Ras Ceylon
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Ras Ceylon

Oakland, California, United States | INDIE

Oakland, California, United States | INDIE
Band Hip Hop Reggae


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"SF State Graduate Uses Hip-Hop to Teach Bay Area Youth"

by Ian Atkinson, staff writer
MAY 4, 2005 3:16 PM

On the very first day of camp at Project Avary (Alternative Ventures for At-Risk Youth), two kids started fighting as soon as they stepped inside their cabin. So counselor-mentor-musician Sanjev DeSilva suggested the first remedy that came to mind.

"I told them they should have a freestyle (rap) battle," said DeSilva, a recent SF State graduate who has worked at Avary for four years and started Hip-Hop Word - a spoken word class for the children.

"No cursing, no sexuality, no family talk, and from there they just went at it," he said.

The two campers spent the rest of the session together peacefully.

A hip-hop battle is not the traditional conflict resolution method, and DeSilva doesn't appear to be your traditional teacher, especially as he steps down from the stage after a show in Jack Adams Hall, with his long, flowing dreadlocks and baggy silver jeans. But at Project Avary, tradition is often what the staff is trying to change.

The United States has a 70 percent recidivism rate. Seven out of ten children with an incarcerated parent will eventually be incarcerated themselves. Increased violence and aggression as well as lowered self-esteem are also traits commonly identified amongst such youth.

"You gotta be hard to an extent, and you have to be spiritually and mentally tough or they'll walk right over you," DeSilva said of the children. "You learn as much from them as they do from you."

The camp grew out of a discussion between Chaplain Earl Smith of San Quentin State Prison and Danny Rifkin, the former tour manager for the Grateful Dead. Rifkin, the camp�s founder and executive director, remembers Smith saying �that in all his work with inmates and their families, it was the children who most often failed to get much needed attention.�

�He told me, �if you want to help these men, help their kids,�� Rifkin recalled.

Starting in the summer of 1999 with a one-week session and 32 children, Project Avary has grown quickly and now works with more than 130 children and their families.

�It�s a place where you meet new people and it keeps you going - you�re never left alone there,� said 15-year-old Rakee Matlock, who has gone to camp and other Avary programs for four years.

The program now offers four summer-camp sessions, leadership retreats, monthly Adventure Days - where children are taken to museums, hiking and other educational places - and the newly created Mentoring Program.

Last fall, Project Avary also initiated its first week of Family Camp, where whole households are able to camp out together at the site.

Rifkin said that the Mentoring Program is the latest attempt to offer children year-round support.
�It�s designed to provide a deeper level of support and to further enrich children�s lives with new experiences,� Rifkin said. �Studies show that young people with mentors are far less likely to commit crimes, drop out of school or get pregnant.�

The program allows mentors to share their interests and experiences with children, while still trying to implement the values set forth by Avary. The focus areas are social skills, creative arts, environmental education, nutrition and physical fitness and life skills.

According to Rifkin, DeSilva and his methods serve as a great example of that incorporation.
"He's really come into his own, creating an . . . activity that engaged many of the campers and provided a safe and fun activity for written and performed self-expression," Rifkin said.

DeSilva teaches the history and elements of hip-hop and said he wanted the kids to "start seeing hip-hop as their cultural expression, instead of just radio and videos."

His workshops have led to kids producing graffiti-themed murals and doing performances at the summer camp. He rewards them with books and CDs, including his own album "Ras Ceylon: The Collegraduate Lessons: 1999-2004," that he released after graduating from SF State in International Relations/Third World Development and Ethnic Studies.

Matlock participated in DeSilva's class last summer and still keeps his lyrics stored in a journal he started at camp.

Diversity in thought, religion, ethnicity and approach are all important to the Avary staff. Rifkin said �people of color are encouraged to apply� for the mentoring positions, as many of the children involved are categorized as ethnic minorities.

DeSilva had worked with youth in the East Bay at Step Up, and also works now at East Oakland�s Sequoia Elementary School. He heard about Project Avary through a friend on campus, but according to Adam Calmenson, there are plenty of other ways to get the word on where to go and work for a good cause.

