LAUDERHILL — Jamaicans worldwide will celebrate the 50th year of their country’s political independence from the British Commonwealth on Aug. 6, but the festivities are taking place throughout the year. “It’s about freedom, human rights and our struggle as a people,” reggae icon Mykal Rose said about Independence Day. “Ridding ourselves, cutting the colonial ties to Britain was just the start. We are still fighting,” the former member of Black Uhuru said.
“Jamaica is the birthplace of reggae music,” said Rose, who currently lives in Kingston. “And it’s through this music that I express freedom and liberation.”
Reggae singer Shauna McKenzie — more widely known as “Etana” — said that Jamaica “has a long way to go. The people are still undergoing huge financial struggles. And when you say ‘Jamaica 50’ to a lot of the youth, they simply don’t feel it.”
Rose and Etana were among the reggae artists who performed during the “Icons of Reggae in Concert,” held on March 11 to mark the 50th year of Jamaican independence, at the Central Broward Regional Park in Lauderhill. The event featured other top
reggae artists including Tots and the Maytals, John Holt, Daddy URoy, Lady Saw, Winston Matthews and Lloyd McDonald.
FOR THE YOUTHS
“I was excited to be contacted, to be considered an icon,” said Kingston-born Etana, whose career took off as a backup singer for Richie Spice. “I started in 2006 in Jamaica, and that experience molded me into who I have become as a performer.”
Inspired by the late reggae legend Bob Marley, Etana has since traveled and performed before audiences worldwide. “And I really feel the love in England,” she said.
Beyond the stage, Etana is passionate about the youth, “especially the young girls,” she said. “I visit different schools in Jamaica; talk with the girls, keeping the dialogue open and honest.”
Young women are hungry for knowledge, Etana said. “They want to know about life, about my personal life. They want to hear truths they can learn from. And we share as women.”
“I learn a lot from them as well,” she said.
Etana, who lives between Jamaica and South Florida, said that her singing “came naturally. During the time that I performed with Richie Spice, I was told that I should perform my own songs. It took a few months, but things have worked out well for me.”
“The only thing I want to do now is finish college, where I will study business management,” she said.
Winston “Pipe” Matthews and Lloyd “Bread” McDonald grew up in Trenchtown during a time, they said, when reggae music had not yet gained international popularity.
WAILING FOR YEARS
“We were kids form the ghetto,” said Pipe, who lives in Los Angeles. “We left Jamaica because we didn’t want to get mixed up in a lot of what was going on at the time.”
Pipe and Bread formed the group, Wailing Souls, and have performed for about 45 years.
“Originally there were four of us,” said Bread, who lives in Miami. “But the other guys went their own way around 1998.” The duo now tours worldwide and travels with a five-piece band.
“But no matter what’s going on in the world,” the duo agreed, “Jamaica is home.”
Cynthia Roby may be reached at CynthiaRoby@bellsouth.net