New Kingston northeast preview: An interview with Tahir Panton

To celebrate A Kingston Story: Come From Far (Easy Star Records, 2017), Brooklyn’s New Kingston is hitting the road with The Movement, and coming through the northeast in early November. The brothers Panton make up New Kingston: Tahir (keys), Courtney Jr. (drums), Stephen (guitar), and their father, Courtney Sr., sort of manages everything, and plays bass. The three brothers also sing, and it’s their differentiated vocal stylings mixed with lovely harmonies that give their music a dynamic texture. A Kingston Story: Come From Far covers a lot of territory, and the quartet continues to expand their fanbase and opportunities to be heard.

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Tahir calls me from across the Atlantic to talk about the upcoming tour and their latest record.

JM: What’s going on in England?

TP: We had about ten shows this past couple weeks. We did a run with The Skints, and we got a couple shows coming up with Collie Buddz.

JM: I saw the Skints once, at Cali Roots.

TP: Nice, nice. That was the first time we saw them too, in 2015.

JM: Have you toured Europe before?

TP: We came last year in July and did a run with Easy Star All-Stars. It feels good. Everyone is very accepting of what we bring to the scene. People love our reggae.

JM: Any contemporaries who are inspiring to you?

TP: I fully respect art, in any fashion. I try my best to see what the artist is going for in their product and like it for what it is. You can learn from anybody, from people on the street, from the professor, from anything. Art can pull from wherever.

JM: How’s it been touring behind the A Kingston Story: Come From Far?

TP: It’s good. Music is a beautiful thing, especially reggae- I don’t know about other genres- but music is forever. There’s still people discovering our first album, so every time we tour it reinforces everything we’ve done. This album adds to the collection, another piece of the puzzle.

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JM: It’s called A Kingston Story. Are there going to be sequential albums?

TP: Definitely. Different installments of the journey. Our story is so wide. Our father’s story alone is wide. We felt that if we were going to call this album A Kingston Story, we couldn’t try and cram everything into one! We’re making a trilogy. [Laughs]

JM: You’re now a reggae dynasty.

TP: Oh! Thank you.

JM: Have you played with The Movement before?

TP: We probably have! I used to ask artists questions like that and they weren’t sure and I’d be like, “How do you not remember that?” But I can’t remember! [Laughs]

JM: In terms of making music together, did everyone grow up playing what they play in New Kingston?

TP: My father made New Kingston. He’s been a musician for thirty-plus years. He says, “If a Chinese man had a Chinese store in New York City, and he had a kid, it’s more than likely that the kid is going to work in the Chinese store at a young age. You got to learn the business. At first, the vision wasn’t “One day we’re going to tour the U.K.” It was more like, “Let’s play music so you don’t have to be on the street.” It turned into what it is from that.

JM: He’s a great bass player.

TP: He’s the foundation. That’s where the reggae lies, in the bass.

JM: What’s it like to be in a band and tour with your brothers and dad?

TP: I don’t know anything else, so it’s hard to compare, but I can say the vibes are great because family is forever, automatically, so to be in a band with my family is best because we get to work and bond simultaneously. All the arguments are for a better cause. It’s not like we’re strangers trying to do business together. I don’t know how people do that, honestly! [Laughs] But with family the tolerance is higher because we’re working together.

JM: Like, “Remember when I was eight and you did this to thing to me?”

TP: Uh-hunh. Exactly.

JM: Y’all sing and write songs. How are you writing music?

TP: We always create music. Every day is a day to create music. When we get into the studio we’re in there with ideas already. Everywhere we go the vibes affects us. Music is a natural thing. People ask how we write music and it’s hard to answer. It’s what’s literally inside us, it’s what we can put out. People we meet, food we eat, all experiences, find our way into our music.

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JM: I’m excited for your show at Higher Ground.

TP: Nice! I like Vermont. I hope it won’t be too cold, but more than likely it will be!

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