Calmenson is the administrative coordinator at SF State�s Community Involvement Center, which he says has a registry of 200-300 non-profit agencies and helps match roughly 1,000 students per semester up with an organization that suits them.

�We steer them towards general areas based on their interests and on what population they want to serve,� said Calmenson.

According to Calmenson, between 100 and 120 students per semester also utilize the service learning courses, which offer training for the first three weeks of every semester, then award between three and six academic units to volunteering students.

DeSilva�s motivation has always been more personal.

�People of conscious inspired me when I was young,� said DeSilva, �and now it�s my duty to pass on lessons of spirituality, knowledge of self and hip-hop culture.�

For more information, go to http://www.projectavary.org, http://www.myspace.com/rasceylon/ or http://cic.sfsu.edu.

» E-mail Ian Atkinson @ iatkins@sfsu.ed - Golden Gate Xpress

"Next 1000"

Ras Ceylon :: Betta B Ready
Throwback Records
Reviewed by PG-13

In today's party-obsessed landscape it's easy to get caught up in self-indulgence and forget that there's a whole world suffering while you glug down $12 dollar drinks. This is where emcee Ras Ceylon comes in. The Oakland rapper is spitting knowledge with reckless abandon in an attempt to free the minds of today's youth. Fusing gritty beats with even grittier doses of flows, it's fair to say that it's curtains for ignorance. His flows don't just serve to establish the man as a prime MC, they serve to free Palestine, free the Jena 6, end police brutality and perhaps destroy wack hip-hop while he's at it. - Urb Magazine

"interview with Davey D"


We caught up with Oakland rapper Ras Ceylon and talked to him about his new album 'Scientific Non Fiction'. It's his second album and it looks to be a monster. Among the stand out tracks are cuts he did with Stic Man of dead prez called 'Better Be Ready', 'The Damage' featuring Tragedy Khadafi and 'Many Levels' featuring Bay Area icons Askari X and Taje of Souls of Mischief.

We started off talking to Ras about his background which Sri Lankan and how that culture is often overlooked and misunderstood. We also talked to him about him embracing Rastafarian and how it influenced his music. We also built with Ras about his revolutionary take on politics and why he found it important to hook up with people like Chairman Fred Hampton Jr of the POCC and have him featured on the intro of this album.

Ras is a force to be wreckon with in the years to come. And for those who feel like Hip Hop has lost its sense of adventure and commitment to politic, Ras Ceylon puts those nagging doubts to rest. - odeo.com / breakdownFM / kpfa

"Murder Dog Feature Interview w/ Ras Ceylon"


Q&A conducted Niki Gatewood for Murder Dog Magazine
photos courtesy Black Dog Bone

“The work that His Majesty set forth is no joke. It’s a daily struggle for equal rights and justice for all and demands discipline of the mind, body, and soul. People in general are suffering right now and a lot of ‘em are lost or hopeless. Rastafari provides InI the fuel to keep burning fiyah on oppression and Hip-Hop is my voice. So I trust my perspective can reach someone out there that needs it,� Ras Ceylon pauses as he readjusts a renegade dred lock. His honey eyelids blink shut and the intense ebony gaze is momentarily hidden from view.

Personal responsibility may be characterized as having the capacity for moral decisions, therefore being accountable and capable of one’s rational thoughts and actions. Seduced by the world’s temptations, it’s easy to become ensnared amongst compromising situations, corroding one’s sense of personal responsibility. As it pertains to Hip-Hop, MCs often live their lives amid the unflinching public eye; their personal responsibility is often scrutinized.

Originally from Southern California and now living in The Bay, Ras Ceylon is an MCs who embraces his personal responsibility to Hip-Hop as well as his personal responsibility to his community. Some of his albums have been marked with the warning sticker, Mental Advisory: LYRICAL CONTENT. His lyrics manifest his love for Hip-Hop and his love for community. Murder Dog is granted an exclusive glimpse into the realm of constant lyrical and community progress.

