Interviewed by M. Peggy Quattro
Written by Sara Gurgen
The talented ladies in Reggae have historically taken a back seat to the popularity of their numerous male counterparts. A handful of singers, and even fewer DJs, have held their ground and withstood the test of time.
Not to be outdone by the current crop of new lady DJs, the lovely and talented Lady G has consistently proved that she is not yet ready to be considered among the “dead and gone.” The sweet appearance of Lady G does not belie her steely interior, and the Spanish Town-born DJ has taken her shot at macho males with her latest sizzling releases. Lady G, who has seen a great response to her hit song “Me or the Gun,” a demand that her man chooses between which one “gives more fun,” is now coming in strong with her latest song “If I was a Gal.”
“You’ve got guys who call women gals; that’s not the right way for a man to style [call] a woman,” said Lady G following her terrific performance inside Ft. Lauderdale’s Reggae Cafe. Referring to her new song, she goes on to explain: “It’s not the name they should call the women. In some countries–like Trinidad–they call their women gal. It’s not the name that they call the women, it’s the way they express it.” Lady G is telling the men that if they want to get a woman’s attention, these days, that’s not the way to do it. Continue reading →
Judy Mowatt – Leading the Charge of Sisterhood 1996
By Howard Campbell. V14#5
A visitor to Judy Mowatt’s home is in for a fairly long walk before he or she reaches the spacious front porch which houses a piano. Mowatt’s not pounding the keys today; she’s enjoying some peace and quiet at the back of the home near the hills of St. Andrew, Jamaica, not too far away from where she was born in the small village of Gordon Town.
An admitted lover of the soil, Mowatt’s cozy back room hideaway is surrounded by a small farm of sugarcane and bananas. Gospel music wafts through the air as she appears, barefoot and bareheaded, her locks complimenting her African-style blouse. A photo of Emperor Haile Selassie greets you upon entering, with another postcard-sized photo of the Wailers, circa the Uprising album, occupying one of the shelves of a nearby cabinet.
Just over ten years ago, June Carol Lodge (JC to her fans) burst onto the local and international music scene. For someone who had never even considered singing as a career, her entry into the music business seemed like something out of a fairy tale.
After a chance meeting with “Allah” of Chalice fame, she got an audition with top producer Joe Gibbs who liked her voice. JC recorded a cover version of Charley Pride’s “Someone Loves You Honey” and the record went straight to the top of the Jamaican charts.
The success story didn’t end there. “Honey” took off in a big way in Europe, racing into the top ten charts in Germany and Belgium and going to Number One in Holland. The LP of the same name also went to Number One. JC was able to tour extensively in the wake of her chart success, both in Europe and North America. Continue reading →
Do you know the name Tanya Stephens? Well, if you don’t, you soon will. She’s Dancehall’s latest singing sensation, and her advent to the dance halls couldn’t be more timely as there is such a dearth of female talent in this sphere of music.
Born July 2, 1973, in rural St. Mary, Jamaica, Tanya is only 20, but she’ll quickly tell you that she’s got about 50 years of maturity to her credit. That’s very possible, given the mature songs she’s been mesmerizing the dance halls and airwaves with. In plain Jamaican terms, she have ‘nuff big chat fi her little size and age. Continue reading →
(The links are to the artists featured in Reggae Trilogy: 200+ 80s & 90s Artist Headshots) Story By R. Errol Lam
Even though the Reggae is still male-dominated, there are a large number of women performers who made their mark, especially over the past decade. Many are the more traditional singers, but DJs and Dub Poets have grown in number and popularity, not only in Jamaica but around the world. What follows here is a brief overview of some of these women. It’s obvious that we need more than one issue to cover the multitude of female talent in Reggae, but we wanted to start somewhere. So to all the Sistas & Dawtas who did not receive a mention here, please “feel no way.” You are important to us and certainly not overlooked. Just continue to be patient, and we’ll give you the time and space you so richly deserve. ~ The Editor
LOUISE BENNETT, affectionately known as Miss Lou, was born Louise Bennett Coverly in the 1920s. This beloved poetess made her Reggae debut on the Woman Talk: Caribbean Dub Poetry album (1986), produced by Mutabaruka. This endeavor is part of her work as a pioneer of people’s understanding and shows her appreciation of the unique culture of Jamaica. Her ever-present use of patois and the people’s language is clearly evident on the albums Color Bar and Dutty Tuff. Clearly, Miss Lou has earned the deep respect that goes with her label “Mother of Them All.”
