I have so many memories from that weekend. The feeling of pride, enjoying music amongst the Jamaican patrons, and lingering backstage with the likes of Capleton and Yendi: Jamaica's elite. I was excited by the energy of the stage activity, and intrigued by the hustle and bustle of the journalists capturing images and positioning to collect interview footage. I have yet to experience a similar vibe in Toronto, it was wonderful.
|Via Jamaica Observer|
The Rastafarian native of Montego Bay, the Fyah Muma Queen Ifrica (aka Ventrice Morgan) is well known for being a woman of truth and fearlessness. Throughout the span of her career, her lyrics, her public appearances, and statements have been nothing but poignant and straightforward. Since the 2009 release of her first album "Montego Bay" (VP Records), she has been a source of cultural commentary and musical soul through songs like "Times Like These," "Keep it To Yourself," and "Far Away." Her latest release "One Hold" is circulating heavy this week, and encouraging women to love and hold their man. The video for "Black Woman" is making statements as well.
Visiting Jamaica annually, or even a few times each year as a Canadian/foreigner, it is easy to take for granted the everyday realities of Jamaican living. For a week here and there, I am blessed with the opportunity to leave the cold/responsibilities/routine of Toronto life and indulge in all of the greatness Jamaica has to offer. Family, the foods, the music, the hills and greenery, the beautiful beaches, the hustle of the towns, the hospitality, and most importantly the irreplaceable spirit of the Jamaican people. With each trip to the island, the love only intensifies. Especially now that I've lived 40 solid years in Canada and realize just how rare and precious some of life's intangibles are.
This particular visit, with Queen Ifrica's anthems as the soundtrack, I really processed the power of the music of Jamaica and the true impact it has had internationally. Many of us are privileged enough to have direct connections to Jamaica through parents or birth, but there are millions worldwide who are also drawn to the island just out of genuine passion, curiosity, and understanding. I believe the main draw of all is the lyrical content and the musical rhythms that speak to people's hearts from Canada to Japan, New Zealand, to Germany.
In that moment, I watched Queen Ifrica address the crowd from just a few feet away in the Media Pit, capturing a few photos and some video footage for myself, and as I listened to her pleas and declarations...I absorbed the distinct chorus of horns coming from the audience. A persistent tone indicating that the people were in agreement with her words. The people were hearing her...really hearing her.
This was late Saturday night when the Prime Minister, opposition leader, Ministers of Culture and Labour, as well as a few other dignitaries were seated in the Media Pit to take in one of the country's biggest and most significant events. I realized that to be there was an honour, and to be amongst the country's leaders and top influencers was a privilege. In that moment, as Queen Ifrica sang, my spirit led me to leave the stage area and instead walk back out to the gathering of patrons in the general audience zone to feel their energy. I heard the lyrics up close, and I wanted to experience them from a distance.
|Via Loop Jamaica|
Ifrica explained the plight of the everyday Jamaican citizen, and how every soul deserved to live in comfort and peace. She was concerned about Jamaica's place on a global scale, and how the rest of the world perceived her people versus the reality. She wanted Jamaica to be an example of greatness and to reflect the core of the people. She spoke up for the youth, and for women, and for blackness, and her lyrics and her words reminded me of a cry for help: she was communicating these needs through Jamaica's most powerful tool and agent of change, reggae music.
Those who have followed Queen Ifrica's career could not be surprised by this, because her community work and the content of her songs are always performed with direction and intent. She has always been an artist of action, and never one to censor herself.
As she sang "Times Like This" and spoke about how she misses the heroes of Jamaica, I had to reflect on the culture in which my parents grew up in Jamaica in the 1960s and 1970s before moving to Toronto, and how the reggae artists of their time were wholeheartedly committed to using their musical platform to internationally convey purposeful messages.
This year Queen Ifrica is making a distinct mark in Canada through a collaboration with Toronto-based reggae artist Kafinal: they have been nominated for a Juno Award in the category of Reggae Recording of the Year. "Talk or No Talk" is an entertaining dialogue between the two artists about whether or not to get involved in people's business, where infidelity is concerned. It's great to see Ifrica being recognized by Canada's musical industry, because I believe she is a voice of purpose that will lead change in the way reggae music is performed and perceived...by female artists in particular.
It's too distracting to point out the controversy, or to make mention of those who may view Ifrica's declarations as aggressive and politically incorrect. What I received from her live performance, and from looking into her lyrics, her interviews, and her objectives as an artist is that Queen Ifrica is committed to enlightening Jamaican people, and her listening audience-at-large. She wants to support the Jamaican family and see improvements made to the political and economic systems of the island. She believes in love; she is a woman of faith and stands firm in this. She is proud of her complexion, her views, and she will not be silenced as long as she has a voice to communicate.
Female artists in reggae music are few and far between, so it is important that we uplift those with positive messaging, and that we endorse those who are confident enough to use their platform in the way reggae music was intended to be used: as an agent of political and social change and encouragement. I believe that Queen Ifrica is one of few active female recording artists that has made me stop, think, and wonder about how I am using my particular voice and what type of platform I am creating for myself, and intend to stand on. Not just in entertainment or media...but in life. Queen Ifrica has made me really consider how far I would be willing to go in speaking my truth and communicating it, regardless of the consequences.
Her strength on that stage, standing firm in her truth while looking Jamaican citizens and leadership boldly in the eyes at Rebel Salute, has given me strength. Reading about her history and listening to her experiences has reiterated the importance of developing your character and believing in something. I am grateful that my first trip to Rebel Salute resulted in this important lesson in the power of reggae music, and the natural force that it possesses in sound and in purpose.
Queen Ifrica, your presence is appreciated.
Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.