William Wilde meets Ali Jacko, East London kick boxing champion turned singer
Ali Jacko is an East End-based kickboxing champion who also gets involved with community projects, and in recent years has turned his attention to music.
He puts his success in anything he does down to his steadfast confidence and determination, whether in sport or creating a new song. Jacko talked to me about his shift from the kickboxing ring to the recording studio, and how he does his bit to help out in the local community.
“I didn’t think I was going to get into kickboxing, but I always wanted to be a martial artist because of Bruce Lee and so on,” he says. In 1978 he found himself on the same flight to Bangladesh, where his family is from, as legendary boxer Muhammad Ali.
Muhammad was walking around the plane to say hello to the star-struck passengers and started play-fighting with young Jacko. As is characteristic of his confidence, Jacko gave the veteran boxer a good punch back, which made Muhammad stand back in shock before he placed his hand on Jacko’s head to let him know there was no harm done. “How could you hit Muhammad Ali?” Jacko’s dad asked in bewilderment.
“I was classed as the underdog for a long time in the fighting game, but I kept on winning, ” he explains. Jacko won his first British & International Kickboxing & Martial Association title in 1990, having only started training four years earlier. “I refused to lose a fight,” he says. He went on to win the World Martial Arts Organisation European kickboxing title in ’96, and became world champion again in 2000 with a World Kickboxing Network win.
During one qualifying match, Jacko had a previous forearm injury requiring 22 stitches, but was so determined to fight he wrapped it up and carried on. Even with blood flying around the ring like a wayward garden hose, he managed to win the match with two legs but just one hand.
He’s done plenty since then, including setting up The CA Foundationin 2011, in memory of his father, Chamak Ali. The charity’s overall aim is to provide support for those who are living in poverty so that they can access healthcare services and education for their children.
In 2015 he began to turn his attention to music. Although his family were unsure at first, Jacko loved the idea of singing and song-writing, initially creating a cover as a test. He hasn’t looked back, and in fact was a finalist in the 2017 Music Week Awards.
Of his tunes, which fall into the rock, pop and blues genres, almost all have the unifying theme of love. “They’re all very personal, but saying that, they all relate to almost everyone on the planet,” he says. This extends to familial love, such as the brilliant You Are The Reason, which was written for his daughter. What If I LOVED You Like Thatexplores the pain of having lost his partner in tragic circumstances years ago, while I Found Love is about his current wife. Working Manis a self-reflective look at his own approach to hard work and care in the community.
The songs are all very personal, but saying that, they all relate to almost everyone on the planet
Ali sees song-writing and performing as a way to express himself and share what’s dearest to him, and in addition to music and the CA Foundation, he has several causes close to his heart. He has explored the possibility of setting up an arts event to help the victims of the Grenfell Tower disaster and the London Bridge terrorist attack., and while the funding is a challenge in the charity sector, it’s something he’s determined to help with.
Ali is driven, passionate and a prolific songwriter who seems to work virtually seven days a week. When he’s not writing songs and making music videos, he enjoys spending time with family in Forest Green, including the latest addition, who is just under a year old, and being involved in local projects.
I came away from my conversation with Ali Jacko having a strong sense of how he’s been so successful in two very different domains. Looking forward, he’d love to go to America and other countries to spread the word on his work. “My goal in music is to win a Grammy,” he says. Given his talent and past achievements, that’s not hard to imagine at all.
Ali is currently releasing one single each month throughout 2018. For release dates and info check his website or contact Matilda at Fifth Element PR.
Images courtesy of the artist.