by Armand LaPlante
Roberto Andrés Pooyak aka Yellowsky. Photo by Armand LaPlante.
Yellowsky is a Reggae artist from Sweetgrass First Nation and is currently living in Saskatoon. Yellowsky has been active in the music scene for a while bringing that rasta vibe with elements of hiphop. He recently placed 2nd at the Gold Eagle Casino’s Pride of the Northwest Talent Competition after hearing about it from his uncle. Yellowsky will also be opening up for Canadian rapper and member of the Swollen Members: Madchild, on January 5, 2017 at the Saskatoon Events Centre, in Saskatoon.
Indigenous Times: Where are you from and where did you grow up?
Yellowsky: I was born here in Saskatoon, but I grew up between North Battleford and Sweetgrass First Nation until I was 18. I’m originally from Sweetgrass First Nation.
IT: When did you start making music?
YS: I first started writing music when I was around 7 years old, I was just singing. I started rapping when I was about 11 or 12, and I was in the studio when I was 13. It was rap first then reggae– it was an interesting twist there.
IT: How did you first get into making reggae music?
YS: My family—my late mother– all she hung around with were black folks, people from the Caribbean and people from Africa. So I grew up very eclectic in that view because that’s all I was introduced to—very diverse cultures—and that was one of the primary ones. It was reggae; I would listen to it all the time, when I was a kid [my mom] would always be listening to reggae.. my family, my aunties, everybody. From there it just naturally soaked into me and the day I decided to say ‘I want to be a reggae artist’, that was when it popped off, I was around 13.
IT: How was it developing the rhythm and the voice for that? Does that take some time?
YS: A lot of experimentation. It’s also the history too, you have to know your history; reggae is no joke. Not just anybody can do reggae, let alone an Aboriginal from Sweetgrass First Nation, know what I mean? What happened was just listening to it, constantly, always listening to reggae. It’s like when people who listen to hiphop, they can rap, people who listen to pop music, can sing pop music, because they listen to it. For me growing up listening to it, it’s become part of my element.
IT: Do you know any other First Nations reggae artists?
YS: I’m searching. I’ve been searching. I actually know a couple homies of mine that can sing and they can chant, and they can ‘singjay’ which is my style [of reggae]. But they don’t take it serious. I tell them ‘Yo I don’t want to be the only neechie doing this’ [laughs]. It’s a vast genre and it’s a very sacred genre, and it identifies closely to our people. It’s similar in that regard.
IT: Yes, as an outsider to the genre, to me it seems like there’s always been a spiritual element to the music.
YS: Reggae music is very spiritual, and it’s very connecting, so like I said not anyone can just do it, because of that very reason. You just can’t play with it, I never tried to play with it ever, I just became a part of it—or it became a part of me.
IT: Tell us about the new video you have coming out.
YS: It’s called Outer Limitz, we shot it around Saskatoon. It’s a very good video, we have home boys from Kicks n Fits in there, Joey [Stylez], all my fam are in there. I have videos out there already, but this is the first one where we’re serious and pushing it. I’m very proud of it, it came out very good.
IT: When you get on stage and you bust out the reggae flavour, does it ever surprise people?
YS: Yes, in fact, that’s one of the reasons I love doing music: the reaction from people. The way their eyes look, the way they look at me on stage, I live for that. And like I said reggae is very spiritual, I have to be one with the audience, I have to be one with the microphone; I have to have a certain vibe I can’t just get on stage. I have to be prepared.
[The audience] looks at me like ‘where’d that come from?’ ‘where does he come from?’ ‘He comes from Sweetgrass!’ [laughs].
IT: There’s been a lot of tension in this world right now with our people, for example that whole Standing Rock situation, what kind of role do you think music can play in a time like this?
YS: I think it’s the artists that are going to save this world, it’s going to be the creative people that are going to reach a helping hand when it comes to cleaning this world up, whether it be environmentally or politically, any kind of ground really because music is the ultimate language. With reggae, same thing, it’s a very powerful connection, it’s a very powerful tool and when you project it the right way, it reaches all audiences.
In terms of tension, there will always be tensions. But at the same time, there will always be music. Whether it’s Standing Rock or any other bullshit that’s going on in the world, there’s always that tool, that’s music. And you notice that a lot of the artists, even actors, they’re the ones that [were] helping at Standing Rock the most. You see Drezus out there, you see Shailene Woodley out there, these are the creative people, so like I said, music itself will always do its part.
IT: What would your advice be to the youth who are getting into music or even reggae?
YS: I would say to the youth to remain individuals, and to remain accustomed to what you know as a person and as a youth. Things are constantly changing. The thing about the youth now days is that they’re so dead-set on what’s happening right now and they think that’s going to be the rest of their lives. But I want the youth to know that things are going to constantly be changing. Life’s like a sudden rainbow: it’s there then it’s gone. So my advice to the youth is to remain individuals and remain your own power, get your power from yourself.
IT: I’m sure your music will inspire a lot of youth, but at the same time, what inspires you?
YS: My inspiration is culture, culture is there to preserve us as human beings. Culture is there to inspire. When I look at my dreadlocks, my skin, the way I talk, the way I am, my family and everything, those are my inspirations, that’s the culture.
IT: Thanks Yellowsky, I look forward to seeing you perform again, and for you to bring your positive sound and vibes to our communities.
YS: All I got to say is word, sound, and power. That’s it, that’s the formula. Word, sound, and power.