February 17, 2013
from 5 (excellent) to 1 (poor)|
|Vocals : 5||Backing : 5||Production : 5||Sound quality : 5||Sleeve : 5|
Born Shauna McKenzie, Etana (meaning 'The Strong One' in Swahili) spent her youthful days playing in the hill side community of August Town situated in the South Eastern side of Jamaica. Attending school locally up until 1992 when she migrated to the U.S to start a new life in the sunshine state of Miami Florida Etana was a budding achiever; she finished grade school and eventually went off to college the year after with plans of becoming a registered nurse. During her studies at Broward Community College Etana became extremely passionate about music, she was consumed with the joy of creating her own mix of the different genres she would attentively listen to in her earlier years.
A hardened fan of reggae, pop, hip hop and jazz musicians she found inspiration in Whitney Houston, Lauren Hill, Jill Scott, Sizzla Kalonji, Marcia Griffiths and the legend Bob Marley all of who eventually gave the then academic the will to explore a new and potentially more suited career in music. In 2000, after making a tuff decision to prematurely exit college, Etana attempted a shot at stardom when she joined a girl group by the name Gift which was being courted by Universal Records. She soon left the band and in 2005 a friend brought her to Fifth Element who at the time was prospering from the strength of Richie Spice who was heavily booked for several American and European Tours. Auditioning for a shot at becoming the backup vocalist for Richie Spice, Etana vocally floored his management team and was handed a plane ticket to do a few shows in the U.S. Her first recorded effort was called "Wrong Address", highlighting the discrimination faced by some Jamaicans living in violence-plagued communities. Simple yet effective the single was a fusion of jazz and reggae, it was the first of its kind and in 2006 the song was rewarded with heavy radio rotations plunging it in the number 1 position of several local charts.
Describing her style back then Etana was quoted as saying "I do music straight from the heart, straight from the soul, straight from the people I see in everyday life". In 2008 she surprised the world with her debut set "The Strong One": "It is not only the combination of strong riddims backing her brilliant singing, but lyrically this album is convincing right from the first to the last syllable as well, making it such a pleasure to listen to". The follow up album was called "Free Expressions" and saw Etana in a more reggae fashion and featured the glorious hit single "August Town".
Her new 14 track album is called 'Better Tomorrow' and it's truly sounds like a return to the roots sound that announced her five years ago with "Wrong Address". She says: "I wanted this album to feel like a concert performance and have everything go together, like chapters in a book, with all of the tracks played live by musicians". Producers on board are Shane C. Brown, of the highly successful Juke Boxx Productions label, and Stanley 'Rellee' Hayden of New York's A Team Music. The album was recorded at Kingston's legendary Tuff Gong Studios. Etana is backed by some in-demand musicians, such as drummer Kirk Bennett, guitarist Lamont Savory and bassist Aeion Hoilett of the C Sharp band as well as veteran saxophonist Dean Fraser.
After the Spoken Soul intro comes Queen, one of the many highlights on this flawless album. It's a suited one drop tribute to all women "of the concrete jungle". Reggae has become a sort of anthem, celebrating and honouring the music of the island, wonderful tune! She offers righteous praises to Jah on the gospel flavoured tune The Prayer. Etana gave birth to daughter Nyla on November 1st and the song Till You Get Old (Life's Gift) is her pledge of love to here child. The song includes overdubbed effects, including the sounds of a baby being born.
4 Play 2 Love (Start Over) is a strong lovers tune, underpinned by an addictive riddim, and telling us about a former couple who want to start over again, although they're involved with other people. Silly sounds like a traditional reggae tune, but it's a magnificent do-over of the 1981 Deniece Williams orignal, with some nice subtle dub effects. Beautiful Day is underscored by some perfect Dean Fraser sax phrases. The song All I Need was written while on road in Europe where Etana longed for Jamaica. The closing track -- also the title track -- is a dance song, based on African riddims with jazzy vocal arrangements. A worthy track to close down an impeccable album!
Although 2013 is still young, we think that Etana's album will be one of the strongest contenders for Album of the Year 2013. Rush to your shop and get a copy!