If anybody had told Christopher MacFarlane in his youth, that sometime in his 50s, he’d become famous for rapping about cucumbers, one reckons he’d have trouble believing them. But two years ago, that’s exactly what happened to the 54-year-old rap/reggae musician from Wolverhampton, whose Cucumber remix, a catchy song about the nutritious value of the humble gourd, went viral — the world outside the UK discovered Macka.B and Medical Mondays, his inventive and informative YouTube series about the goodness of vegetables. In India for the first time for Goa Sunsplash, India’s largest reggae and sound system festival (that begins today and goes on till Sunday), Macka.B chats about his favourite vegetable, his vintage riddims and how he expects his time in Goa to be “irie” — Jamaican English for good.
Of all the vegetables in the world, why is the callaloo (amaranth) your favourite?
When my parents came from Jamaica to the UK, callaloo was the main green vegetable they ate. It’s a staple dish in Jamaica and I have eaten it since I was a baby. I still eat it and all my children and grandchildren love it. Finding out about all the nutrients in it was an added bonus.
You decided to become a vegetarian in your teens and turned vegan later. Could you take us through the reasons over the years?
As a child, I was never really a big meat eater and when I was 16, I was starting to adhere to the Rastafari way of life. I became more and more uncomfortable with eating meat and started to realise that what I was eating was once a living animal. So, I stopped eating meat, but I carried on with eating fish for a little while before stopping that as well. I used to get gastritis regularly, not realising it was the dairy products that caused it. When I found out about lactose intolerance, I stopped eating dairy also and the gastritis disappeared. So, I went vegan in my 30s.
What led to the start of Medical Mondays? How did that idea come about?
I had done a vegan song called Wha me eat in 2007 and it had become very popular — a sort of vegan anthem. It was very popular on social media. I was having a discussion with my children and they suggested that I became more active on social media. So, we started Medical Mondays as a way to educate people on the benefits of fruits and vegetables. At first, I was just talking about them, then I decided to try and do one in the Macka.B style with lyrics and rhyme. The response was amazing — millions of views. I did one about the ‘cucumba’ and the rest, as they say, is history. The hardest part about doing them though, was keeping them to one minute as we were doing them for Instagram too.
A few years ago, you were working on your vintage riddims EP. What are you working on now? Have the YouTube videos introduced new listeners to your earlier work?
I am working on a new EP, also with vintage riddims, on the Peckings label. The first single is going to be released on January 30, called Cucumba to the world, which funnily is about your second question, and how people have gravitated towards my music because of the social media posts.
Reggae emerged out of resistance movements, and looking at the world around you today, do you think reggae could or should play a bigger role in mobilising people? Do you think Bob Marley’s Get up, stand up holds more relevance today, nearly 50 years after it was released?
Exactly. Now, more than ever, the message in reggae music is needed around the world. We can see the negativity and madness growing every day. Reggae is a powerful force that can emancipate the minds of people, young and old, all over the globe.
What’s your plan for the festival?
Goa Sunsplash is a great event promoting peace, love, wellness and unity. We come to bring the musical and lyrical vibes. Rasta energy. This will be my first time in India, but growing up in the West Midlands, where there is a very big Indian community, I think I have an idea what to expect. It should be irie.
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