Reggae Divas: The Visibility of Female Reggae Artists

Vybez Kartel. Mavado. Beenie. Bounty. Buju. Male reggae artists are constantly in the news, constantly changing styles, innovating Jamaican culture and dancehall culture internationally, and churning out music for reggae fans around the world.

Busy Signal. Vegas. Cham. Sanchez. T.O.K. Beres Hammond. The styles of each artist vary so uniquely from one another, that one can't help but love reggae music and the diversity that exists within it.

But while Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, Jennifer Hudson, and Keri Hilson can easily dominate the charts and media attention of pop and hip-hop...the female reggae singers hardly get the same kind of spotlight that their female counterparts in all other genres do, nor do they get the same amount of attention as other musicians in the reggae genre.

They are just as talented, just as provocative, and the music is just as sweet...but female reggae artists have yet to receive the same level of love and recognition for their years of musical contributions to the genre.

Enter Reggae Divas.

Curious about the amount of media and cultural recognition that these artists have received over the years, I was disappointed to find that there haven't been many books, articles, or features written exclusively about women in reggae. And so this is why I have started to create my own tribute to female artists in reggae music.

My book Reggae Divas (via Kya Publishing) will be an anthology of female artists in reggae music. And as cliche as the word "diva" is, it is the only word I thought could truly personify what these ladies are: glamorous and successful or distinguished female performers.

And there are so many. Althea & Donna, Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths and of course Rita Marley come to mind when thinking of legendary female performers.

And the ladies that brought a new sense of style, confidence, sexuality, and redefined the image of women in reggae/dancehall: Lady Saw, Lady G, Nadine Sutherland, and Diana King to name a few. Their music made women everywhere feel sexy, liberated, in control, and had them taking control of their images.

So no badda come ya wid yuh gali gali trend
Just ease off breeze off
Yuh no hear sey skettel bomb no dey a road again
~Lady Saw

You've got the new soulful singers like Alaine, Cherine Anderson, and the sisters Tami Chynn and Tessanne Chin...not to mention other recent hit makers like Tifa, Timberlee, Macka Diamond, and Stacious. These ladies make you want to dance, celebrate, love life, and again, stand firm in your own image.

Conscious sisters like Queen Ifrica, Tanya Stephens, and Etana...their lyrics give us strength, wisdom, and of course vibes.

Even without the male artists, the female reggae artists carry heavyweights, lyricists, fashionistas, and again--enough diversity and authentic talent to warrant recognition and celebration. Their lyrics make women shout out loud and claim a space in reggae music.

Tell ah gal seh mi's ah girl mi nuh fight ova man
From mi lickel bit ah jus so mi tan
Dis yah gal only wan gi him one
After dat him tun fool cauz him jus get di bomb

Yet their visibility is limited. Their buzz isn't always as strong, although it should be.

I'm continually amazed at how much talent and power exists on island of Jamaica. How strongly reggae music plays from the Caribbean, to Africa, Asia, North America...and how others have eagerly adapted dancehall and Jamaican culture into the fabric of their own local environments.

On the surface...there are many of them. Their lyrics are memorable, their images are magnificent, and their stories are worth telling.

I see them coming after my soul....wanted to take control
Wanna give me locks, wanna give me bling....
Wanna give me all the material things....
I hear dem talking bout what the world has to offer, girl what you doing dont you see....
What they have done to Bed-ward & Marcus, Jesus and all of the Profits
But I am not afraid

So as I officially commence the research stage of Reggae Divas the written anthology, I am prepared to learn from their individual journeys, gain strength from their words, and of course vibe to their music.

They deserve to be documented in print. They deserve to be exhaulted and I definitely don't mind taking the time out to ensure that these ladies are written about and celebrated in a way that reflects their contribution to music and what they represent to so many woman (and men) around the world.


~"Reggae Divas" is a forthcoming anthology of women in reggae music, written by Stacey Marie Robinson, founder of Kya Publishing.


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