Who says Reggae is Dead?
As connoisseurs of Reggae music, I am sure you have heard those insistent, impassioned voices and their fervent professions of Reggae’s, specifically, Dancehall’s, tragic, untimely death; Or its obvious impending doom. As recently as May 2012 Reggae music icon, Ninjaman, was quoted by the Jamaican Observer as declaring emphatically, “…Reggae is dead. As a matter of fact it is holding on to tiny string.” What was alarming was not just the statement, but also the source. This was no disappointed, disillusioned, disgruntled observer making these statements. This was not just a reggae insider or an artist, but an artist considered to be one of the architects of modern Dancehall.
Not only did Ninjaman pronounce the dire state of Reggae, but he went on to provide his own brief post-mortum evaluation with a few reasons the music was in its current condition. They ranged from implied creative constipation of artists and producers alike, to possible financial suffocation from various sources, to a lack of cultural an professional integrity on the part of various factions involved with the industry. The provision of such strong arguments only served to add substance to what was a controversial statement and provide more fodder for debate.
Reactions from the community, although varied, were equally as vehement. There were those who stood in righteous agreement with, ‘The Original Gold Teet’ Front Teet’ DanGawgan. Those that snorted in disgusted indignation at the very suggestion that reggae fundamental connection to the culture of Jamaica, and its mass global appeal, could ever really, truly just die. And of course as with any debate there were those who could not have cared less either way. In the midst of all the furor there was one thing that was painfully obvious to me: The obvious fact that the women of Reggae, the bold ladies of the Dancehall sorority were not being considered at all. If they were they would see that these women were evolving, thriving, and without question, laying assurances to reggae’s longevity.
The one thing that has been submerged in the morass of the heated debate over the life or death of reggae music, was the fact that the last ten years has been quite exciting for reggae music. The unprecedented number of ladies wanting to be artists in an industry previously dominated by men. No longer wanting to remain aspiring performers “ah drop two lyrics” for friends and family. They have now stepped into the forefront ready to take their turn at the spotlight. We have definately not been disappointed as these women have had real, substantive talent that has produced real, substantive success. The has been an influx of ladies involved in every genre of reggae music from, roots to rude girl reggae. These artists, as well as established performers like Lady Saw, for instance, have stepped up to the plate in terms of personal style and appearance, quality and creativity in the music and videos, which has lead to increased market appeal, (if the increased number of requests from overseas artists for collaborations and Youtube viewer numbers are used as a barometer).
I know there are legitimate concerns over the condition of Reggae as a genre specifically, the men of reggae, but I have to say the ladies have left me quite excited about the current state of reggae, and more importantly, what is to come. I’ve been immersed in a Reggae haze for the last few months and I have complied a mini list of whom I feel (and this is just MY HUMBLE opinion), is the top five women to watch in reggae music. Now you may ask what my criteria’s were in choosing these particular ladies? I will say it my feeling that I believe that though we have slew of abundantly talented female artists in Jamaica, in my opinion, these ladies are not just talented, they possess a certain style and lyrical substance which can only contribute to the longevity of reggae music. They are well rounded artists, some with long established careers, others are relatively new to the industry but all have that star quality. I also considered their potential for mass appeal as well as their evolutionary potential from a creative standpoint. So without further adieu, my top five women to watch in reggae music.
1. Lady Saw
The Lady Queen
There is a reason she is number one. Without question Marion Hall, also known
as The Incomparable, Lady Saw, is the long standing, undisputed ‘Queen of Dancehall
Music’ and long may she continue to reign.’ The one woman hit factory has been a vocal
mentor to her audience from her council on what happens, “If ‘im Leff'”, to her recent chart smasher, ”Heels On“. It is safe to say that no one does it better and if this Spring has been any indication, this summer promises to be a hot one for The Queen. I can’t wait!
2. Cherine Anderson
The wholesome multifaceted Jamaican Girl Next Door has certainly kept our
heads held high as we have watched her grow up right before eyes. Cherine
made the perilous transition from child star to young lady absent the bout with
wild rebellion sometimes associated with child stars. The good girl gone
gorgeous has evolved into a dangerous triple threat to be reckoned with.
Her latest her latest release ‘Haffi Come Back‘ is not only a radio favorite, but
also in heavy rotation on my ipod. I look forward to seeing other weapon she pulls
from her arsenal of talent.
3. Brick and Lace
The Dynamic Duo
This Sister Act has been making tsunami type waves in the industry since
they they were first released on Akon’s own label Kon Live. The talented twosome
consisting of sisters Nailah and Nyanda, has been garnering mass appeal because
of their cover girl looks, but for their superior vocal and song writing capabilities.
Their skills have led them to stints as backup singers to the likes of Marcia Griffiths,
Roberta Flack, and Lauren Hill. They can count among their growing fans the music power
house team of LA Reid and Babyface. After an unprecedented acquisition war between
record labels courting them, they decided to call Akon’s KonLive/Gefen label their home.
The sisters are currently in the studio working on what is said to be a Grammy worthy
The Wild Card
Rumor and controversy not withstanding, I just have a feeling about this girl.
She has that ‘IT’ factor only someone with a vision impairment would miss.
The fluffy, fabulous, Fletcher’s Land femme fetale, has a lyrical swagger
that captivates and continues to garner fans. Her confident ownership of the fact
that she is not the stick thin version of womanhood is a welcomed refreshing
addition to the dancehall sorority. She has remained consistent with a slew of releases
that is impressive for one that is relatively new to the industry.
Regardless of anyone’s opinion on her personal life, Pamputae has proven that she
is no one hit wonder, but an artist with staying power.
As one fan so aptly put it: “Keida ah leadah”. The fresh faced new comer is
has displayed a musical versatility singing tunes considered ‘reggae-soul’ to
hip grinding naughty ‘rude girl’ rhythms. Hits like ‘Ganja Tea’ and ‘Hot It Up’
have been monster underground hits. Her relentless fortitude and lyrical
Pandora’s Box had qualified her for my top five list and I expect to hear much more
from and about her in the future.
Karen “Koko” Mitchell is also the curator for a lifestyle blog. Visit
www.HAUTEPARADISE.com where she showcases the
fact that, “Paradise is not just a state of mind, but a lifestyle.”
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