Tag Archives: Etana

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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Half-year report 2013 – 15 best albums yet

The first six months of 2013 have offered a number of glorious albums from Jamaican, U.S. and European artists and producers. My 15 favorites are listed below and if you’re curious about how it sounds you’re more than welcome to check the accompanying Spotify playlist here, where a majority of the releases are included. You can also check a review of each album by clicking the link to the set.

The list includes no reissues and is in no particular order.

Captain Sinbad – Reggae Music Will Mad Unu!
This veteran deejay made his musical comeback for Frenchie more than 20 years after his latest release. The LP and the version for digital platforms have different track lists, and I suggest you check out the vinyl version.

Cornel Campbell – New Scroll
The sweet high tenor voice courtesy of Cornel Campbell is set to magnificent music from the highly talented production trio Zion I Kings.

Jahcoustix – Frequency
German singer Jahcoustix wanted to make a more diverse album, but Frequency is his most consistent and cohesive set yet.

Trinity – Eye to Eye
Gruff voiced pioneering deejay Trinity teamed-up with Irie Ites for this retro sounding musical feast.

Malika Madremana – The Race
High school teacher by day and singer by night. Judging by this wonderful album Malika Madremana should focus on her music.

Meta & The Cornerstones – Ancient Power
Bob Marley-sounding Meta Dia moved from his home country Senegal to New York City and was exposed to an array of musical styles. His second album is roots reggae at its finest.

Jah Sun – Rise as One
Best album yet from this reliable U.S. deejay.

Lion D – Bring Back the Vibes
Rising star on the European and global reggae scene that has managed to make a catchy album full of foundation vibes.

Chezidek  The Order of Melchezedik
In 2010 Chezidek teamed-up with Dutch label JahSolidRock for his critically acclaimed album Judgement Time. In April this year the same label dropped Chezidek’s new album The Order of Melchezedik, and needless to say – they put out another powerful set of Rasta anthems.

The Lions – This Generation
13 musicians and four lead singers were involved the making of this soulful album that could be cherished by youths and elders alike.

Black Roots – On the Ground in Dub
One of the best UK reggae bands that reunited last year for the album On the Ground. This is the heavy dub version that contains some inspired mixing.

Etana – Better Tomorrow
Etana’s most cohesive yet and offers a soulful something for everyone.

Protoje – The 8 Year Affair
One of the leaders of the new generation of Jamaican conscious artists. This, his second album, is darker and heavier compared to his debut album The 7 Year Itch.

Jah9 – New Name
Debut album from the conscious Jah9. Her jazzy and breezy voice floats over hard riddims produced by Rory from Stone Love.

Lloyd Brown – New Veteran
Probably one of the most consistent artists – in any genre – in the world. Lloyd Brown usually drops at least one album per year and the quality is remarkably high.

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Bryan Art repackages debut album

bryanart-album2013Jamaican singer and musician Bryan Art’s new self-titled album is an odd one since eleven of its 13 tracks are lifted directly from his excellent debut album 20ten, released three years ago.

The new album is put out on a different label and only includes two new tracks – the hip-hop flavored Capleton combination Dem Fass and the haunting Warrior King duet New Day. Both are however also previously available, Dem Fass as a single and New Day on the Reggaeville riddim compilation.

This repackaging is a dirty and sneaky way of getting exposure of already available material and it would have been better if the label and its marketers would have been upfront with this. Luckily enough the set is solid, since the cocktail of refurbished vintage riddims and original material is first-rate. So is Bryan Art’s soulful and husky voice.

He’s also a prolific songwriter and has penned for acclaimed artists such as Luciano and Etana. He’s also an accomplished guitarist, member of the Firehouse Crew and leader of Bushman’s backing band the Grass Roots Band. In other words – he knows what he’s doing.

However, some of the strongest songs are left out this time, and the weakest one by far – the flat house influenced No Malice – is annoyingly still around.

The best way to learn more about Bryan Art’s tasteful sounds is to get the debut album and the two singles. That’s all you need for now.

Bryan Art is now available on CD and digital download.

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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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Reggae albums to look forward to in 2013

Most of the lists collecting best of 2012 are now published – Reggaemani has one more on the way though – and I guess most of us are looking forward to what to expect of 2013. Only a week of the new year has however passed, but I know I’m already thirsty for new albums. Luckily enough several album releases have been made public. Some confirmed, while some are rumours.

There are a number of big releases ahead and since last year was tasty, expectations are high and to be honest I’m quite excited, particularly about the full-length studio sets from Tarrus Riley, Captain Sinbad, Sizzla, Meta & The Cornerstones and Lutan Fyah.

Check the full list below and you’ll hopefully be as wound up as I am.

The list doesn’t cover reissues or compilations and is no particular order.

Anthony B
The recording of the album has just begun. It’s produced by Austria’s House of Riddim and will hopefully see the light of day in March.

Captain Sinbad
This veteran, old school deejay released his debut album with Henry “Junjo” Lawes back in the early 80’s and since those days he hasn’t recorded much. But last year he put out three must-have singles on Maximum Sound and producer Frenchie has announced that he and the Captain has something very special cooking.

Christopher Ellis
The son of the great Alton Ellis has had his debut album produced by Stephen and Damian Marley and that is certainly promising.

Dubtonic Kru – Evolution
Has been in the making for over a year and the recently released single Jah Love promises well.

Etana – Better Tomorrow
Etana’s much anticipated third album is mostly produced by young mastermind Shane C. Brown, who was responsible for Busy Signal’s highly praised Reggae Music Again released last year.

Iba Mahr
Together with Chronixx Iba Mahr is one of the most promising young talents from Jamaica and hopefully he’ll be able to deliver on a full album set.