How are you doing? I hope that everything is going well in your world.
Yes I’m doing well, still giving thanks while we in the struggle!

I’ve been looking forward to this interview, you’re truly interesting and your lyrics are reflective of an elevated mindset, given the many things that you must think about, how d you decide which ones to put on wax?
Well to tell you the truth, when I’m writing a song I really just let the track and vibes inside the beat dictate the lyrics I write. There is not much premeditation except for a general or sometimes specific concept of where I wanna go with it, but like I said in a song with my crew East Bay Politix: “Jah Guide the flow.� So I never quite know what I might say next, because it’s not entirely in my control. Making music is a real spiritual thing when you allow it to be. I feel free when creating because I’m not concerned with “what’s hot� or “what the people want�, I just ride out with what feels right on every verse. The only challenge is when putting together an album because you have to decide what songs to put out and which ones to put on ice for the time. The creative process is always the best and easiest part to me, next to performing!

As your name, Ras Ceylon, is a combination of your faith (Rastafarian) and part of your ancestry (Ceylon, colonized name of Sri Lanka) why is it important for you to impart your perspective to the public?
I been putting music out since my first release in 1999 (Ceylon -“First Lesson� ep) which was a red cassette tape and from that time to pressing vinyl, to CDs and now downloads I have got a good response from people from all walks of life so I got to keep it movement. I know for sure that I’m bringing something different to the table. My life experience and overstanding of the world as a Hip-Hop emcee inspired by His Imperial Majesty Haile Sellassie I, gives me a duty to share what I know and live out the message. The fact that I’m from Sri Lanka is a little less relevant only because I was born and raised here in Cali so my style and sound is influenced more from this West Coast lifestyle than Sri Lanka. I chose the name Ceylon strategically though when I first started recording at age 16, so I would always remember where I come from and the war going on there. Later after many years of growing into Rastafari way of life I added “Ras� to my stage name, again with a purpose this time to emphasize the seriousness of my music. The work that His Majesty set forth is no joke. It’s a daily struggle for equal rights and justice for all and demands discipline of the mind, body, and soul. People in general are suffering right now and allot of ‘em are lost or hopeless. Rastafari provides InI the fuel to keep burning fiyah on oppression and Hiphop is my voice. So I trust my perspective can reach someone out there that needs it.

Is there a distinct style difference between the solo message of Ras Ceylon and the message of Hungry Bros and East Bay Politix?
Richport the Saviorears ago because we were always trying to jump on every beat when the whole crew was still active. When me and Richport do our thing it’s the same vibe as when I do my solo stuff, except we build on and communicate about what we’re writing together. My other group East Bay Politix is a little different because we usually in the lab called Cybertron in deep East Oakland and Sin-Z’s production creates a whole universe unto itself. E.B.P. is definitely revolutionary Town Biz that includes Islamic elements and pushes Black consciousness to the fullest through comic books and music. But anything I do with my comrades is all one because we’re expressing liberation with our different voices. Hungry Bros and EBP have actually collab’d too so we all about unity. The one thing that ties me to the rest of my musical fam is the message, so we all come together and sharpen our swords with content in mind everytime.

You’ve been quoted as saying, “Action is necessary to bring about any kind of change,� in respect that quotation, what are you doing to make the public aware of your projects?
Like I said in a song, “I stay campaigning and sustaining the uprise.� We always campaigning. Whether it’s a revolutionary campaign such as “Free the SF8� or “Justice for Oscar Grant� or a musical campaign like the “Betta B Ready� video or my new album, I always strive to organize myself and others around me with focus, energy, and most importantly activity. Throwback Records has helped me push truth into the forefront, even if most thought the industry wouldn’t be ready. Before hooking up with TR it was more of a “dirt-style� hustle for me. That included everything from financing, retailing and promoting all my own products to spending hours on end in front of record stores slinging CDs. I was pushing this music movement before the internet took over. So while we do utilize the viral/web side of things, I still stay grassroots and ground-level. I’m performing all the time from the Bay to L.A. and beyond at Rap & Hip-Hop shows and Reggae/Dancehall clubs so we always active. Also through my interactions with the POCC (Prisoners of Conscious Committee) chaired by Fred Hampton Jr., I am in tuned with the “Code of Culture� in which I accept the responsibility to get involved in the revolutionary campaigns that we mention in the music. So its more than just speaking on the issues, you gotta actually work towards that goal, otherwise you just talking. So yeah, action is definitely the business because the minute you stop being active is the moment things stop moving for you.

