Jah9 took the world by storm two years ago when she dropped her much anticipated debut album New Name. Since then she has put out a few singles, and now starts a new chapter – her first U.S. tour on February 4 to 8.
Reggae has never been huge in the U.S., even though Bob Marley sold well in the 70s and 80s. A few singles have also been successful on the charts and the latest one to climb high is Gyptian’s monster smash Hold You, released in 2010.
But away from the charts is an ongoing roots resurgence. It can be felt and heard both in the U.S. and Jamaica where artists such as Protoje and Chronixx have started making names for themselves. The most successful is definitely young Chronixx who graced The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon with Here Comes Trouble last July.
Janine “Jah9” Cunningham is also part of the reggae revival, or Rastafari movement as she puts it.
“This movement is Rastafari, and it is a resurgence of consciousness. It is not just in the music, it is in all forms of expression and the arts. All of the forms of the feminine which are no more dominant in our time and space, especially in this new age that we’re being ushered into. An age where the principals of the feminine, principles of self-conquering heart, principles of nurturing and care and love are more significant to us as a people than war and competition. That’s the essence of the movement,” explains Jah9.
More than music
It’s more than reggae. It’s more than music. And it’s more than Jamaica. It’s driven by certain Rastafari principals and ideals.
“Fortunately we as Jamaican youth have tapped into that current, and are using that to create and share the messages with the world,” she says.
And because it’s not merely about music, the success is built on the teachings of Rastafari, Bob Marley and Burning Spear; two artists that have made a tremendous impact around the world.
“They have always put Rastafari and principles of Marcus Garvey and knowledge of self and kind sustainable living and all of these things. They’ve always put them to the fore. Whatever their personal life entailed, when they were given an opportunity to speak they spoke on behalf of Rastafari, on behalf of consciousness, and I think that is we have also tapped into, what our message is resounding throughout the Earth,” explains Jah9.
Bringing the roots and culture
Jah9’s debut album New Name was highly praised when it came out. The set was produced by Rory Gilligan of Stone Love and has a sound far from the ordinary. It’s conscious, spiritual and has a smoky jazz vibe to it.
And now she’ll be performing her material live on her first U.S. tour. Between February 4 and 8 she visits Raleigh, Washington, New York City, Stowe and New Jersey.
“It’s a really good opportunity [to tour in the U.S.] because that is a market that reggae music made a significant impact in, but more of late Jamaican reggae music hasn’t really had an opportunity to shine in that space. So it feels really fitting to be able to bring the experience of roots and culture to the U.S. Especially because a few of the dates I will be there with my brothers, Midnite, so it’s a really good opportunity to really share a particularly poignant significant message of Rastafari and liberation in the U.S., especially at a time like this,” says Jah9.
Not just an entertainer
She says she tries not to have many expectations on the tour, but she has a clear aim – to give the U.S. East Coast an opportunity to see the culture of Rastafari. And as she’s a young Rastafari woman she also wants to kind of be an example.
“We bring elements of believity, that’s why I we’re calling it the dub-treatment rather than just ‘Jah9 coming to entertain ’. So it is really going to be more of an experience, a sharing, than just one entertaining event,” she says.
On several of the date she will support VI reggae trailblazers Midnite, her brothers as she calls them. She’s honoured to be able to perform along them and it will be the third time they share stage. Together they will create an experience rather than just a show.
“I think it is a great opportunity for healing and for growth and development of spirit. And I think the persons who come out will get an opportunity to be truly blessed. And even for us, our performance will also have an opportunity to share with each other and also be blessed,” she explains.
Spreading consciousness in 2015
Jah9 didn’t release much last year, but in October she dropped the single Revolution Lullaby, an unusual bright cut produced by Bregt Puraman and released in celebration of the crowning of Haile Selassie. This year seems to be different though and much is happening for Jah9 in 2015.
“Singles and new free download mixed tape, with information mixed with music, as well as another EP project with Rory Stonelove. Some of my own productions coming forward as well this year,” she reveals, and adds:
“There is also community activism through the dub treatment, through yoga and dub, through omega vibrations, projects which are specifically targeting women in particular. And hopefully this year we will be able to enter the South American markets and the continent of Africa in a real way with more than just entertainment, but with empowerment and crucial, crucial learning.”