It has been a long time since I played a gig in London. Over 15 years in fact. Since then I moved to Cyprus, finished a PhD, married Marina, the love of my life, and from that bond we have two lovely kids. Finishing the PhD also led me into teaching, which in more ways than one, fulfills me 100%. Music during all this time has never been on the back burner. It remains a serious passion for me. I’ve made a few albums, toured various parts of the world, attended conferences, shared music with people all over and stay engaged with music, despite how it’s changed.

When I started out making music as a solo act in 1990 people made these things called 12″ vinyls. Then CD’s took over and then Mp3’s which have redefined how people share music. As a result of all these changes I guess it would have been wise and easy to say, well thats it, I have done what I have done. But there is more to music for me than just releasing songs for people to buy or download for free.

The main thing that keeps me motivated is the live situation. No matter what happens to how we buy or get the music for free, there will always be the need, the fulfillment in audiences to see, hear and feel music as a live performance. And musicians themselves, will always get that equal buzz factor, doing it in front of audiences, and making a communicative connection – no matter the content, style or sounds. Some people will do it for fame, some for love, and some for peace, but at the end of the day, many of these people will feel that need to carry on and perform.

So while many people, not just in London, may feel Haji Mike hasn’t done nothing since ‘Vraggaman’ I would like to say that I have done many things, in many countries around the world. Why people are still so fascinated by one song is a bit baffling to me. I never expected ‘Vraggaman’ to be what it became, as I have never thought about ‘the lets write a hit formula’.

More than anything, ‘Vraggaman’ and ‘Stavroulla’ before it were done for the fun of it and for the simple right to be able to make something different – something very London, very Cypriot and yet still had a reggae vibe to it, that Jamaican link.
The tunes were done with my late producer friend and mentor, Zacharias ‘Sugar’ Hajishacalli, who sadly passed away in 2007 and while many people equate me with these tunes, I am just half of the reason, Sugar played just as much a role as me in their making. And believe me we did have a lot of fun in the studio making them. But that was only the beginning, which took me from London to Cyprus and back 12 times alone in 1992-93 to do gigs.

As an artist in London I always felt most of the community media, such as LGR and Parikiaki, never really understood me. And since I left I guess they have never bothered to find out if I am still alive or dead. I know that sounds very cynical but it is how I feel. One reason why I left London in fact was that narrow-mindedness which stifles and suffocates creativity and expression. It was surprisingly enough easier for me to be played and respected in Cyprus. For example when I moved over here, Radio Proto offered me two radio shows, I also had a regular column in The Cyprus Mail newspaper, plus was one of a first generation of TV show presenters on SIGMA TV. In doing all these media it became very clear to me that I was far more welcome in Cyprus than London media wise.
And despite all of these achievements in Cyprus, not once have these outlets ever mentioned any of this, let alone approached me for any kind of interview.

Eventually, as much as I liked working in the Cyprus media on a freelance basis I dropped out of TV to focus on my teaching and music. I also much prefer radio and writing blogs these days, and doing music which is dub poetry based with my producer friend Dub Caravan

There have been some very notable exceptions to these community based media exclusionary rules in Britain. Trehantiri Music in Green Lanes Haringey was the first place that ever played my songs to an unsuspecting public, and I will always raise an ‘E-Iva’ glass of wine to The Pattalis Family. Radio wise Mediterranean Mix on Inspiration FM probably has more of my releases than I do. And John Kaponi once hailed that Haji Mike was about to conquer the USA. It was a great headline but that was never my intention 🙂

There are also many people in the mainstream British Media who have always been supportive, from the legendary and late John Peel Andy Kershaw and FRoots Magazine to more contemporary radio presenters such as DeeJay Ritu and Dotun Adebayo

I also had the pleasure and honour to work with many people in the world from far and wide. For example:
Lia Vissi , plus Sonic Crime and my good friend’s Mike Minas and Mike Cherry; Standout Selector, my brother from another mother in San Francisco, the classic Greek Rappers Imiskoubria and reggae pioneer Ranking Johnny from THC Records in Greece who recently released my first 7″ vinyl single; my long time production bredren, Tony Muttley Matthew in Londinium; and how could I not mention Don V Louie, Sugar’s brother, who taught me so much about myself vocally; last but by no means least my poet brother from across the barbed wire in Cyprus, Zeki Ali

And I know I have left many people out due to my memory failing me, no offence, its all there on my web page

So I am very much looking forward to playing in London on 31st October and there will be more gigs soon as well. I will also be in Liverpool on December 2nd at Parr Street Studios. And my home town of Nicosia, on 13th November with The Roots Crew Sound System

As you can see from all this, it’s a busy life, at times hectic but I enjoy every moment to the fullest. So for all the people who have supported the works over the decades, I give thanks and praises. For all those who do not, its nothing personal from me, I just wanted to set the record straight. You can continue as ever, misrepresenting Cypriots in the ways you feel best. I will just keep on movin, as the song once said from Soul II Soul…And before I sign off, one very final mention and thanks goes out to Andrew Hubbard Badger for organising The One Cyprus Concert in London on 31st October. It is a real honour to perform along side Neşe Yaşın
People like Andrew keep hope alive in Cyprus, even in these most difficult and pessimistic of times. And if you can;t make the gig, it will be up there as an online stream, live and direct as it happens. Check out ONECYPRUS.

One Love

Haji Mike

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