Scientific/ Non-Fiction, your third album was released in 2008. People may purchase it through iTunes and in The Bay it’s available at any Amoeba & Rasputin’s stores. For those who haven’t heard it what can they expect?
Overall I think folks can expect the unexpected. There is so much going on in the album that there probably is a little something for everyone. One thing that stands out to me are the Hip-Hop OG’s that are on there spitting with me. From Chairman Fred Hampton Jr. of the POCC, Tajai of Hieroglyphics and stic.man of deadprez to current Hiphop Political Prisoners Askari X (RBG) and Tragedy Khadafi =FREE EM ALL! So obviously there are some high powered collabos on “Scientific/Non-Fiction� that makes it a special project. I am real thankful for the way it all came together because none of the collaborations were planned out, they all just manifested perfectly. Beyond that, the listener will definitely learn something, I guarantee it. I always say each song I make is a lesson, so there’s a lot in there to soak up. But its not preachy at all because I don’t tell people what to do and what not to do, its more about revealing truth and actual facts. We been putting warning stickers on the CDs that say “Mental Advisory: Lyrical Content.� So you know the album is deep on the message tip. Really though it’s not no way out sh*t, just real spit that usually goes beyond self-promotion and materialism that is common today. You gonna hear about a lot of relevant information that is important to think about in these times and days. There are also some stories I tell on there and different little things that keep it interesting, overall though I think it’s simply a good Hip-Hop album with a crucial edge to it.

June 22 and yourself were the only producers on Scientific/Non-Fiction, do you think you accomplished a Golden Era sound for the album? How do you achieve an interesting, cohesive, sound without it becoming montone?
Me and June22 have been making music together over ten years so it was real easy to make an album with him. He really overstands what I’m striving to achieve with each song made. I don’t know if this album is quite Golden Era because the music is up to the time and even has a lot of Reggae vibes on there as well. You could say it has a Golden Era sound in the sense that it feels like an actual album, with interludes, scratches and balance. There are also a whole lot of different sounds including live instrumentation to ill samples and banging beats. Nowadays most artists put out CDs that play more like mixtapes than actual LPs. “Scientific/Non-Fiction� is definitely a work of art in the sense that it was fine tuned over and over again. I spent time on every detail of the production from mixing to sequencing the album, so we were diligent about the whole process. I mean there were more songs that didn’t make it than the 16 that did. And some of those were dope tracks but we really were striving to get it to be a straight up album. You may see some of those extra songs come out on a mix CD soon and I know a few of them will be used for other projects. But yeah I got a lot to say on different topics so “Scientific/Non-Fiction� is hitting on many levels. Big up Throwback Records and my whole team!

If your hands are partly responsible for shaping new conscious Hip-Hop, what are you hoping that your fingerprints will leave on the mic?
Every time I grip the mic I’m making a fist. So that in itself is the imprint. My music is for everyone, not just for a “conscious� crowd because it’s pointless to preach to the choir. Hip-Hop has always had substance, even the turf music out here in the Town has elements of consciousness to it, so I don’t like to separate the music into categories. I think people can recognize that there is a genuine artistry being put together to separate my music from other stuff out there. I am humbled and honored to have worked with and to be able to build with the folks that I do, so to be mentioned with those heads is peace. I deliver Hip-Hop without compromising the content for any industry or commercial interest. So that fist around the mic represents the righteous fight of liberation that we wage against injustice through the music and action.

