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.
January 7, 2008 – Kingston, Jamaica – In the early days of Jamaican popular music, our female singers and songwriters played a major role in propelling our music onto the world stage. In fact, the first major international Jamaican hit recording was by one of Jamaica’s female pioneers, Millie Small, with her 1964 million-selling single “My Boy Lollipop.” Its success opened the doors for such artists as Phyllis Dillon, Marcia Griffiths, Judy Mowatt, Hortense Ellis, Pam Hall, Rita Marley, Carlene Davis, J.C. Lodge, Cynthia Schloss, Lorna Bennett, Dawn Penn, Sheila Hylton, and Nadine Sutherland, all of whom established themselves as mainstream recording and performing artists.
For some strange reason, however, the early achievements of our female artists did not result in the kind of follow-through seen by their male counterparts. For many years, we have failed to produce top-class female Reggae recording artists and performers. With the exception of the local and international successes of Diana King, Patra, Sasha, Foxy Brown, and Lady Saw, female Reggae and Dancehall artists have become a very scarce commodity over the last 25 years.
A number of different reasons have been presented for what many view as a problem in the development of our music. Sexual harassment by music producers and the rough, tough and aggressive face of male-dominated Dancehall music are two such explanations. The tendency of many young Jamaican female artists to idolize and follow popular foreign Pop and R&B female stars is another argument given for the seeming disappearance of the Jamaican female Reggae performer. Continue reading →