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  • Writer's pictureSade Carthy

Happy Women’s Month: The Constant Evolution of Timeless Music

Review: From Marcia Griffiths and Millie Small to Shenseea and Moyann. The most prominent women in a male-dominated music industry

From Lest to Right: Jada Kingdom, Shenseea, Koffee, Spice

In keeping up with International Women’s Day, we celebrate our Jamaican female artists in music. As women, it is already hard surviving in a male-dominated industry. Over the decades, we have watched as music evolves constantly, broadening its scope to become a gender-neutral industry. This is so as our women have shown constantly that they too, can be just as talented, efficient and impactful.

Taking a trip down memory lane, we honor Jamaica's thriving talents in women empowerment. Since the introduction of the musical genres Ska alongside Reggae, the late 50s and early 60s were destined to shape Jamaica’s future in music.

Marcia Griffiths, receiving Red Stripe's 2023 Living Legend Award (GD Films)

Giving us hitmakers such as Marcia Griffiths, the ’60s was a time to be alive. Known for the hit single 'Smooth as a Mouse', Marcia’s contribution to music continued to expand effortlessly. Also known to be the most constant female hitmaker of Jamaica, Griffiths single-handedly remained the most consistent in making timeless music for Jamaican culture and was recognized for her longevity and contribution to reggae music by receiving Red Stripe's 2023 Living Legend Award at the Intimate concert.

We can’t discuss the 60’s without including the woman who had everyone feeling vivacious and alive. Millie Small, better known for her hit single 'My Boy Lollipop', had Jamaica in a chokehold with this perennial single. Known to be the first internationally successful female singer from Jamaica, Small continued to create endless hits imprinting her mark in Jamaican music.

Welcoming the good vibes and rocksteady music of the 70’s it is without a doubt that Rita Marley has to be the topic of conversation. Dominating the 70’s alongside husband and legend Bob Marley, Rita rose to stardom on hit single 'No Woman No Cry'. Forming 1 of three in the vocal harmony group I-Three alongside Marcia Griffiths and Judy Mowatt, Rita continued to stand out for her unique sound.

The era of Dancehall begins

Entering the rebel era Dancehall has been the most consistent genre of the decade in Jamaica’s musical history. Rising to high prominence in the 1980s, Dancehall created multiple subgenres with the biggest merger being Reggae and Dancehall producing the sound 'Ragga'.

The 1980’s was one for the books as we were introduced to a mastermind female MC known to Jamaica as Lady G. Coming in headstrong with a firm message, Lady G is best known for her single 'Nuff Respect'. Known to be a 'clash queen' it was unlikely that anyone would challenge her lyrical impact. Collaborating alongside Papa San for 'Legal Rights' and 'Round Table Talk', it was without a doubt that Lady G would be the staple and standard for female dancehall.

With Lady G setting the precedent for Dancehall the 90’s withheld its end of the bargain in maintaining the longevity of Dancehall music. We can't skip the 90's era without mentioning the one who is proclaimed as "one top female artists in Jamaica", Tanya Stevens who started her gallop to fame in the mid-90s and tightened it with her biggest hits, 'These Streets' and 'It's A Pity', both was released in the new millennium.

Riding the high tide, and taking the 2000’s by storm how can we not discuss the impact of Lady Saw. Formerly known as "The Queen of Dancehall", Lady Saw is the true definition of legends that never die.

She paved her way in the music industry from the early 90s, known for singles 'If him lef', 'I’ve got your man' and 'Heels on', Lady Saw was the first female deejay to be a Grammy-awarded artist from Jamaica. Known for her authentic, raw lyrics, Lady Saw has paved the way for many female artists in the music industry.

Riding into the new millennium

Whilst Lady Saw continued to dominate the 2000’s, in the 2010’s, the baton was passed to legendary Spice, whose name speaks for itself and describes exactly what she added to the industry. Known as "The Queen of Dancehall", Spice has been the most consistent female deejay of the decade still making a timeless sound to this day. Known for being featured on Vybz Kartel’s 2009 hit single 'Romping shop', as well as her 2013 single 'So mi like it', her longevity and strong influence on the dancehall industry speaks for itself as she continues to reign supreme amongst her contenders. Being the female gatekeeper of dancehall music, Spice has set the bar at an all-time high welcoming the new wave and faces of dancehall music.

With the evolution of Jamaican music and culture, we are now introduced to the new faces of successful women in Jamaican music. When we discuss the best summer yet, it is without a doubt that 2016 takes the title. Bringing on to the scene dominant faces such as Jada Kingdom who gave us beautiful singles such as 'Heavy', 'Gpp' and 'Win'. How can we forget the woman who always reminds us of our independence, Lady Shenseea? Holding down the fort and dominating the new age of the 2020’s, we salute our new generation of queens such as Koffee, Lila Ike, Stalk Ashley and Moyann and more.

These women are all of which, who have remained consistent in recent years expanding Jamaica’s international musical status spreading its culture worldwide. Although it is a rather male industry, the contribution of women to the history of Jamaican music is indisputable. In a month that is dedicated to women, we salute them and we thank our women who have contributed a vital part to Jamaica’s music and culture.

Shenseea, dominating the new era (Rickayla Mcneil, Kaboom Media)

Queen Lila Ike, One of the prominent names in the new era (Jamar Cleary)


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