Last week, Sri Lanka declared victory over the LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) after killing its leadership and remaining fighters, do you believe that the war is really over? What are your thoughts on President Mahinda Rajapaksa remarks that he plans, “to have most people returned to their homes within six months,� is this mere propaganda? Is the United States negligent in its efforts to aid the apparent humanitarian crisis in Sri Lanka?
This war has been officially waging for over 30 years but if you study the history you’ll see that the seeds of division were sown through 500 years of colonialism. The funk between the two ethnic groups on my island that caused the civil war is a result of classic divide and conquer tactics, that were common during the African slave holocaust and European imperialism. Everywhere where people of color have had civilizations flourishing, we were suddenly caught up fighting each other over resources that we had shared for 1000s of years. You find the same thing in Rwanda, Somalia, or any other so called 3rd World country. Why is that? I think it is critical to analyze the conditions that created these conflicts instead of just being reactionary and want to kill your cousins. It’s the same thing on the streets of the U.S. we divided into blocks, turfs, and sets where we are seeing our own kinfolk as the enemy. As far as Sri Lanka we’ll see what happens but one thing I know for sure is that the masses of people there (historically Tamils since “independence�) are suffering there, and will continue to unless the political leaders begin to decolonize their minds and act accordingly. But things are critical in the regions where the recent military offensive happened and immediate aid is needed in a major way. The last time I was there was the summer of 2005 and I actually traveled to the northern region and visited Jaffna which has seen the brunt of the war and the people there all showed love despite our differences. So I know from first hand experience that the division between Sinhalese and Tamil people in Sri Lanka is artificial and exploited by the powers that be, to capitalize off the war. There is a humanitarian crisis going on out there but also right here in West Oakland, so there is a lot of work to be done worldwide!

Being that you’re focused on empowering and uplifting the community, how are you using your time to benefit those that are in your immediate surroundings and those that are overseas? What are some of your long-term goals outside of Hip-Hop?
Since I moved to the Bay in 1999 I have been working with youth of all ages in different capacities, from after school programs and coaching hoops with elementary and middle school kids to counseling and outreach with teenagers. I have hella youngstas in my life that I constantly build with here in the Town. It’s been a trip watching some of these young folks grow up and it also has been hard watching them go through hardships, but it feels good to be there for them. I think it’s vital to contribute to the community I stay in and do more than just rap about the problems. There is a war going on (“round the globe / down the road / some just don’t know�) out here and these are survival times so everyone can use a helping hand. I do wanna branch out and do more work overseas but the situation right here is crucial too. A long-term goal of mine is to be able mobilize movements all over. After traveling to places like Sri Lanka and seeing how rough it is, I know that I got to utilize my time here to build up some capital and get power to really help people to help themselves. I’m more about empowerment than charity, feel me? At the end of the day it takes a revolution to make a real solution, but the work has to be done first, through all means necessary whether it’s economic, social or political.

To the fans that you’ve already touched and the fans that are on the horizon, what projects should they be looking out for?
Obviously go get that “Scientific/Non-Fiction� as soon as you read this! We are striving to put out a “Free the SF8� East Bay Politix compilation and comic book and are working on the funding for that right now. Also look out for my upcoming Dancehall album "Gideon.Force" vol.1 I got some new music coming soon that is fresh. Also June22 and Richport the Savior have just released their album “Warning Signs� online and a Hungry Bros project is in the pipeline too. There is a lot more coming from Ras Ceylon and you can stay in tune to updates and reach out to me on MySpace, FaceBook, Twitter, You Tube and Ras Ceylon.com. I’m still an independent artist doing my own business along with Throwback Records so we aren’t hard to find, just hail us up.

I’d like to thank your for your time; what closing remarks would you like to resonate with your supporters?
You betta b ready cuz babylon is soon to fall..first free ya self then free em all! Rise In Power to all fallen souljahs. Keep it movement and Give Thanks for Life!

