Interviews

10 Questions for the Chicago "Ladies of Reggae"

The “Ladies of Reggae Radio” host Reggae Vibrations which is a two-time recipient of the Chicago Music Award for “Best Reggae Radio Show”, and has also been voted Chicago’s favorite reggae radio show on www.jamaicans.com.

How did you get the name “Ladies of Reggae”?

Ladies: We had been doing the radio show for several years, and at one point, our staff grew to about 6 women strong. Callers as well as our show’s veteran DJ (DJ Mobay One) would always refer to us as “The Ladies.” So we became the Ladies of Reggae Radio , and the name stuck.

How did you two meet? Where in Jamaica are your from?
Ladies: We met when Silky Smooth was born– we are sisters! Same Mom, Dad, and brother. Our family hails from Spauldings, Clarendon.

When did you start doing this show? How did you get started in Radio?

Petina: I started doing the Reggae Vibrations show during my third year of college at Northwestern University, where I earned a degree in broadcast journalism. I started my radio career at age 14, when I was an intern at WNUR-FM.

Silky: I started after some reluctance, I’ve been told, at the age of 16. Since the music is in my blood it didn’t take very long for me to catch on to selecting the tunes on the turntables in the studio. From there I’ve had a love for selecting.

Tell us about the show reggae “Reggae Vibrations”?

Ladies: Reggae Vibrations is the longest-running reggae radio show in the Chicago area, having been a mainstay on Chicago’s airwaves for more than 25 years. Currently we have a staff of four including DJ Mobay and DJ Miguels. It won two Chicago Music Awards for “Best Reggae Radio Show” before the category was discontinued.

What would you say was a defining moment for the “Ladies of Reggae”?

Petina: There has been so much that makes us proud. I think it all became real when we launched our website. We could see everything we had done in the last year, laid out in front of us. The artists we’ve interviewed, the places we’ve traveled, the experiences we’ve had—it really solidified the vision.

What are you most proud of on the show?

Ladies: The entire Reggae Vibrations Crew has really overcome the challenges we’ve faced as station programming moved the show around. We’ve taken it all in stride and maintained our position as the “Best Reggae Radio Show” in the city.

The reggae music industry is male dominated and the lyrics of the popular songs today can be viewed as sexist. Do you have any reservations do what you do or to play certain songs?

Silky: That’s a really serious question… As the selecta of the show and as one of the only female selectas in Chicago I feel obligated to represent the female deejays in the business, women like Lady Saw, Ce’Cile, Tanya Stephens etc. while at the same time making sure I’m playing some of the hottest new dancehall tunes. Something like the new Tony Matterhorn “Dutty Whine”, that’s a huge tune, but it talks about degrading things: “f*** inna di wata, f*** inna di sea, If yu f*** inna di bed you’re not f***in’ me” it’s degrading but a wicked tune still. It’s hard to take some of the hottest dancehall tunes out of rotation just because I’m a woman; doing that would take away from my skills and versatility as a selecta.

How do you view the state of reggae music today?

Silky: I think that reggae music is on its way back into the mainstream. With Elephant Man signed to Bad Boy, Sizzla to the Dame Dash music group I believe these are big steps. BUT we’ve all seen the rise and fall of Shabba Ranks in the US markets. I’m hopeful that reggae music will continue its upward movement for the artistes to really receive their due praise.

Petina: I absolutely agree. Reggae music is definitely on its way back up in the mainstream. The dancing tunes are really big, but conscious tunes are taking their place within dancehall as well. Take Gyptian’s “Serious Times” for example… People really understood and felt that song, and it went right to the top of the dancehall charts.

What are your thoughts on Reggaton? Do you get a lot of requests for Reggaton being that there is a large Hispanic community in Chicago?

Petina: Reggaeton is an interesting mix, and it has definitely proven its popularity. One of the Spanish radio stations in Chicago turned into an “all-reggaeton, all the time” station nearly overnight. I wish reggae music got that type of reception in this city. There is still no radio station dedicated solely to reggae in Chicago, and that is something I would love to see change.

How is the reggae scene in Chicago?

Ladies: Chicago’s reggae scene is steady. It’s hard to compare to cities like New York, where more than one million Caribbean people reside, but Chicago is doing well. There are some promoters doing great things.

What is the Jamaican/Caribbean population like in Chicago?

Ladies: According to the Honorary Consul of Jamaica for Chicago, there are about 60,000 Jamaicans in the Chicago area.

How do you handle the cold air off the Michigan lake?

Petina: My saving grace is my winter coat—you can barely see me hidden under there. I don’t think I will ever get used to that wind! I can’t wait until spring (or at least the next Jamaica trip)….

Silky: I hate it! But it’s only unbearably cold for a few months out of the year.

Okay I am pass the 10 questions now but I have to ask this. Tell us about the “Everybody Loves a Jamaican Girl” concept? Where did it come from?

Petina: We noticed that other ethnic groups had tee-shirts bigging up their women, and we searched high and low for a cute tee-shirt dedicated to Jamaican girls. When we couldn’t find an “Everybody Loves a Jamaican Girl” shirt anywhere, we made our own. The “Everybody Loves a Jamaican Girl” shirt is featured in the March/April 2006 issue of Air Jamaica’s SkyWritings magazine! We are also proud to donate part of our earnings to help the children that need it the most. We’re contributing to the Caribbean Children’s Fund, a Chicago-based organization that supports a children’s home in Spanish Town. We hope to see more support for the shirt as time goes on.

So can we include you 2 ladies for those men looking for a “Jamaican Girl to Love”?

Silky: They can love us from afar!!! (laughing)

What do you ladies do when you are not doing the show?

Silky: I work full-time for a large university. But on my own time, I’m all music! I’m either listening to or buying new music or fussing with tunes on my laptop computer. Anything music, I’m doing that!

Petina: I work full-time as a publicist for a major international humanitarian organization—I love to travel so it’s a nice gig for me. I also do some freelance writing—most recently wrote an article about dancehall in Japan for Tokyo’s “Strive Magazine.” I also hosted a local Caribbean TV show called “Tropical Riddims and Beats.”

Thanks ladies for your time and we wish you “nuff success” in the future.

Ladies: Thank you! Much love to Jamaicans.com from the Ladies of Reggae Radio.

For more information on the Ladies of Reggae Radio visit: www.xanga.com/ladiesofreggae

About the author

P Pepper