Remembering Natasja

October 19, 2009

Photos by Martei Korley, Words by DJ Gravy and Martei Korley

Throughout the 1980’s, we saw the rise of Reggae music on an international level. More Jamaican artists than ever were touring and selling records around the globe. Black Uhuru won the 1st Reggae Grammy, Yellowman popularized deejay style toasting, and Bob Marley’s posthumous release of “Legend” became one of the best selling albums of all time. On the flip side of this phenomenon, were the rise of non Jamaican Reggae artists like the British deejay, Dominick, U.S. based roots band, Blue Riddim, and in the early 90’s, the Canadian artist, Snow, whose tune “Informer” was a huge pop chart topper.

These days, some the biggest new “chunes” in Reggae have been from non Jamaicans like the Bermudan Collie Buddz, Gentleman from Germany, the Sicilian Dread Alborosie and several more like Khari Kill and Marlon Asher from Trinidad.

Natasja Saad was a Danish-Sudanese Reggae artist who at the tender age of thirteen began honing her deejay style on Copenhagen’s Sky Juice Sound System. When the selector Supamikes invited the young Natasja to test the mic it was a wrap. Only three years later she was featured in a remix of Junior Reid’s ‘Action Speaks Louder than Words”.
Natasja and her friend, the singer Karen Mukupa, joined forces and created the group No Name Requested.

Early on the group saw moderate success and went on to collaborate with Bass and Trouble, and Phase5. No Name requested a split when Natasja an Karen both launched solo careers. Natasja began a string of collaborations w several producers, notably Phase 5 and DJ Pharfar focusing on dancehall and HipHop. Her lyrics, sometimes in Danish and sometimes in Jamaican Patois, secured her notoriety w Danish Reggae/Dancehall and Hip Hop fans. In addition to riding riddims Natasja was a professional jockey and trainer who was responsible for training thoroughbreds for the Danish Off-Track betting circuit. She participated in many races and competed as the first female jockey ever in a professional race in the Sudan. Which she won, of course, allegedly on a horse which previously belonged to Osama Bin Laden.
In May, 2006, Natasja was the first non Jamaican ever to win 1st place out of 700 contestants and 12 finalists in The “Irie FM Big Break Contest”.

Jamaican people generally love seeing the influence their music and culture has abroad, yet, acceptance as a bona fide Reggae artist coming from other countries can be tough. The type of forwards Natasja received from the Jamaican crowds are a testament to her success in accomplishing a difficult goal that few can pull off. (Check video clip!)

In her acceptance speech, her love for the island of Jamaica is undeniably sincere and heartfelt. She worked with super producers like Sly and Robbie and was on her way to huge things. Tragically, June 24th, 2007, her life was cut short at the age of 32, when she was in a fatal car accident in Spanish Town, Jamaica. Her tune, “Calabria”, with DJ Enur is still one of the biggest songs in Pop and Dance music markets, clubs and radio stations around the world.

Since the tragedy, a documentary about Natasja has followed. A memorial album is in the works and a foundation has been set up in her name to help emerging musical artists in Denmark.

What stands out the most about Natasja, to those who know her, is that her talent was only overshadowed by her kindness and compassion.