SISTER BREEZE, whose real name is Jean Binta Breeze, was born Jean Lumsden in Patty Hill, Hanover Parish, Jamaica. She is probably the best known of the female poets. Her Riddym Ravings (1987) was a ROIR cassette with the message of truths and rights. She was a performer at the 1983 Reggae Sunsplash, and her “Get Back Ya Slack” spoke for positive statements about women. Three other singles standout: “Aid Travels with a Bomb,” “Baby Mother,” and “To Plant.” She first came to the attention of Mutabaruka as “the first sister who wasn’t bringing me love poetry.” Sister Breeze emphasizes the power of the word, and works to use poetry “to show what is really happening… like a class, a different sort of teaching.”
LILLIAN ALLEN, born in Jamaica in 1952, is now well established and living in Toronto. Her best two albums are Revolutionary Tea Party (1986) and Conditions Critical (1988). She is a Dub Poet. Her recitation of words to Reggae accompaniment hits hard at social issues. She credits her two main influences as Oku Onoura, the Jamaican [poet] who coined the term ‘Dub Poetry’ and the female Canadian folksinger Ferron. Her songs range from “I Fight Back,” attacking the exploitation of Blacks in Toronto to “Birth Poem,” an almost vivid representation of the birth process (this is Lillian’s favorite.) She has won a Juno Award (Canada’s Grammy) and continues to sing in patois about struggle and oppression. Ms. Allen has a degree in English Literature and has published a book of poetry entitled Rhythm an’ Hardtimes. According to her, “…I love words…I wanted to create a world where I didn’t have to take somebody else’s journey.” Lillian, who is not a musician, has taken these words and fused them with Reggae music to become a powerful voice and presence.
CARLENE DAVIS is a well-traveled Reggae singer (Europe, South America, U.S., Canada, Japan, and the Caribbean). This Reggae songbird was Jamaica’s 1982 Female Entertainer and Reggae Report’s 1983 Female Performer of the Year. She was born in 1953 in Jamaica, and first came to the public’s attention with the single “Stealing Love” in 1981. She has performed at Reggae Sunsplash in 1980 and 1988. In 1980, Carlene was one of the first females to have performed solo at Sunsplash. Her outstanding single “Winnie Mandela” stands out as a loving tribute to one of Africa’s genuine women leaders. Ms. Davis is one of Reggae’s best.
SOPHIA GEORGE is a young Jamaican songstress who is probably Reggae’s most dynamic and exciting performer. Her flamboyant style and infectious smile connect her with the audience each and every time. Sophia’s constant invitation for audience participation is always accepted. She appeared at the 1989 Reggae Sunsplash and seems to be always on tour, noteworthy of which were the Reggae Sunsplash USA tours of the past few years. Her international hits “Girlie Girlie,” “Final Decision,” “Wanna Dance With You,” and the cover of “Sing Our Own Song” are big favorites of her audiences. Her awards include the Best Female Performer at the Canadian Reggae Music Awards. [She is] a beautiful and inspired singer.
GINGER, part of the duo called Rankin’ Scroo & Ginger, was born Lydia Sur in Hawaii. Since 1980, the duo has been in the San Francisco Bay area. They have released three albums, Thanks and Praises (1984), Dubwatch (1987), which won “Best Album 1987-Northern California Reggae Awards, and Cry Freedom (1990). Two singles, “Burden” (1986) hit the Jamaican charts and “Nuh Do Dat” (1988) hit the U.S. charts. Their combination of DJ and singing with conscious lyrics make this team one to watch out for.
On Sunday, May 11, 1986, the fifth anniversary of Bob Marley’s physical departure from this earth, Tuff Gong recording artist Nadine Sutherland was the only Reggae artist in a Marley Memorial/Mother’s Day Soca/Reggae Spectacular at the Carillion Hotel, Miami Beach. From the moment that she entered the spotlights, it was obvious that the 18-year-old teen queen is already a veteran of the stage, is overflowing with confidence and thoroughly enjoys herself when performing.
Fittingly, Nadine was the only performer that night to pay tribute to Brother Bob in word and song. She crowned her set with Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry,” which she said was especially for her mother Beverly Sutherland, who was present in the audience for that Mother’s Day show. I spoke with Nadine after her very well-received performance.
JABU: What does Bob Marley mean to you?
NADINE: ‘He means a lot’ would sound like a cliché, seen. But the first thing I can remember which played a very important part in my life was the first time I went to (Tuff Gong) studio. I was standing and singing and he came in and said, ‘Give the youth a seat nuh man.’ And he was the one who went for the seat and told me to sit down. Can you imagine how I felt when this great man, this big Reggae superstar went for a seat and made me sit down? It was nice. And I’ve seen him on other occasions and he was always very nice and cool and I heard that I was one of his favorite singers. He means a lot, the little that I’ve known. I’ve grown very much to like him.
