SISTER CAROL – CALL MI SISTER CAROL
by Empress Modupe Olufunmi
Recently, I was honored to have a bonafide Sister come through our gates in Brooklyn to share some positive reasoning and good vibrations with the Flatbush massive. I speak of one of the hardest working women in the music industry, Sister Carol, otherwise known as the Black Cinderella or Mother Culture. Sister Carol took time away from her busy schedule as an activist, artist, educator, mother and wife to engage me in a crucial discussion about music and her contributions to Reggae.
Sister Carol’s presence in the house was a special treat for my eight youths. They came strolling in from outside, one after another, to greet her. With her usual natural composure, Mother Culture spent a little time getting acquainted with them. The older youths tried their best to contain their delight at having “Sister Carol in da house, word!” However, my two youngest daughters, Yeshimabet and Tanagna Worq, would not ease up on Sister Carol. Needless to say, it was difficult to begin the interview. Amidst all the traffic and noise of young people going in and out the gates, Sister Carol and I embarked on an uplifting journey.
Naturally, as two Rastafari sistren, we began our reasoning by acknowledging His Imperial Majesty Haile Selassie I for His perfect love. We then spoke of her recent performance at Sunsplash, where she was featured on World Beat Night. While the attendance was less than she expected, Mother Culture says that she “got the job done, and the audience was very receptive to the message.” This was a positive journey for her, as it marked the seventh year since her last performance at Sunsplash. With a cheerful laugh, she says, “Mystically speaking, most tings inna mi life happen every seven years, bringing mi to a different level.” Indeed, those who have followed Sister Carol’s career closely will agree that she has emerged as one of the most dynamic and fascinating women in the Reggae business. Working in an arena dominated by male artists and promoters, she has gracefully faced and conquered the challenge of being a female Reggae artist. Sister Carol believes that women in Reggae deserve more respect and support from promoters.
For those of you who don’t know, Mother Culture rules the dance hall with conscious lyrics. This is evident in past recordings, such as Jah Disciple and Mother Culture, two albums that serve as testimonies of her musical legacy. She recalls that after graduating from college in 1984, one of her songs “Down in the Ghetto” was No. 1 on the Reggae charts. Since that period, Mother Culture says she “climb pon Jah charts in divine order.” A veteran in the music business, Sister Carol has proven to be an innovative and creative artist; and in her own distinctive style, continues a tradition as an urban griot. In 1994, she is still delivering a powerful word sound.
Introducing her latest lyrical masterpiece, which was recently released on Heartbeat Records, Mother Culture had this to say, “Call Mi Sister Carol is really a project of mine that’s been my baby for the past three years, and now I’ve finally delivered [it].” With a triumphant attitude, Sister Carol expresses gratitude to the Creator. She acknowledges that a divine force, known as Rastafari, is the provider of her powerful support system. This latest album is produced by Cinderella Productions, a company created by Sister Carol and her king man, Dino. Her children are also involved in the business. Seventeen-year-old son, Jahmal, assists Dino while learning various aspects of managing BCP; the eldest daughter, Nakeba, is interested in the marketing branch of the company; and the two youngest children, Jahwara and Candace, prefer to perform their own style of dance onstage close to “mommy.” Having secured a strong family base, Mother Carol is then empowered to share Rastafari love with her audience. Sister Carol also credits KRS-1, Sidney Mills, Rootsman Production and drummer Noel Alfonso (son of legendary saxophonist Roland Alphonso) as co-producers of several tracks on the album. She says that all the musicians on the album are from the New York area, and praises them for their great skills and contributions.
The title track, “Call Mi Sister Carol,” takes young and old straight to the classroom for a new lesson. With a Hip-Hop, Funky beat and penetrating lyrics, she reaffirms her role as a teacher: “Call mi Sister Carol/Mi come fe educate and eradicate hate/Ism and schism I will kick and we nuh respect debate. . . ./Friend of the Lord /Enemy to dis ah world/I nuh beg/I nuh bow/I am a real Roots girl. . . ./Inna mi stance mi nuh paper soldier/Mi move like Sister Winnie and the Queen Omega/Raggamuffin but mi cool ram dance daughter/A climb pon Jah charts in divine order/Call mi Sister Carol.” These verses clearly demonstrate her ability to be an effective communicator.