Jah9
Hyped Jamaican singer that has been taken under the wings of producer Rory Stonelove and her latest single Jungle showcases an interesting jazz-influenced talent.

Jesse Royal
One of the strongest singjay’s from the XTM. Nation camp, led by the late and great producer Phillip “Fattis” Burrell’s son Kareem Burrell.

Lutan Fyah
The always reliable VI-based producer Tippy I of I Grade Records is putting finishing touches to an album with the prolific Jamaican chanter. Collaborations between Jamaica and the Virgin Islands are usually interesting and this will probably not be an exception.

Meta & The Cornerstones – Ancient Power
After his debut album Forward Music – released in 2008 – he was dubbed the African Bob Marley by the New York Times. This follow-up album was recorded and produced in Jamaica and has lots of great collaborations – Capleton, U Roy and Damian Marley. It was supposed to have hit the streets last year, but was pushed forward to March 2013. I’m confident it was worth the wait.

Morgan Heritage – Here Come the Kings
In August last year the royal reggae family released their first new studio recordings in years and at the same time they announced a new album, a set due in March.

Nazarenes
Early last year Tippy I announced a dub reworking of Nazarenes’ album Meditation released in April, but it was pushed forward due to albums from Ras Batch and Lutan Fyah.

Perfect
Has almost finished his brand new album with House of Riddim and it’s set for release in March.

Protoje – 8 Year Affair
Protoje has once again teamed-up with his producing cousin Don Corleon for the follow-up to his highly regarded debut album 7 Year Itch released two years ago.

Queen Ifrica – Play Day
The fierce queen of contemporary reggae has released two scorching albums and several top notch singles, of which Tiad of da Supm Ya is the latest and certainly proves she’s still a force to be reckoned with.

Sizzla
Every Sizzla album is met with huge anticipation, but when I heard he had recorded an album with Australian producer Mista Savona to be released in 2013 I got a little more excited than usual.

Snoop Lion
I was not the only one that got a big surprise when hip-hop superstar Snoop Dogg turned Snoop Lion and dropped three Major Lazer produced singles, of which two were well-above average. Let’s now wait for the album and see if this is a marketing gimmick or not.

Tarrus Riley
His new studio album follows last year’s acclaimed acoustic set and is supposed to hit the streets in May.

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20 voices share their reggae story

During 2012 there have been several efforts to celebrate Jamaica’s 50 years of independence from British govern. Concerts, albums and songs are some of the events that have occurred.

Together with United Reggae I have asked a bunch of reggae artists, producers and label owners to share their view on the history and future of reggae music. We received many answers, ranging from acclaimed veterans such as BB Seaton, Sly Dunbar and Bunny Rugs, but also from more up and coming producers and singers, including Million Stylez, Mista Savona and Etana.

Most of the people we asked share the same view – reggae has had a huge impact on music makers around the world and that the future looks bright.

But you can find out for yourself and draw your own conclusions when checking the 20 stories over at United Reggae.

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Preparing for Öland Roots festival

On Friday it’s time for a two day reggae festival on the beautiful island of Öland in the southern part of Sweden.

Öland Roots started in 2004 as a reaction to the few cultural activities taking place on the island. During the past seven years several Jamaican artists have performed on the festival. Fantan Mojah, Michael Rose and Konshens are only a few of the acclaimed singers and deejays that have performed in the woods next to the beach.

And 2011 is no exception. The promoters have managed to book more international artists than ever before. Etana, T’Nez, Junior Kelly, Mark Wonder and Queen Omega come from the Caribbean. Alongside them there are several Swedish artists that have managed to rock the international reggae scene. Among them Million Stylez, Joey Fever and Hanouneh.

I’m psyched. Extremely psyched actually. To keep me sane I’ve compiled a playlist in Spotify with some of my favorite tracks from a bunch of this year’s artists.

You’ll find some big tunes here. What about Tough Life from Junior Kelly, Move From On Yah by Million Stylez or Queen Omega’s Jah Dawta.

Check out the playlist by clicking this link, and hope to see you on Öland this weekend.

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Hot upcoming releases from VP

VP Records and its subsidiary Greensleeves are the biggest reggae labels in the business and host a bunch of in demand artists. Reggaemani has got a glance of the release schedule for the next months and notes some familiar names.

During the first six months last year, VP dropped albums from three giants – Sizzla, Junior Kelly and Capleton. The latter two hadn’t released albums for many years and were much anticipated.

The first six months of 2011 don’t include such superstars, but there seem to be some nice albums coming out nonetheless.

VP has got a nice start with album releases from sweet songstress Etana and energy God Elephant Man. There have also been three great compilations with material from Culture, Dennis Brown and production duo Steely & Clevie.

March seems to be an interesting month with a new album from Richie Spice, his fourth for VP. Book of Job – as the album is titled – is produced in collaboration with Penthouse and its first single Black Woman sounds promising. March also offers compilations from gruff voiced deejays Tiger and Assassin aka Agent Sasco.

In April lovers rock veteran Sanchez drops his new album Love You More, his follow-up to the great Now & Forever released last year. April also sees the release of the popular Biggest Reggae One Drop Anthems compilation. This compilation wasn’t released last year, but somehow managed to make it back into the release schedule.

In May up and coming dancehall singjay Chino releases his debut album. He recently dropped the EP From Mawning with tracks such as Pon Your Head and Protected. He has previously worked a lot with his producing brother Stephen “Di Genious” McGregor and the duo will hopefully continue their road to success.

During the coming six months you can also look forward to new studio albums from I Wayne, Queen Ifrica and Dutch sensation Ziggi Recado, who just put out the single Get Out.

All dates may be subject to change.

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