Freedom & Struggle
Mike Roots Biography Born Michael Killiany on March 1, 1969 in Winsted, CT, Mike Roots took to music at an early age to find solace and comfort in a troubled upbringing. After graduating from Oliver Wolcott Technical High School in 1987 with a state certificate in Drafting, Mike attended Hartford State Technical College in Hartford, CT for two years where he enrolled in the pre-technology programme and then into Civil Engineering Technology. At the age of nineteen, he began what would become a nearly sixteen year stint in the field of drafting and design. Throughout childhood and adolescence, the soothing sounds of his dad's old 7' records (from the 1950's) as well as tunes emanating from the radio were a means of escape and enjoyment. In fact it was not uncommon for young Michael to be heard singing or humming a favourite song on his way home from school or to the market- sometimes to the amusement of his friends. After a couple of years of writing lyrics and humming melodies, Mike approached his friend Tommy (at the time a beginning guitarist) with the idea of starting a band. Soon, a garage rock band named 'Floor Three' was formed with Mike on vocals. At the age of nineteen, he decided to try and learn how to play guitar and indeed took numerous lessons, later trying his hand at bass guitar and West African drumming (the latter under the tutelage of Guinean master drummer and dancer Abdoulaye Sylla). On a early summer afternoon in 1989 during a softball practice on a field in Torrington, CT when a teammate invited Mike to come to his church to check out their young people's group. Open to the idea, if a bit hesitant, he decided to give it a try. What he was to experience would change his life forever. Mike discovered the unconditional love of Almighty GOD (Yahweh) in the Person of Jesus Christ (Yeshua) and learned the personal meaning of His crucifixion and resurrection. After a few months of observing, learning and asking questions, in late fall of 1989 Mike received Christ into his heart and was born again and baptised. Through this life-altering experience, his sense of self-worth, direction and values began to change. He gradually found healing for his depressed and angry state- and music would factor largely into this healing and growing process. From the time he was a teen, Mike had developed an affinity for reggae music. In 1994, Mike formed a group called the Iron Mangoes which comprised of members of various cultural backgrounds and age groups. Their sound was a mixture of roots reggae, funk, rock, folk, Afro-Cuban and jazz styles. With the formation of the Mangoes, Mike later thought it might be fun for the members to have nicknames- hence the name 'Mike Roots'. 'Roots' was chosen because Mike brought a reggae influence into the group (among others), he mostly played bass guitar at the point (part of the musical roots- along with the drum) and because his inspiration was rooted in his Christian faith. The Iron Mangoes cut a couple of locally released singles before disbanding in late 1995. In the summer of 1996, Mike met Aire' Duarte (aka Akcent Da Just Poet) who was a co-worker, though each worked in different departments. In late 1997, Mike and Aire' formed Open Mind Productions as a means of blessing people with righteous lyrics as ambassadors of Christ. With the use of electric bass guitar, a drum machine and a couple of effects pedals, the pair began co-writing songs such as the stripped down funk, hip-hop and dancehall tracks 'The Scripture' and 'Time To Repent'. 'Keepin' It Real (With GOD)', 'Lake Of Fire' and 'Hold On' were written in the winter of 2000 as part of a new project. The result was a natural evolution to Roots & Akcent- a duo whose sound would be based in reggae. Meeting up with producer and engineer Winston Spence, the duo brought him a tape of rough acoustic versions of a few of their songs. They settled on 'Keepin' It Real (With GOD)' and 'Lake Of Fire' as selections to be included on a CD single which would also include dub versions of each. The 'Keepin' It Real' CD was released in the summer of 2001. After meeting a couple of years earlier, Roots was approached by friend and roots reggae gospel artist Wayne Stoddart with an offer to assist in recording some compositions he had penned, Working at Nyah Productions in Bronx, NY along with owner/engineer Bunny Jeffrey and engineer Noel 'Jacko' Jackson, the results of these sessions include songs such as 'Two Roads', 'Send Up' and 'Hard Times- the latter with music recorded and produced in Jamaica featuring Dean Fraser on saxophone along with other top musicians. In late 2003, Roots was introduced to and later began collaborating with Jah Servant, an artist, producer and multi-instrumentalist working out of his Servant's Quarter's Studio located at that time in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Their first venture was a tune called 'Fight Against', composed and voiced on Jah Servant's 'Freedom' riddim. Numerous other tracks were to follow, including 'Gospel Fire' and 'Feed The Children'- both included on 2004's 'Unity Riddim Sessions Vol. 1'. Now available is the debut solo album from Mike Roots, titled 'Freedom & Struggle'. The disc contains 13 tracks and features a number of special guests including Wayne Stoddart, Dwight Schroeter and Leary Marshall. The uplifting single 'Hard Times' even features some lovely sax work from the legendary Dean Fraser. Most of the tracks were a collaborative effort between Mike Roots and Jah Servant, (who played most of the instruments and handled the majority of production). In similar fashion, Stoddart produced and created a few of the rhythm tracks as well. Describing the title, Mike Roots says 'The freedom is in that found in Yeshua, the Saviour, while the struggle is in the spiritual battle and dealing with things such as poverty, wickedness, infirmities and temptation. When I look at world around me (and myself too) I see some set free, some captive and all struggling in one way or another. When I speak of struggle, I mean the battle to live righteous in a fallen world and with a flawed self. The title of this album wasn't chosen until after the songs were written and recorded and I stepped back to look at what they were saying as a whole. The songs are definitely personal, yet I feel they're not just for me.' Containing mostly roots reggae material, 'Freedom & Struggle' also includes a couple of disco (extended) mixes, an acoustic 'unplugged' tune and more. While the songs on the album are personal reflections, Mike Roots displays the ability to continue in the tradition of classic roots reggae by communicating a message that speaks to the common man. Whether it's in the organ-drenched gospel reggae mover 'Send Up', the deeper roots of 'Come Unity', the intensity of 'Gospel Fire' and 'Two Roads' or the sweet rub-a-dub vibes of 'Feed The Children' and 'Fight Against', there is an undeniable musical appeal and relevance in the album 'Freedom & Struggle.' From a production standpoint, there are no recycled (or remade) rhythms here though you may well here a hint of familiarity in some of them. The artistry and production skills of Jah Servant are a highlight throughout 'Freedom & Struggle' and prove to be the ideal compliment to the songwriting and singing of Mike Roots.