Even if you are not a big fan of Reggae Music, chances are you know the name Bob Marley, maybe even Peter Tosh, Ziggy Marley, Dennis Brown, Jimmy Cliff or Toots (of Toots and the Maytals) – But how many female reggae artists come to mind? I done a recent search online, and in one list of the top 100 “greatest Reggae Artists” there were no females listed! Why is this? There has to be some great female singers out there.
Like many genres of music, the Reggae music industry is dominated by men. This may be in part a reflection of the tough male dominated culture of Jamaica in which Reggae evolved, and also in part because Reggae is tough music and you need a strong voice to carry the music and be heard. When you dig deeper into Reggae music, you will indeed find many female singers with some strong unique voices and powerful messages. Bob Marley’s three background singers (known collectively as the I-Threes) Rita Marley, Judy Mowat and Marcia Griffiths are all solo performers and recording artists in their own right, Griffiths being the best known female Reggae singer. With hits such as ‘Steppin’ out of Babylon’ and ‘Electric Boogie’ she has been crowned the ‘Queen of Reggae’.
Some other female Reggae singers of note include: Tanya Stephens, Cynthia Schloss, Nadine Sutherland, Lady Saw, Diana King, Queen Ifrica and Etana. Diana King is known for fusing pop, R&B and Dancehall with reggae, in 1994 she had a hit with her song ‘Shy Guy’ which reached number 14 on the US Billboard charts and number 2 in the UK singles charts.
Etana (also known as ‘The Strong One’) is part of the newer generation of Reggae singers, and her style draws heavily on a soul and pop music influence while staying rooted in Jamaican roots music. Her song “Roots” celebrating Rastafarian culture was very popular amongst young Jamaicans. Queen Ifrica’s style is a lot more ‘Roots Reggae’ oriented and her lyrics include a lot of social commentary, she is not afraid to sing about taboo subjects such as child molestation, her song ‘Daddy don’t touch me there’ was a big hit and received critical acclaim and a lot of airplay. Ifrica can also Dj (Jamaican style of rapping) as tough as any man, a skill she has no doubt worked hard to acquire in order to be heard and survive in a male dominated world.