I’ve seen [Bob Marley] on other occasions and he was always very nice and cool and I heard that I was one of his favorite singers.
JABU: How do you manage to fit in the entertainment business with your schoolwork?
NADINE: Well, it’s not a thing that I manage. It has to be done and it just happens and it is done. Right now I’m at EXED Community College doing business administration first year.
JABU: What kind of live performance have you done since the start of ’86?
NADINE: I did two concerts in Bermuda in February (with the Ital Foundation band) and then I went to Jamaica and did a (Tuff Gong) concert in Negril. Then I did a small concert at CAST (College of Arts Science and Technology) for Winnie Mandela. That was a good concert. And here I am in Miami now.
JABU: What was the reception like in Bermuda considering that your records are not really distributed there?
NADINE: I was surprised you know, because the first night, people who were Reggae fans, who listen to the radio and hear my music, they came out. And the second night the crowd at the ‘Spinning Wheel’ doubled the first night.
JABU: OK. So what kind of studio work do you have on line?
NADINE: Right now I’m not working on anything because of school, but I think that during the summer we’ll start working seriously on a new 45.
JABU: Who manages you and produces you records?
NADINE: My management is my parents and the producer is between Willie Lindo and Sangie Davis.
JABU: You’ve had a lot of good songs written for you. Any chance of you going into songwriting yourself?
NADINE: To tell you the truth, I’m very good at poetry. I can write very good poems. I’ve written two songs but I haven’t recorded them, no one knows about them. I think I have an inferiority complex about my music. When you want to write something I know you have to take it step by step. If I’m putting out something I want the standard to be very very good, and right now I’m in the learning stage of writing music. So I guess, when you hear the BOOM song come out, you’ll know that I’ve graduated in the writing field.
JABU: Do you play any instruments?
NADINE: Well actually, I took the piano. I wouldn’t say I play. I know the keys and everything, so I took it. I can help myself. And the recorder, I learnt to play it at Andrews.
JABU: Is this your first show in Miami?
NADINE: No, it’s my second show. My first show was in 1982. It was a Bob Marley Memorial too, with the Tuff Gong posse – Melody Makers, Rita, the I-Threes and Wailers, and everybody.
JABU: How long have you been singing professionally?
NADINE: Six years.
JABU: In terms of knowing what it takes to be a performing and recording artist, would you say you’ve still got a lot to learn or that you’ve covered most of the basics?
NADINE: As always, everybody learns something new every day and I think I’ve got a lot more to learn. Nuff nuff more because I’ve been protected from certain things in the music business. As you notice, I always have parents and my family around me. So certain things in the business that people know about, I just hear about them. So there is more to learn, more to experience. I’m still in my youth stage.
JABU: Do you think it’s anymore difficult for you as a young female artist, as compared to, say Ziggy Marley, Junior Tucker, or any other young male artists?
NADINE: Yes, it’s different. People tend to watch me more, and women have certain standards to live up to. And being a singer, especially a young one, everybody seems to think something immoral. That’s one of the problems I can’t face up to. Because when I hear the rumors ‘bout me and I know they’re untrue, it kind of hurts me and I know I’m not like that. The next thing again, a young man will be able to tour, ‘cause I’m a girl, I have to have some guardian or somebody.
…women have certain standards to live up to…being a singer, especially a young one, everybody seems to think something immoral.
JABU: Thank you very much and all the best.
NADINE: Yeah, it was nice talking with you, Jabulani.
Chances have proved to be right for Reggae lovers in North America to get an opportunity to see the Tuff Gong teen queen in action during the summer of 1986. With negotiations finalized for two Bunny Wailer shows in the U.S. and maybe England, Nadine has been included in the Solomonic package along with Leroy “Heptones” Sibbles and the 809 Band. Then again, there’s a possibility of a six-week summer tour of North America by a group of Tuff Gong artists. Either way, one thing is certain, Nadine Sutherland is internationally hitbound.
Puma Jones is the American-born female vocalist in the 1984 Grammy Award-winning trio Black Uhuru. One of the first women to break into Reggae’s “Big Time,” Puma proudly acknowledges her position as a forerunner in the recent surge of female recording artists filling international charts today.
Born in Columbia, South Carolina, on October 5, 1953, Puma migrated to New York in the ‘60s, where she grew up listening to Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick. Continue reading →