MC ZULU aka ZULU (born Dominique Rowland) Panama City, Panama is a Chicago-based musician; best known for his fusion of Reggae vocals and social criticism with various forms of Electronic Dance Music. He released several studio albums deliberately concentrating on genres which, at the time, had not been formally categorized. He refers to his non-traditional style of Dancehall as "electro reggae", a term coined from Sly & Robbie's 1986 release of the same name. The name Zulu (Shaka Zulu) was initially a derogatory term given to him by school classmates in the Chicago suburb of Highland Park, Illinois where he grew up. He embraced the name after hearing mixtapes containing the music of Afrika Bambaataa's Zulu Nation.
Before becoming a vocalist, Zulu started out as a producer and engineer of house and hip-hop music in Chicago. Growing up, his musical influences were wide, ranging from King Tee to Cyndi Lauper. In an interview with Mixpak Records blog, he says Tiger's Dancehall classic "Ride 'Pon Riddim" was the final push which made him want to perform reggae. Zulu is also influenced by Roots Manuva, Bob Marley, Celia Cruz, and Fela. He draws upon comedians such as George Carlin and Robin Harris for inspiration. His trademark megaphone used during live performances to "hype up the front row" was inspired by wrestling manager Jimmy "Mouth Of The South" Garvin. He is a fan of contemporary artists like Rihanna and Lady Gaga.
Electro reggae and global bass (2003-2013):
As the internet expanded its reach, new forms of reggae-infused dance music began to emerge by way of UK sound systems and record labels. DJ and producers playing jungle, dubstep, grime, and related genres around the world frequently added acappellas to their tracks. Electronic re-works of established genres (i.e. Cumbia, Balkan, Funk Carioca) were reaching mainstream awareness, often using reggae vocals as a common element. Journalists in their attempts to keep pace with the fast changing musical landscape would sometimes create names for the nondescript, hybrid genres. The most notable of these terms, "lazer bass", was coined by Sasha Frere Jones of The New Yorker to describe the work of producers like Montreal's Ghislain Poirier, and Megasoid.
Although "lazer bass" as a term was largely rejected by the artists themselves, journalists used it for a time, eventually abandoning it in the face of significant backlash. In a 2008 article for Chicago's Reader, MC Zulu was referred to as "The President Of Planet Lazer Bass". Staff writer Miles Raymer expressed surprise at the fact that the voice he heard in several "lazer bass" collaborations was someone from Chicago. The group Megasoid ultimately did not release a full length album, but another act, Major Lazer, would embrace the aesthetic, rising to establish the mainstream market and genre.
Among the thriving underground community, a more generally accepted term "Global Bass" was settled upon which was most likely a combination of "lazer bass" with Wayne Marshall's coinage "Global Ghettotech". Zulu explained in interviews that while he felt locked out of the traditional dancehall market, groundbreaking producers like Megasoid, Poirier, David Last, and DJ C would enthusiastically seek him out for collaborations. He also said that writing to these tracks required a different cadence from traditional dancehall, which could be found by randomizing and reversing 16th notes. As the production could be quite minimal in certain areas, he would also add a spoken word section, alternate melodies or 4-5 part harmonies.
MC Zulu's father is Panamanian and his mother is from Texas. He began singing in his uncle's Ft. Worth, Texas church and developed a four octave vocal range. He also sings in Spanish occasionally. He is married with three children and cites this as a reason for not touring extensively. When not touring, he works as a nurse specializing in neonatal and pediatric ventilator care and served in the US Army as a medic (stationed in Ft. Bragg, North Carolina). He has stated that one needs to be imaginative when looking for ways to get paid as a musician. To this end, he blogs occasionally at a URL he created, Global Music Biz Net.
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