nice impression.

Remember seh you know. Wid mi and Mumma Saw ting, I could have just go on the internet or go one place and say I’m just dissing her. But it was a song mi do. At the end of the day, it was just showing her, do one next song nuh? But I guess maybe we did it the wrong way. We should have just linked her and let the producers link her and we plan it properly, you know! But for somebody who is listening to this interview, or who know about music, maybe at least them understand now, so that anytime it plan unnu know how it go seh. Just mek it set dah way. Because that is what Kartel did and I admire that. He just went on and on and Mavado catch on sensibly and just did some songs. And it was an amazing career for them.

IFETOP10: You have a new song out now called “Cucumber”. Tell us more about this track?

Macka Diamond: Well “Cucumber”! Yeah “Cucumber” is my latest and it is doing great. I’m loving the feed back. I mean, when I do a song and I start to hear from people I don’t hear from for years. I know it’s doing well.

IFETOP10: Throughout your travels how have you seen reggae music industry evolve over the years and how have you managed to evolve with it?

Macka Diamond: Cause if we keep traveling to certain countries that don’t experience it and we drop and leave our new songs and we go on the radio and promote it, that is what helps it a lot. And plus the internet also. The internet is really doing well for our music and sending it all over. Because you find that even the rappers and the American artistes, they get to see us easier and, you know. I will say its the internet and traveling to those countries.

IFETOP10: Some of your songs are recognised more in other countries…

Macka Diamond: Definitely because right now I have a song that is 3.7 million views on my Vevo and I’m not even promoting that song. But the song is mashing up all of the French and Spanish countries and getting, you know. I mean, if I go and sing that song anywhere now in Costa Rica, Honduras, somewhere, you know, Suriname. Some crazy forwards, you know. I just went to Seychelles in Africa the other day and it was crazy, you know, that’s the song there. So that’s what the music does, you know, whatever you send out will connect somewhere in the world, you know. That is why mi always seh music is big like the sky. So the sky is the limit. We just do it and send it out.

IFETOP10: A recent controversy is that you are in the process of suing Google?

Macka Diamond: I mean there was a lot of people taking, they were controlling up my Wikipedia, right! They were all over it, changing my age. I mean, it was my birthday that just went in January the other day. I just put out something on the internet to guess my age and everybody was just Ahahahaha!! They create a scene about it, you know. But it was just coming out and saying, listen to me Google, fix the thing or I’m going to sue you, you know.

IFETOP10: As an artiste, always on the go, how do you keep in shape and find a level of balance?

Macka Diamond: Honestly, up till now I still can’t find the balancing, because I’m always busy and stuff like that. But I try. I’m doing better now. And aaaammm how do I manage to keep in shape? It’s all about always doing the same thing. Research and trying to figure out how I’m going to keep in shape. Especially when you’re doing a lot of work and it’s been years and years of traveling and you know, your body beat up and ting. So what I did was change my diet and I started to eat different from three years now. Two years perfect. And that’s when I start to know how to really see my balance and I find that I can go home and say okay, two days I’m not doing nothing, I’m going to sleep and still stay focused and I try to eat stuff that will keep my energy level up and relax me and let me stay focused. So it’s really what I eat now and I know I try to stay exercising my body. It’s the focus now more than anything else.

IFETOP10: Compared to male presence in the industry, female presence is still lacking. Is the industry more challenging for females?

Macka Diamond: Yeah, because a lot of people will say that, well its more female in the business than before. But I agree. I agree. I think it’s still male dominated and I think the male are not really pushing females a lot. They really push us in the background a lot of time. We are less paid. We have to do more work. It is a struggle same way. I would agree, it’s struggling same way. But as I said it’s just the love. That is why I’m in it for long. It is the love that has kept me.

IFETOP10: Having accomplished so much in the industry you are still very ambitious. Tell us what is next for Macka Diamond?

Macka Diamond: I mean, well, sky’s the limit, and as long as you’re still alive you’re gonna want to accomplish. And well, as I said my new healthy lifestyle is leading me to the “Cucumber” song which is doing well. Which I think my next big move is going to be entertaining ladies and talking to them about their health and I think maybe I’m going to be, be some motivational speaker. Something is going on, something down the line pertaining to that and I’m looking forward to that. And I have my businesses coming out soon. I have a steam, you know, Pink Pearl Steam for the ladies, you know. I have that coming out soon also. I’m looking to do a cucumber wine, or cucumber drink, something. Ahahahaha!

And for definite summer next year I going to be dropping my album. Summer 2020 is not going to pass. It’s going to be the 2020 album. It’s going to be crazy. So I have a lot. There’s so much going to be happening, the travels, getting to sing my song and whatever song is going on in that country, that country, touring and I’m making some reggae music. You know, some real reggae songs. I mean, I started already so, you know, sky’s the limit for me right now.

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