Words by Jonathan Cunningham
There’s no shortage of women in reggae and dancehall willing to market themselves with slackness but spend a second listening to Etana‘s music and it’s immediately evident that she refuses to be one of them. The 27-year-old songstress continuously inspires listeners to perform at their best and cast negativity by the wayside. Much like the music of some of her personal role models–Marcia Griffiths, even early Whitney Houston–an uplifting message runs through all her material and –perhaps even more remarkably–it arrives in a form that can be embraced by youths and big people alike.
Making her grand entrance into the reggae arena with the release of her 2008 debut The Strong One, she grabbed listeners with her rich voice and ital lyrics on songs like “Roots,” “I am Not Afraid,” and the heartical anthem “Warrior Love.” If those fans have wondered why she’s been relatively quiet of late, it’s because she spent the bulk of 2010 working on her sophomore album, Free Expressions, which drops in February. Having already listened to it (thanks VP!) I can say that any Etana fan will appreciate her growth, not just as a songwriter but as an individual. Since the last record, she’s found love and gotten married, balancing the music game–and it shows. In conversation, she comes across happier than a fat kid in a room full of cake.
Earlier this month Etana quietly released a three-song EP entitled Free as a precursor to the full length that further showcases just how liberated her spirit truly is. The EP’s title track and the more upbeat rocker, “Mocking Bird,” quickly let you know she’s destined to win. Considering how inspirational many of Etana’s compositions can be, I recently checked in with the singer while she was at home in South Florida to see who she looks to for inspiration herself–and more specifically, which women around the world she admires. The answers might surprise you. That is unless you already knew how much Etana rated Barbra Streisand.