2007 saw the increased presence of female artist on the Jamaican music scène. The new breed of talented of female artists (singer/dj) is making their presence felt on Jamaican music landscape in 2008. These young, sexy and talented females are steadily charting their own course and can rock the mike. They unlike many of their fore runners in the 80’s and 90’s do not feel they have to mimic their male counterpart to succeed. They are defining themselves on their own terms. Singer Kris Kelli is one of the new breed of female artist. She entered the music business in 2003. Her debut CD “My World” was released in Japan by Pony Canyon in 2006. The album boasts 15 tracks including two collaborations with Beenie Man and Vybz Kartel. Kelli’s had several successful singles, including ‘Fly Boy’ “Fame” w/ Vybz Kartel, ‘Step it up’ and ‘Truth Unfolds’ and a remake of Althea & Donna’s 70’s chart topping hit ‘Uptown Top Ranking’. Kriss is no stranger to international success having had two # 1 song in Italy “Hide Away” and “Flip Up”. Jamaicans.com Stan Evan Smith spoke with Kriss.
SS.How long have you been singing professionally?
KK. I’ve been singing professionally for the past 4 years.
SS: Who were your major influences, internationally and locally?
KK. Locally, I really listen to everyone, however my major influences are Diana King, and Lady Saw and internationally would be Gwen Stefani, Nelly Furtado, The late Aaliyah, Beyonce and Mariah Carey.I was also influenced by the old school as well, such as the Stylistics, the Spinners, Bob Andy, Ken Boothe and Beres Hammond.
SS: How would you describe your music, which genre best describes your sound?
KK. Well I listen to all genres of music so it’s really just a mixture of everything but the more dominant genres would be reggae/dancehall mixed with a little R&B both old school and new school so it gives me a very unique sound.
SS: Which artist in music does see your style of music comes closest to?
KK. I would say that my style of music would come closest to Beyonce.
However a dancehall version of BeyonceJ
SS: Where in the US have you performed?
KK. The last time I performed in NYC was in 2003 at Irie Jamboree.
I received a great response when I was there. I absolutely love NYC. I also performed at S.O.B when I was on tour in 2003 as well.So look out because I may be there sooner than you thinkJ I went on tour in July 2003,I performed on the East Coast, such as New York, Virginia, Vermont, Boston,Conneticut to name a few. It was a 2 week tour. So I cannot wait to do another tour in the US.
SS: What are some of the obstacles you as a female artist have encountered in your career?
KK. I would say in the beginning of my career there weren’t a lot of upcoming female artistes in the dancehall so it was a bit harder to actually make people take me seriously.
Not only that ,when I just entered the music business ,a few people in the media would classify me as an “Uptown Artiste” so to them I was born with a gold spoon in my mouth, and because of that they didn’t think that they should support me . This was really hard for me to overcome until they realized that I had a lot to offer to the music business.
SS: Did you think your gender plays a part in helping or advancing your career?
KK.Well I believe that at the end of the day it all boils down to making hit tunes.
No matter what gender you are, you won’t have a long lasting career if you are a female with no hits under you belt.
SS: Do you think that radio, TV and the concert stage offer the female artist the same opportunities to be seen and heard as your male peers in reggae?
KK: In Reggae, it’s definitely a male dominated business so it’s as if the females have to work twice as hard to be seen and heard because the males in this industry tend to be a little more aggressive to get themselves out there whether there on stage or on radio.
So in some cases we may not get the same opportunities but as a mentioned before good music will always prevail.
SS: What are some of the things you think the reggae industry could do to make it easier for female artist to break into the industry or succeed?
KK. It really has a lot to do with the people in the media whether it is the TV personalities or the radio Disc Jockeys. They influence what we are hearing so they shouldn’t allow politics to get in the way of people listening to good music, because it’s not just the females that are getting a fight everyone is at some point .I don’t think that the politics will ever end so it’s just for the artiste to keep focused and work really hard .
SS: What can female singers/dj do to improve and increase their visibility on stage and on record?
KK. Well in some cases we have to be a little more aggressive like the male artistes to gain respect in the dancehall such as making a lot of appearances at ANY stage show and also whatever riddim is coming out, to try to be one of the first Artistes to record on that riddim. We just have to keep up the pace just like the male artistes because they work VERY hard to be seen and heard because they are competing with a lot of other male artistes.
SS: What is, or has been the biggest obstacle you have faced as female artist?
KK. The respect that I believe I deserve. I’m a good artiste and I take my work very seriously but there will always be people out there trying to see you fail. I think it’s exceptionally hard to remain focused when people are constantly trying to put you down.
SS: Do you think that promoters and producers give female artists the same opportunities as male?
KK. In some cases they do however I believe that in a lot of cases a few male promoters and producers are more intimidated by the male artistes because they are not afraid to speak their minds if they are not satisfied with any negotiation. The female artistes are more “Soft-Spoken” so in that case it’s much harder to demand the respect from them that we deserve. Especially when you are an upcoming female artiste that hasn’t made her name as yet and is completely naïve in this music business and tend to be more trusting of people. So you will have some promoters and producers taking advantage of that.
SS: List your most successful singles or album to-date?
KK. My most successful singles would be my first single produced by Fiwi Music, it’s titled “Hide Away”, and also “Flip Up” which was number one in Italy for 4 weeks, also I did a re-make of Althea and Donna’s hit “Uptown Top Ranking” which was also number one in Italy. My collaboration between myself and Vybz Kartel “Fame” (was) produced by Fresh Ear Productions.
SS: Do you have difficulty getting air play for your music; if so, why do you think this is so?
KK. In some cases it is difficult to get air play because on the local dancehall scene we barely ever record singles; we are always recording on riddims with at least 20 other artistes on the riddim. In which these artistes include Beenie Man, Bounty Killer, Vybz Kartel, Sean Paul and the list goes on. So it becomes very difficult to compete with these top artistes for air play.
SS: Are you seeking a record deal w/ a major label
KK. I have just recently signed a deal with Pony Canyon in Japan and my debut Album was released there September 20th, 2006. So I’ve been doing a lot of work promoting my album and touring in Japan. But I would definitely want my music to be heard worldwide.
SS You have appeared on several major shows in Jamaica, launched an album and tour far away places like Japan how do you handle all this at such a young age?
KK. I’m a much grounded individual; I try not to get caught up in the “hype” of what’s going on. I absolutely love what I do and I also think it’s very important to surround yourself with encouraging and supportive people, because they also keep me grounded. I try not to get too complacent with everything because the work has just begun.
SS: What are your goals in music at this time?
KK. I’m going to be shooting a music video for one of the singles off of my album, it`s called “Step Up” produced by Big Yard. I’m working on more singles so 2k7 is going to be a very exciting yearJ
SS: Thank you Kris and much success.
KK. Thank you so much, it`s been a pleasure and remember my Album is now in stores,
you can purchase it online by logging on to myspace.com/kriskelli.
Stan Evan Smith is contributing Editor to Everybody’s Magazine, (NYC) writer for the Gleaner/Star NA. Staff writer, Jahwork.org, (California) Westindiantimes.net (Virginia) Senior Music writer Jamaicans. Com (Florida) and POSH Magazine (Maryland). He can be reached [email protected] http://www.myspace.com/stanwsmith