According to Mother Culture, this album is significant in that it was made specifically with the youth in mind. She stresses that while Reggae appears to be getting “big,” only lyrics about guns, sex and violence get big promotion. “No one really take time fe deal wit de youth dem. Right now, mi want fe reach dem ’cause mi a de mother fe all youth.” Sister Carol is firm in her belief that her music should offer a positive message to her audience. She is committed to producing and writing music that will raise the consciousness of our youth, and hopes her contributions will in some way help to eliminate the cycle of economic and spiritual poverty that is evident throughout the world’s ghettos. Her sincere approach to the problems of adolescents is evident on the track “Ghetto Youths,” taken from her recent album. Drawing on examples from an African experience and perspective, Sister Carol warns them: “I am the mother/Fi every ghetto youth Sister Carol ah de mother. . . ./Yuh must a think mi forget all about slavery/Mi nuh want the ghetto pickney fi go dead fi hungry/At the same time mi nuh want yuh rob money/Mi nuh want you sell nuh drugs/Mi nuh want yuh sell yuh body/Get an education and just be somebody/Get a hold a yuh life/Help out yuh family/Ghetto youths dem have a chance cause dem a God pickney.”
Sister Carol not only sings about social ills, she makes a serious effort to correct them. According to Mother Culture, she will be using Black Cinderella Productions to launch many talented young musicians. She feels that one can make a difference in society by investing one’s time, money and positive energy in the youth.
While her primary focus is the younger generation, Sister Carol has some positive energy for the elders as well. Her serious concern for the future of young and old is strongly expressed in the music that she produces. An advocate for all oppressed people, Sister Carol empowers through word sound. Her latest album brings to light several issues that plague our communities. For example, on “Call Mi Sister Carol,” she speaks out against domestic violence and drug abuse. “Ah now dehm ago seh dat mi inquisitive/And a ask question like a real detective/Why in da world yuh so offensive?/To the women dat yuh love yuh are abusive/From the influence which is addictive/It’s time to detox and get progressive.”
She cleverly admonishes destructive individuals to make amends, while offering vital solutions towards a healing process. Mother Culture’s intention is to educate and spiritually uplift humanity. She leaves no stone unturned in her quest for universal justice. On “Blackman Time,” Sister Carol probes the “leaders of the world” for an explanation. “Mi seh weh yuh ago do/Yuh tek the land from the Indian/Yuh enslave the blackman/Den yuh turn around and rape the woman.” To “Uncle Sam” she makes it clear that: “I’m not your niece you evil beast/Promoting war instead of peace/My brethrenman is in the can/My Sister sweet is on the street/Suh what’s going on?/Tell me what’s going on.” As a contemporary Sojourner Truth, Sister Carol offers this redemption song for all African people.
Sister Carol recently traveled to Ethiopia. She shared with me her joy in making such a trod. Having journeyed to Ethiopia in 1992, I appreciated her sentiments. “An experience that is truly meaningful to me. It was very rewarding and uplifting, spiritually benefitting; something I had always looked forward to doing. I traveled to Addis, Shashemene, also Lalibela–a most mystical place. I give thanks unto the Creator that I could have fulfilled that desire of mine within this lifetime. As you know, we as a people have an aim which is really repatriation. This journey gives me insight into the realities of living in Africa. I am fully aware of what time of the day it is and what we are up against. One can only hope that the political instability currently plaguing the continent will eventually change. Regardless of the conditions, we in the Diaspora have the will to return to our motherland. Through divine order we will return home to make use of our skills, with human development as our priority.” As if to bring emphasis to her statement, Sister Carol sang a few lines from “Blackman Time”: “A blackman time/Di Sisters haffi move up the line/Seh disa blackman time/Seh Africa pon mi mind.”
We concluded the interview with Sister Carol stressing her position as a committed soldier in the struggle for human rights. We spoke about our mutual interest of eventually living on the continent. I asked her about immediate goals in reference to performing in Ethiopia. She informed me that during a visit to an Addis nightclub, she was invited to do an impromptu performance. “It was one of the most gratifying experiences for me as a performer. I would like to perform for a larger audience in a show promoting local Ethiopian musicians.” She also made contact with Mr. A.R. King, an Addis resident and representative of Afrika Unite Entertainments. This non-profit organization recently launched a fundraiser in Addis, featuring the female group Abba Cush from England. Expressing her confidence in Mr. King’s efforts, Sister Carol is optimistic about the future of Reggae whether in America or Africa. She gives a shout out to all “massive,” and thanks them for being “supportive.” Her final warning is: “Don’t be confused about the many names I possess, if you are not comfortable with the Black Cinderella or Mother Culture, just call me Sister Carol. I am what I am. . . Culture Queen, moving quite serene. Mi seh the lyrics from mi mouth is from creation/Yes it is a part of mi vibration/Ah want yuh fi know mi come fi heal the nation/Yes Sister Carol inna different pattern man.”