One Perfect Love - Murder Dog Magazine


2010 "Anyday, Anytime" f. Norris Man single
2008 "Scientific/Non-Fiction" full length CD
2008 "Betta B Ready"f. stic.man of deadprez Single
2007 "Western Front" 12" single
2004 "Collegraduate" CD
1999 "1st Lesson ep" tape



Ras Ceylon

"Let us carry on our tradition to freedom"

That is the theme that permeates throughout the long-awaited Scientific Non-Fiction album by Throwback recording artist Ras Ceylon, a Rastafarian rap artist of Sri-Lankan descent. Technically, his third album, Ras has made a name for himself on the underground hip-hop scene with his popular mixtapes.

A mixture of Rap, Hip-Hop, Jazz and Reggae flavors, Ras generated a dynamic buzz with the new album's first single, "Western Front", which was the No. 1 Pick Hit of the Week at the online music trade, www.rapattacklives.com. Currently, the album's official second single, "Betta Be Ready", featuring Stic.Man of Deadprez and Sinista Z, and its profound accompanying video is getting attention on You Tube, various online sites, as well as BET, and others.

Ras Ceylon personifies the independent music spirit. Doing an album completely on his own terms, Scientific Non-Fiction offers the listener a lyrical haven of eloquent and socially conscious messages. This is no more evident in songs such as the reggae-laden "Play Wit Fiyah"; the street anthem "War A'Gwan"; and the call to arms tracks, "Time Not Wasted" and "Many Levelz". The album is also chock full of other musical gems such as "The Damage" and "Dopest Ethiopian" both which have single potential written all over them.

Scientific Non-Fiction is produced by June22 who has been collaborating with Ras from day one allowing the album to maintain a cohesiveness missing in many of Hip-Hop today's projects. "Back in the day, Hip-Hop albums used to have a certain vibe, because they were produced by one producer," recalls Ras, who co-produced the album. "Eric B. and Rakim, Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth the albums had that important M.C./Producer relationship. I wanted to re-create that feel."

The industry constantly hear claims that Hip-Hop has lost its way, its lyrics lack meaning, and its messages only cater to sex-sells and materialism themes. Not with Ras Ceylon who refuses to water down his message. In the vein of Common, Mos Def or earlier works from KRS-One, X-Clan and Brand Nubian, Ras Ceylon may soon find himself as the "new voice" for conscious Hip-Hop.

As a Rastafarian rap artist of Sri-Lankan descent, Ceylon's goal is to maintain integrity both artistically and professionally, "A lot of times, artists feel the need to get away from that conscious label", states Ras. "They think it is some kind of stigma. I don't have a problem with that. It's not just what I write about, it's about the lifestyle I live and the work I do in the community. Anything I rap about is very authentic. There's a message. It's important to stay conscious and represent, and set an example for these young people. There aren't too many positive examples out there. Conscious to me means "you're awake", and if you're not awake then you're not conscious. I'm definitely not trying to sleep."

Hailing from Southern California and based in Oakland for the past 10 years, Ras is influenced by his family and the teachings of His Imperial Majesty Emperor Haile Selassie. He is seriously committed to giving back to his local and global community. Ras is a counselor and mentor year-round for Project Avary (projectavary.org) organization, which also hosts a summer camp for youth whose parents are incarcerated. Ras is also active with his work as an out-reach counselor at a continuation high school through the East Bay Agency for Children in Oakland, and recently received an award from the Mayor's office in recognition of his work.

Ras maintains his affiliation with the Prisoners of Conscious Committee, bringing awareness and support to Political Prisoners; and was a member and officer with the Oakland Chapter of the Ethiopian World Federation.

"Long-term, I would like to eventually form my own non-profit organization that addresses the need for better economic opportunities in low-income areas here and abroad," says Ras. "My vision is that I will have land/property on three different continents and utilize a capital base here in the U.S. to support 'Third World' Empowerment programs worldwide."

Ras Ceylon's personal, musical and artistic objectives are rooted in the Rastafarian Revolution principals. He says, "The aim, focus and goal is about liberation; freedom in the mind, body and spirit. I grew up loving music in all forms. To me, music is more than just entertainment. I'm about uplifting people through its vibrations and frequencies. And uplifting people, and my community is definitely what Im striving to achieve."