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Interview: Jah9 in Kingston (2016)

Interview: Jah9 in Kingston (2016)

Interview: Jah9 in Kingston (2016)

By on - Photos by Veronique Skelsey - Comment

"This record is even more personal"


Roots poetess Jah9 released her second album, ‘9’, on 9th September. As you've probably guessed, the date of issue was no accident. The number is the central to the 9-track record and the life of the woman who recorded it.

Back in February, Jah9 played United Reggae an exclusive album preview in her Kingston front garden. Most of the track-list remains unchanged – although a couple of potential songs didn’t make the cut.

There had been prior speculation in the media about whether she was going to release a follow up project with Rory Stonelove (who oversaw her debut New Name) or her long-shelved older venture involving Beres Hammond. Instead, ‘9’ comprises 5 of Jah9’s own productions and 4 collaborations (with Laurent Tippy Alfred from I Grade, Kevin Campbell, Puraman, and Franklyn “Ben Up” Irving, who built her hit Steamers A Bubble).

An industry insider once advised that dancehall deejays are easier to interview than roots reggae artists "because you can talk about anything". Said person obviously never spoke to Jah9. She might have an intimidating air on stage but having quizzed her a few times there is no need to fuss over perfectly finessed questions: you'll get an interesting answer whatever you ask.

In her preceding United Reggae interview she gave a lot of opinions - this time we skipped the Kingston trip’s stock topics - "is reggae being stolen", "election in reggae month" - for a personal slant. “More feminine” was how she characterised the experience, another central concept in her art and life.

This conversation was conducted while eating sun-cooked vegan cuisine from Mi Hungry on Constant Spring Road. We started talking about food and then took it from there.


Naturally cooked food

“You have to make sure that you are eating well. And with raw food you still have to be careful about who is preparing it, especially in a place like Jamaica where you have things like ackee so you have to know who you are getting it from.

The Rastaman has a culture of incorporating live sipping into their life. They call it “bird sipping” - meaning that one trods as a bird. They eat like a bird. They only eat raw live seeds and fruit and nuts that don't have to be cooked. And even in the vitamix era it's easy to go that way.”

Going 100% raw

“Not yet. But that is an aspiration. It is something that comes with your environment. Your whole livity has to be conducive to it. You have to be where food is growing so that you have access. When you live in a city it is not as easy to eat raw. You’d probably end up spending a lot, paying somebody else to prepare your raw food. But yes, that is an aspiration.”

You have to make sure that you are eating well

Whether she would bring her own chef on the road one day

“That is definitely an aspiration. Not even to say they're coming as a chef but just bringing more of the community on the road. Because there are talented people. Some of them do other things, some are musicians, some of them are yoga teachers but that is how they eat. So it's not as though they are raw food chefs but it makes it easier, because then the mind-set is that way we shop. We're asking for a lot of things that are probably harder to find so they will sort it for us when we come if they're in the dressing room. We'll have some nuts and some almond milk!”

The difficulties of finding the right food on the road

“It doesn't happen a lot these days but it has happened where the food at the show… I just can't have it. But I would never show up somewhere and not have something to eat. I might not get to have a whole meal but I will definitely have something to eat. I will be able to find something but I won't be able to have what they have provided.

But I find that less and less now because of the great relationships I have with the agents that are working on my behalf. That is something that I'm very, very clear about. The things we ask for on a rider would be different from somebody else.”

The best food she’s found outside Jamaica

“It was a fruit that did it for me! They have these peaches in Spain that are flat doughnut peaches? The first time I had that was like "Oh my gosh! There's a fruit in foreign that taste good!" I don't really like a lot of the winter fruits but those were delicious.

Italian cooking is something special too. The way Italians prepare