Written by B87FM on November 15, 2019
Think of Etana as reggae’s Jill Scott: She’s a Jamaican soul singer with a voice that’s rich, robust and saturated in the right kind of buoyancy — sage but never preachy.
While Etana’s vintage style of socially conscious reggae seems like a reaction to all the sex and violence in dancehall reggae, her journey back to roots music began as a reaction to the hedonistic side of R&B. Born in Kingston, Jamaica, Etana — a Swahili name for “the strong one” –was still known as Shauna McKenzie and living in Florida when she left the nursing program she was attending at college to join the R&B group Gift. Signed to a major label, the band was shooting its first, big-budget video, but Etana was troubled by the lingerie outfits they were required to wear and walked away from the group with plans to return to her homeland to open an Internet café. Back in Jamaica, the call of music was too strong, and she soon joined Richie Spice’s group as a backup singer.
In 2007, she recorded the track “Wrong Address” with some other members of Spice’s group and it quickly rose to number one on the Jamaican charts. The track landed on Etana’s debut, the 2008 VP records release The Strong One, which also featured the hits “I Am Not Afraid” and “Roots.” In 2011 she returned with the single “People Talk,” along with the album Free Expressions. Recorded at Kingston’s legendary Tuff Gong studios, her third album, Better Tomorrow, followed in 2013.
Etana continues her forward movement becoming the first female to achieve a Reggae Billboard #1 in seventeen years with I Rise, album produced by Jamaican luminary Clive Hunt (Peter Tosh, Rolling Stones, The Wailers, Chaka Khan, Grace Jones, Jimmy Cliff). The album reflects the singer’s ongoing maturity while maintaining the R&B-inflected take on reggae that she’s come to be known for, showcasing the diversity of a true musical Renaissance woman. “Trigger,” which tells the story of an educated but underemployed young man driven to desperate measures in order to take care of his cancer-stricken mother, is the album’s lead single and a follow up of sorts to “Wrong Address.” On the complete opposite spectrum is the album’s second single “Richest Girl,” a reggae love ballad with sweeping strings and jazzy horns over a classic one-drop riddim. “I RISE” is classified as Etana’s best album to date by many and listed as the number one album of 2014 and also in the top five of thirty albums that were released in said year.
Inspiring others is nothing new forEtana. From the outset of her career with “Wrong Address”—a track which led many to re-evaluate how they look at others from different socio-economic backgrounds—she has been instigating change. Four albums into her career, Etana has become a role model in Jamaica with her message and action. Etana has used her success in music to create a charity organization in Jamaica “Strong One Foundation” where she helps teenage mother’s and girls who’s been abused to receive counseling, regain strength and financial support to continue their education. Etana has also continued touring since the release of her I Rise album and is currently in studio recording her fifth studio album.
- Real Name: Shauna McKenzie
- Birthday: May 22, 1984
- How Old : Age: 35 years old
- Place of Birth: Kingston, Jamaica
- Zodiac Sign: Gemini
Etana has released her latest body of work, an eight-track EP entitled Dimensions. She explained its title and issues covered on the set. “It’s called Dimensions for a reason… It’s a collection of moods. There are so many sides to me musically and I wanted to share some more,” she said. “The EP has love songs, message songs, and touches a little bit on marijuana,” she continued. Dimensions will be officially released on November 8 on the Freemind Music/Zojak World Wide imprint. However, it will be available for pre-order tomorrow on all streaming platforms. While keeping reggae at the root, Etana brings a blend of genres and sounds, aided by powerful live instruments. The EP includes: the one drop-esque Long Draw; the soulful Rock My Body and Love Is Us. Two versions of the track One More Time are featured, with Beenie Man and Pressure Buss Pipe on one version each. Titles Mended Love, The One, and Stop It are also on the set.