Tag Archives: Better Tomorrow

Etana keeps rising

disc-3241-etana-i-riseOn February 25 last year I wrote that Etana’s at the time recently released album Better Tomorrow included her finest work yet. And I’m happy to say that she keeps rising for every album and that she has yet again exceeded expectations and that she continues to raise bar.

Etana has come a long way since her acclaimed debut album The Strong One, released in 2008. She has always had a stellar voice and has often been compared to U.S. neo soul singers like Alicia Keys and India.Arie. And Etana certainly has a truly soulful voice custom-made for slick ballads, but she’s equally at ease with harder and more roots-oriented material. That’s a vein that she has started to explore more and more in recent years. She has gone from being a neo-soul diva to a strong force in the ongoing roots reggae revival in Jamaica.

On her brand new fourth album I Rise she continues to work with one dedicated producer. On Better Tomorrow it was Shane C. Brown, and on I Rise it’s no other than Clive Hunt. A real veteran and by Etana described as ”the great, great, the god father of reggae, super talented, creative, rough, bad, but also very kind at the same time, Clive Hunt”.

He has made remarkable music for four decades working with the likes of Stevie Wonder, The Abyssinians, Peter Tosh, Jimmy Cliff, Grace Jones and a truckload of others. Onboard is also a host of Jamaica’s finest musicians, including himself along with Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare and Dean Fraser.

Etana has a vocal strength and melodic power that is almost unique in contemporary reggae, and she’s today Jamaica’s leading female vocalist with her blend of infectious love ballads and harsh roots anthems.

Clive Hunt has created a versatile, yet consistent, set with rich arrangements and multi-layered grooves. The discofied reggae beat on the spiritual Emmancipation (Spoken Soul 11) is one of the most memorable moments. Another is On My Way, with its militant intro that makes me want to salute the talented forces behind this excellent album.

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New albums from Etana and Protoje

New albums from two of the biggest names on the contemporary reggae scene have just been announced.

In October Jamaican songstress Etana follows up her acclaimed album Better Tomorrow with I Rise. It will be her fourth studio album and the first single Richest Girl is featured on Reggae Gold 2014, set for release in mid-August. Richest Girl is smooth with an edge and is produced by the legendary Clive Hunt.

Protoje has announced that he has finished recording his third album Ancient Future, a set that will drop in September. And on his Facebook page he writes that “the sound changes once more…”.

Until his album is released – don’t hesitate to check out the first single off the album. It’s a combination with Chronixx voiced over a hip-hop influenced beat produced by Overstand Entertainment. A solid single that managed to be included on Reggaemani’s list over the best reggae songs of 2014 so far.

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Etana urges for a better tomorrow

Etana’s third and latest album Better Tomorrow has received rave reviews and is her most cohesive and consistent to date. Reggaemani got a chat with her about the album, working with producer Shane C. Brown and how recording while being pregnant influenced her work.

In a reggae world dominated by men, Etana, real name Shauna McKenzie, has managed to gain worldwide success with hit songs such as Free, All I Need and her 2007-released debut single Wrong Address, also included on her debut album from the year after.

Etana, which means the strong one in Swahili, realized her potential and the power of music while living in Florida in the early 2000’s studying to be a nurse. She left collage and joined a female pop/R&B trio. Her strong, soulful voice and songwriting skills soon gained attention and she was asked to join Richie Spice as one of his backup singers and eventually it led to her own recordings.

Uplifting and inspirational
Her fusion of roots reggae, soul, jazz and pop has rendered her several awards and she has also been described as somewhat of an India. Arie or Alicia Keys of reggae. And that description is probably more accurate than ever when listening to her latest album Better Tomorrow.

I reach Etana on the phone from Florida. This is the second time I’ve had the opportunity to interview her, and just like the first time she’s low-key and eloquent as she answers each question.

Etana has just released her third album Better Tomorrow.

Etana has just released her third album Better Tomorrow.

Better Tomorrow is meant to be happy and inspirational. An album you could play at home for hours, or even at a club,” she explains.

Many of the tracks are uplifting, lyrically as well as musically, but Etana takes on several hard topics as well. The title track, for instance, celebrates life itself and the blessings it brings, something that’s maybe taken for granted too often.

“A time to sing a brand new song, no more hungry children, no more tears,” she sings on Better Tomorrow, a track she penned after watching a National Geographic TV documentary about a little boy’s daily search at the dump for plastic bottles, which he would trade in for food.

“Whatever he found that day would be his family’s meals,” explains Etana, and adds:

“He found an overripe banana that you would normally throw out, but he was excited, jumped with joy and was willing to share and gave a piece of it to his sister. Even in the hardest times he was happy.”

Channel positive energy
She describes herself as an optimist and urges for a better tomorrow.

“There’s always a better tomorrow. People always complain how bad things are in their country. But that doesn’t bring any change. There has to be a better tomorrow,” she says with emphasis, and continues:

“I’ve to be an optimist. That’s where I’m today. If you keep thinking about the negative, and not the positive, you’ll keep creating more negative energy than positive.”

Recording while pregnant
While recording the album Etana was pregnant with her second child, a daughter born in November 2012, just three months before the album was released.

“Maybe at times I was affected by the pregnancy. All I Need was recorded at eight months, and it was tough doing the notes, but the rest was like nothing,” explains Etana adding that she channeled emotions and energy from the pregnancy into the album.

One of the songs, Til You Get Old, is Etana’s heartfelt pledge of love to her child, and the track also includes an actual birth. Not her own though.

“It’s our right to give birth. Giving birth and be happy about it,” she says.

One producer, one sound
Better Tomorrow is mainly recorded together with one single producer, Shane C. Brown, today probably best known for producing Busy Signal’s first reggae album and being the successful dancehall artist’s manager. The album was recorded with live musicians and Etana describes the album and the process recording it as a book with only one writer.1950_ETANA-BETTER

“Shane is very detailed and specific, but gives room to be creative, and he knew exactly what I wanted, where I was mentally. Spiritually we had a connection and it was easy to work with him,” she explains and gives an example:

“He could say ‘do the way you feel, do it your way, and then do it this way for me’”.

Etana is obviously satisfied with how the album turned out, but she doesn’t have any great expectations about it.

“I never expect this or that. I just wanted to put it out there. I want the world to appreciate it and I’m grateful for everything that comes with it,” she concludes.

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Better Tomorrow includes Etana’s finest work yet

1950_ETANA-BETTERJamaican soulful singer Etana is about to put out her third album Better Tomorrow, a 14 track set mainly produced by Busy Signal’s manager Shane C. Brown. Working with mostly one sole producer gives the album a certain and very welcome cohesiveness, something her second album Free Expressions lacked.

Better Tomorrow is a warm effort where Etana has matured and evolved as a songwriter and she deals with motherhood, unconditional love and hopelessness offering optimism and comfort in times of struggle, distress and poverty.

Her sincere and soulful singing is sublime and especially heartfelt is Till You Get Old (Life’s Gift), dedicated to her newborn daughter and complete with audio clips from an actual birth set to the tones of piano, percussion and guitar. Being a parent myself, the track sends shivers down my spine.

But you don’t have to be a parent to appreciate this album. It has a little something for everyone, while staying almost true to the reggae format. On Whole New World she takes the listener on a 80’s funky trip and the title track leans toward a latin beat, while tracks such as The Strongest and the beautiful first single Reggae are more roots oriented with dub effects and smooth organ work.

Better Tomorrow sticks like glue and includes some of Etana’s finest work yet. Check it on CD and on digital platforms on 26 February.

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