Florida-based artiste Kristine Alicia is no foreigner to music and Kingston’s Redbones Blues Café audience would discover just that on November 1, when the singer/songwriter presented Kristine Alicia LIVE, her first full feature performance in Jamaica to launch her new single, Freedom Fighter.
Crediting the church, and her early upbringing for her exposure to music and current appreciation, the singer hastened to add another love, poetry and more music to the night’s roster by way of sister, Damali Adele Ifé and singer/songwriter Chevaughn respectively.
The night got it’s early flavour from the cool Kingston air, intertwined with the Jazz and R & B selections of the in-house DJ. A live jam, drawing full attention to the stage with percussionist Mbala (who would later accompany Ifé) and the night’s backing band would serve as the night’s first embers. The growing crowd was treated to choice reggae and jazz instrumentals, setting the tone for a night of impeccable musical offerings.
Vibes Master Jerry D, the evening’s MC , in introducing the first performer, described her as “a poet, [speaking] on love, wellness, health, and freedom.” Damali Adele Ifé, with Mbala sounding an entourage of instruments in supportive unison, would unleash Read Me, a passion-infused tale of healing, perception and judgment that would draw the Redbones audience in and hold them. The imagery-rich piece, “kissing thoughts to unravel senses”, aptly closed “sign it, seal it, dub me poetry.”
A chant for peace and a call to action came next, proving to be richly rhythmic and deeply impactful in its emotional appeal. Challenging violence and its effects, Ifé summoned, ”peace come mek mi see you real,” before beckoning “make me peace, conceive me to breathe you.” To follow, she took a different tone, speaking of “how to change the layers of pain and just…dance,” to “pull sounds and wake the dawn.” She made of life’s issues, a heavily visual celebration, escaping the stage (and its assumed troubles) to occupy the immediate grounds of the audience, breaking into mid-2000s moves accompanied by dancer Keenan Fletcher to further illustrate.
“Wata me, I and I need fi grow…embrace I heart, guide I path, ferment inna I heart”, she would continue, intermittently sipping from a coconut. “In every breath we will find ourselves seeking, but the water is within,” she urged. Moving into a poem in line with Alicia’s latest project, Ifé belted, “music and poetry will find itself holding in a rhythm…and a dance/freedom fighters we come fi farm.” She moved back to dance before closing her set with “inna 7/24, 24/7 … heal me.”
Versatility, raw truth
Kristine Alicia was introduced as a voice of versatility and raw truth and the band and supporting singers roared at her emergence. With that, the atmosphere was queued to high rev. Getting immediately into it with her rendition of Third World’s Try Jah Love, the full force of Alicia’s high-energy as a performer became evident; belting an impassioned, unique styling of the 1982 favourite.
From there she moved into an original, Perfect Time, informing, “I’ve been waiting to show you my love” and charging “one day you will open up your eyes and see what you’ve been missing.” I Choose You, another original, would further colour Kristine Alicia for the Red Bones audience as a powerhouse, with a keen eye for connecting in lyrics and performance. “You are the king of my desire/never again will I stray/I’ll stay forever and a day.” Continuing on the topic of love, and with the band now in full swing, Alicia introduced the next song saying, “this is what it would sound like if Adele moved to Jamaica and fell in love with a rasta man.” She proceeded to unleash a truly ‘Kristine Alicia’ version of the British singer’s Someone Like You, her distinctly rich vocals, and unique styling making the song all her own.
Keylock would bring things home again, to what Alicia said was the first song written for Rory Gilligan of Stone Love Productions, with whom she has been working for the past two years. “Keylock, lock me in your heart’s door/this is time love, no denying it’s for sure,” made for an energetic, playful and lyrically engaging performance. With that, host Jerry D guided the audience to a 20-minute intermission, made soothing by further doses of soul, R & B and jazz numbers by the in-house DJ.
The close of intermission brought with it spatters of rain, threatening the open-air venue. However, commenting directly on the value of live music, Alicia moved appropriately into Zion an original penned by Chevaughn, that would awaken the dreamy and seemed to quell the threat of full flood. With renewed zest she revealed, “zion’s gates are open/no restrictions/come inside/where there’s no hatred/unconditional love abides.”
Accompanied now by Chevaughn himself, Alicia would channel Marcia Griffiths’ All My Life, a touching duet, affectionately executed to set the tone for his segment. Having released his Hopeless Romantic EP in early 2014, Chevaughn’s selections were fittingly in the tune of love and longing. Merging reggae renditions of John Legend favourites, This Time and All Of Me, the singer would open at full blast, baring all and captivating with a thrillingly passionate and moving display with smooth transitions throughout. The I Want You singer safely transported his captivated audience from there, to his original Strong, echoing, “you’re the blood that flows through my every part/take my hand/hold it forever,” closing at the height of things with My everything, another original.
Returning to the stage in camouflage, Alicia made her presence felt, pouring out Rescue, chanting “I will fear no evil/from his arms no one can tear me apart” which morphed seamlessly into a cover of Tony Rebel’s If Jah is Standing By My Side. With Hear My Cry, she called out to god as “just a simple girl in a crazy world/but my eyes look to thee.”
The long-awaited Freedom Fighters would bring things to boiling point. The song, a resounding challenge led with vibrancy, would be met by an excited and inspired crowd who actively participated when charged. “Action is what we need/silence nah work nuh more/where are the leaders that guided us before?” sent tremours through the already engaged crowd. Jumping as she sang, one could detect in the singer, that the message was truly a heartfelt one. Alicia demanded, “freedom fighters/where are the freedom fighters?…we need some heroes/where are all our heroes.”
With her early work set in Gospel music, a love for the classical, and a reggae thread throughout, Kristine Alicia now describes her music as inspirational, saying of this new project that it represents taking on new challenges and breaking out of traditional spaces. “It is significant for me in that I’m stepping out of the box with this tune.” “It’s definitely freeing for me…I’m reaching and expanding my audience now that I can talk about issues that are beyond what people expected me to talk about.”
Your Lady, would crown the night’s outpouring in an energy-rich presentation. Declaring, “I’m on board to follow you/be your number one fan and rider pon yuh back/I’ll never let go I’ll be your lady,” Alicia revealed yet more layers of her capabilities as singer/songwriter. By its playful end the audience was visibly moved; beaming and asking still for more.
Alicia’s exploits include touring with the likes of Papa San, performing on the Air Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival, and with two other major production projects under her belt, she has already begun to place very important steps toward expanding her audience and growing as an artiste. “My first album was a gospel album, Get Ready in 2008, which was followed by the single Rescue, the release of which helped to raise funds to refurbish Jamaica National Children’s Home in 2012.”
The artiste, who also works as a teacher of classical music, believes fully in building the community, saying of her music that it “represents upliftment, change, freedom and love”. “I don’t just want to be an artist for charts…I want to be an artist for change and this single sets the stage for that.”
With this major show in the bag, Kristine Alicia has her sights set on the future, with her next moves including promotion of the Freedom Fighters single, available for download at www.kristinealicia.com, and the release of an EP, to be followed closely by an album.