Toppa Top 15: Edward Seaga Selects 15 Jamaican Music Classics

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15. Etana, “Roots”

Strongly influenced by R&B, Shauna McKenzie was once a member of an R&B girl group called Gift, based in America (where she lived for a long time) and created by Universal Music. This period of time, in the early 2000s, would be extremely short-lived as she would soon quit the group. From that point, she moved back to Jamaica from Miami.

Later, in 2005, a meeting had been set up for Shauna by a friend at Fifth Element Records, a modern roots-oriented label which after four years of existence was now successful with a string of hits for Richie Spice and Chuck Fender. After some pulling and prodding, she reluctantly started working with them, recording music, singing background, touring with Richie Spice for a year and getting noticed for her vocals. However, after Fifth Element was shut down, Shauna pressed on and started her own label and management company, Free Mind Music. She had now taken on the Swahili name Etana, meaning ‘the strong one,’ and began working with various producers to launch her solo career.

Etana traveled the Caribbean circuit as well as America and even Africa (where she got her greatest reception) to promote her music. In time, she managed to amass number one hit songs on the reggae charts of the UK, the US, and throughout the Caribbean, all at the same time. Among the hits that were now part of her 2008 debut album The Strong One, was “Roots,” a defiant, conscious blast against the wickedness and evil of the world. “Roots,” produced by veteran producer and former Tom Tom Club member Steven Stanley and released on Free Mind Music, served as a source of inspiration for Jamaicans of all generations, and came at a time when it would appear to be needed most.

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