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Interview: Anthony Senior and Nakeisha in Kingston

Interview: Anthony Senior and Nakeisha in Kingston

Interview: Anthony Senior and Nakeisha in Kingston

By on - Photos by Veronique Skelsey - Comment

"Reggae music is like a Mango tree. It takes long to bear"

Sampler

Though the words “brother” and “sister” are often used universally in reggae, they can also be rooted in blood. Notable brother / sister relationships within the music include the singers Alton and Hortense Ellis and the deejays Brigadier Jerry and Sister Nancy.

More recently, Rasta producer Anthony “AlTaFaAn” Senior has started recording his younger sister Nakeisha. Her combination with Germany’s Gentleman, Crusin’, has attracted positive attention, being voted the number one song for February in the Reggae Earth United charts.

United Reggae spoke to Nakeisha and Anthony at the singer Mark Wonder’s yard in Kingston, about her budding career and their bond.

Nakeisha is 5 years younger than Anthony. In some ways they are very different. He is blunt and speaks in gruff patois whereas she is demure and has an American tinged accent – the result of having lived in New York since she was 8. Nonetheless, Nakeisha credits her formative experiences in Jamaica with Anthony as starting her love for music.

Anthony Senior and Nakeisha

“Growing up here you’re a part of music because everywhere you go you hear music. But how I got into it, mostly has to do with my brother. Growing up around him there was no way you can escape it because he’s always having new singles out and stuff like that.”

Anthony’s productions, which have long harked back to the live instrument roots of yesteryear, were crucial in shaping the kind of music she wanted to sing.

“I got my interest on his roots reggae mainly because I love the vibe of the type of music he brought out. I became more and more interested in that type of thing – consciousness.”

“Where I live they’re mainly exposed to the dancehall aspect. The roots reggae is not even there.”

Where I live in New York they’re mainly exposed to the dancehall aspect. The roots reggae is not even there

“In Jamaica we are exposed to every genre, but since I’ve been to the US I’ve been listening to R&B, rock, pop, heavy metal – I love them all. But I brought my own music with me and thankfully through the internet I can stay connected to the roots.”

Unlike her brother, Nakeisha stayed away from music professionally for many years. Her only foray into creative performance was a stint of modelling in America. Why at age 35 did she finally decide to sing on her sibling’s works?

Anthony interjects: “Because she was shy”.

Nakeisha agrees: “It was a mixture of trying to overcome my personal fear, my shyness, and also it was a bucket list type of thing. You’ve been around music, you grew up with music, you love it that much, why not go out and show yourself musically? So I told myself that last year it was now or never, so do it now or just forget about it.”

Anthony Senior and NakeishaHaving an established producer for a brother meant Nakeisha has been given the push she needs. Her first tune Crusin’, on Senior’s Overdub rhythm, features Gentleman, and as well as winning the aforementioned online poll, was played by Jamaica’s Irie FM.

“Out here it gets a lot of plays on the radio” says Anthony “Talia Powers, she’s giving it some play, and in England a lot of people hear it.”

“I was really excited actually” says Nakeisha of the response. “I’ve gotten some positive feedback in regards to the tune in England, Germany, Australia and France. It’s good.”

There are probably a lot of artists in Europe who would beg to have their debut single with Gentleman. Fortunately Anthony and Gentleman link back a long way - since the German superstar’s early trips to Jamaica.

“He’s my brother like that, you know? From when he was young, he took advice from me. When he was about 20-something and came here with Stephan, his manager.”

“I wrote the song itself as a single by myself, and my lovely brother, he teamed us up. I don’t know how he got that!” says his sister with pride “For me, a girl-next-door type, to have my first single out with Gentleman was extremely exciting. So I’m a bit honoured at the same time.”

For me, a girl-next-door type, to have my first single with Gentleman was extremely exciting

Nakeisha is based in New York and Anthony in Kingston, so this is a good opportunity to compare their views on the state of the music in its birthplace. What do the two of them think of February being Reggae Month?

“It’s actually a good thing” says Nakeisha “The fact that we can actually spend an entire month to celebrate something that’s very internationally loved…”

“It should be the entire year” is Anthony’s reply.

And how popular is reggae in Jamaica? We can see that there is good reggae getting made and there’s a month to celebrate it, but to what degree is this aimed at the international market and to what degree is it prevalent here?

“Jamaica is reggae,” says Nakeisha “How can you not associate it with Jamaica and Jamaican people? I never think it left anywhere.”

Jamaica is reggae. How can you not associate it with Jamaica?

“The last time we did an interview” Anthony recalls “I told you “It’s back from where?” Back to the people’s brain who never was listening to reggae. Reggae is back from nothing, because the biggest song even on iTunes is Bob Marley One Love.”

“It isn’t back for you” he continues, shifting the focus on to United Reggae “Because everything that you write up I nah see you write up a dancehall artist too much, yeah? Even now you see who you choose to interview? People that are rooted in the music.”

Yes, but we know foreigners love it. How popular is it here to Jamaican people? What share of the market does it have? Is this popularity growing? Is it stable?

Anthony Senior and Nakeisha“I think slowly now it is growing” says Nakeisha “But honestly now I don’t think that the Jamaican people themselves actually…”

Anthony takes over: When you see young youths like Micah Shemaiah, Chronixx, Jesse Royal and Exile Di Brave, they’re young so people gravitate and say “Oh them young youth doing them ting” and start to listen more now. Because the younger generation’s really not gravitating to reggae. It’s not their fault but the media, the whole media mainly push the music that mash up the brain.”

“That’s how they can sell their bleaching cream and their guns, you see me? Bleach on if bleaching fits you, you go buy the bleaching cream. You see a man’s a badman, you go buy the gunshot. So they hide those types of music that burn the gun and they burn the bleaching cream, because it interferes with their business! It’s the media - and when you check it, the media person’s age is 50, 43.”

“As I told you before reggae music is… see there?” he gestures to a tree in Wonder’s garden “Mango tree. Takes long to bear. Then you have the crop from a pepper tree. It bears, what you call the cash crop, or you have the long term crop. Reggae music is the long term.”

Nakeisha is in Jamaica recording some follow-up songs – one with Sizzla Kalonji for Anthony and one for German producer J da K. After that, she has to head back home to Poughkeepsie to maintain her duties as a single parent of three young youths of her own.

“That’s something I love, children” she expands “Eventually I’d really like to do some charity work. Right now I’m basically trying to bring forth and start a project in regards to that, to help children in need of certain things.”

I’d really like to do some charity work

Given that she had to overcome her shyness to record, how does she feel about doing stage shows? What if somebody wants her to come to a festival in Europe and perform with Gentleman?

“Ooh, that would be the extreme!” she laughs “That would be like heaven! But I mean, I’m all for the overcoming of my fear. I think as soon as I hear the music everything is lost, you know? Everything is just… I’m just one with the music. I’ve been on stage already, so I know I can do it. Back when I was a little bit younger I did the modelling thing, so I’m used to the stage. When you get on the stage you kind of forget certain things.”

Does Anthony play a role in helping Nakeisha seize the moment?

“He pushes me a lot. When I’m trying to write a song and I’m seeking assistance and he’ll be like “You do it!” He pushes me a lot to open different windows in my brain to overcome and to do certain things.”

Anthony is miserable in a good way

The outspoken Senior, who spent time in the army before producing, has described himself in interviews as “miserable”. Is he tough to work with? Nakeisha bursts out laughing again.

“Oh my God! Thankfully he told the truth! But he is miserable in a good way.”

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