In 2006, Etana rose to prominence with her breakthrough song ‘Wrong Address’. The song was duly rewarded with heavy radio rotation, reaching the number one position on several Jamaican charts. Soon Etana continued to make impact with other songs like ‘Warrior Love’ and ‘Roots’, followed by the release of her critically acclaimed debut album ‘The Strong One’ in June 2008, on which she brilliantly fused acoustic folk strands with roots reggae cadences and strains of neo soul influences. For the past two years, Etana toured a lot whilst she kept on recording songs for her new album ‘Free Expressions’, which will be released by VP Records on February 7th, 2011.
The career path of Etana has been quite remarkable. She was born as Shauna McKenzie in 1983 and grew up in the community of August Town, the same community that reggae star Sizzla hails from. In 1992 Etana migrated with her mother to the U.S. with the intention of becoming a registered nurse, but destiny intervened. She left college in 2000 and joined a female vocal group named Gift. Universal Records was interested in Gift at the time so Etana reluctantly agreed to wear the skimpy outfits dictated by the music industry’s widespread stereotyping of female artists, but one day she could no longer conform and walked out.
Etana returned to Kingston with the intention of opening an internet café, but again destiny interceded. In 2005 a friend brought her to Kingston’s Fifth Element Records, then the management team of Richie Spice, who were enjoying great success with Spice’s single ‘Earth A Run Red’ and the album ‘Spice In Your Life’. Richie Spice was heavily booked for American and European tours and Etana auditioned to become one of his backup vocalists. She so impressed Spice’s management, she was immediately asked to accompany the Rastafarian singer on his tour dates and she agreed. Recognizing her immense talent, Fifth Element urged Etana to record her own songs, but because of her experiences with Gift, Etana wasn’t sure she wanted to pursue a career in music again. Following almost a year of their requests, she finally agreed. “I decided to give music another shot after being asked repeatedly to record one song, which was ‘Wrong Address'”, Etana explained. “After I figured out that I could do it my way and wear what I wanted to wear and sing what I wanted to sing, it wasn’t so hard.”
Etana followed the highly praised ‘Wrong Address’ with a spate of hits singles, each honoring her embracement of Rastafarian principles, adherence to a natural lifestyle, acknowledgement of the teachings of Marcus Garvey and Emperor Haile Selassie I and royal representations of women. Etana’s debut album ‘The Strong One’ garnered many awards including Album of the Year honors at the International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA) in New York City and at the Excellence in Music and Entertainment Awards (EME) in Kingston. Etana was also nominated as Best New Reggae Artist at London’s annual MOBO Awards in 2008.
Because Etana, whose name means ‘the strong one’, adamantly refuses to be constrained by approach or lyrical content, Etana has named her sophomore album ‘Free Expressions’. “This album was produced a little differently from the first, most of the sessions were less planned so there is more of a free vibe”, she explained. “I just wanted to express myself freely, write just what I want without thinking too hard about what anyone’s opinion would be, just doing music as I feel to do it.” A mesmerizing performer, ‘Free Expressions’ furthers Etana’s reputation as a skillful songwriter, she wrote twelve of the album’s total fifteen tracks and their lyrical sophistication, coupled with Etana’s dramatic deliveries, destroys any notion of the dreaded sophomore curse. “I feel more confident as a writer now than a few years back”, she shares, “because I am less concerned about what people think about certain subjects and certain points of view. I have learned that I can’t please everybody and for the most part, people are very happy with what they have been hearing.”
Two songs from the new album have already topped the charts in Jamaica and reggae charts internationally. ‘August Town’ was written in 2009 about an unwarranted police shooting on a community gathering in the area of Kingston where she was born and lived until quite recently. London based producer Curtis Lynch jnr. of Necessary Mayhem Records heightens Etana’s impassioned account of that tragedy with a heavy, dub-influenced riddim. ‘Free’, produced by Kemar ‘Flava’ McGregor, offers a somber reflection of a prolonged period of struggle endured by the artist. “While recording that song I had to go outside and catch my breath, then come back and do it again”, Etana recalls. “It brought me to tears. I wrote it when I was going through one of the toughest times in my life and I felt like it wouldn’t end.”
Besides the abovementioned tracks, the album ‘Free Expressions’ includes further productions with Curtis Lynch jnr. and Flava, including the singles ‘Heart Broken’, ‘Happy Heart’ and ‘Mocking Bird’, as well as songs produced by legendary engineer Stephen Stanley, Italian reggae artist Alborosie, Clifton ‘Specialist’ Dillon, Joel Chin and Rohan Dwyer.
- Mocking Bird
- People Talk
- Heart Broken
- I Know You Love Me
- I Got You
- Happy Heart
- My Name Is
- Move On
- August Town
- Day By Day
Here you can check the videos of a few tracks from the album: