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QUEEN IFRICA (6461 hits)

Since the 1960s, the Rastafarian way of life has provided the cultural
depth that makes reggae unlike any other popular music. Rastafarians
have expressed their adherence to a disciplined diet, allegiance to an
African homeland and especially the exaltation of Ethiopian Emperor
Haile Selassie I as the Messiah in many of reggae’s most memorable
songs. But the Rastafarian female voice is rarely heard in reggae and
even scarcer is the Rastafarian female artist who possesses a repertoire
of hits appealing to traditional reggae fans and dancehall devotees
alike. Staking her claim towards obliterating Jamaican music’s
longstanding gender determined restrictions is sing-jay Queen Ifrica whose stirring mix of spiritually
empowering anthems, lover’s rock tunes and searing social commentaries are featured on her much anticipated,
dynamic debut for VP Records, “Montego Bay”,
Born Ventrice Morgan on March 25, 1975, Queen Ifrica was raised by her mother and stepfather, as well as a
supportive Rastafarian community in Jamaica’s resort capital Montego Bay. “The name Ifrica was given to me
by my mom; she and my step dad were of the Rastafarian faith and that is where my real cultural awareness
comes from,” she reveals. Ifrica was in her 20s before she really got to know her father, pioneering ska singer
Derrick Morgan, but the two enjoy a close relationship today. “We have a serious connection and we don’t miss
the fact that we didn’t know each other for that period,” Ifrica explains. “Sometimes he gives me advice on how
to get my melodies people friendly and it is appreciated because he is from where the music began.”
Queen Ifrica initially attracted attention when she outshone the other contestants at a1995 talent contest held at
Montego Bay’s Club Inferno. But it was an auspicious December 1998 meeting with venerable cultural sing-jay
and producer Patrick “Tony Rebel” Barrett, following her performance at a concert honoring the late reggae
singer Garnet Silk, which provided Ifrica with a significant opportunity in the music business. Ifrica’s
performance of two Silk tunes so impressed Rebel (who had mentored the beloved Silk early in his career), he
offered to cultivate her talent through his Kingston based Flames Productions. “I saw the same qualities in that
performance I have seen in other males who became big stars including Garnet Silk,” comments Rebel, who
produced six of the thirteen songs on “Montego Bay”, several of which he co-wrote with Ifrica. “Over the years
I watched her develop into a fine artist.”
The Rebel presented the Queen at the January 1999 staging of his annual cultural reggae extravaganza Rebel
Salute and shortly thereafter she relocated to Kingston from Montego Bay to fully concentrate on her music.
Rebel drew from his enduring success in the business and hit filled catalogue (“If Jah”, “Sweet Jamaica”) and
supplied Ifrica with invaluable insights for refining her writing skills, liberating her vocal delivery and polishing
up her stage presence. “When I listen to songs I voiced back in the 90s, I wasn’t connecting with the words I
was singing but now I understand how to relax,” notes Ifrica. “To gain confidence as a performer Rebel said I
have to convince people of the story I am trying to tell. He told me to envision myself singing to thousands of
That vision has become a glorious reality as Queen Ifrica now commands audiences of thousands performing at
concerts in the United States, at European festivals and especially at stage shows across Jamaica where her
music’s ability to torch societal ills has earned her the affectionate moniker “Fyah Muma”. The breadth of
Queen Ifrica’s extraordinary writing talents and the unmistakable conviction that now characterizes her vocals
can be heard throughout “Montego Bay”.
The album opens with “T.T.P.N.C.” which stands for Tribute to The Pitfour Nyabinghi Center, located in
Montego Bay. The Rebel produced song honors the elders within the Rastafarian community where Ifrica was
raised. Several of those elders lend their reverential drumming and chanting to “T.T.P.N.C.” supporting Ifrica’s
rousing recitation of praises to the Most High and reinforcing the resolute Rastafarian female tenor that
distinguishes “Montego Bay” from the majority of reggae releases.
Despite its multitude of pristine beaches and opulent resorts Montego Bay is a city wracked by poverty,
violence and unemployment, however tourists are shielded from these grim realities in the confines of their allinclusive
hotels. The Queen duly voices her outrage at such glaring discrepancies on this dancehall styled title
track, also produced by Rebel: “Fya Muma blaze we have to represent, long time we a suffer let we make a
statement/ children nah have nowhere fi play, people fed up in every way, welcome to Montego Bay”.
The first single for the international market “Lioness on the Rise” was produced by Donovan Germain whose
label Penthouse Records played a significant role in Rebel’s early ‘90s career ascent. Sung over a luxuriant one
drop rhythm, Ifrica’s vocals assuredly deliver the call and response chorus that summarizes her music’s role in
uplifting her people: “You can call me by my name (I am ready to roll), once the rules remain the same (how
the story’s been told), call me any time (never cop out) a lioness is on the rise, don’t you ever have doubt”.
The lioness brings a 21st century edge to Rasta chanting traditions on “Yad the East” produced by Steve and
Adrian Locke and Victan Edmunds. Here Ifrica extols Haile Selassie I through street savvy rhymes chatted in a
guttural deejay style: “you never see Halie Selassie I a go hype yet, and the man neva big up wrongs over right
yet/Babylon said dem have the vision but them no sight yet/but if it a credit card dem ready fi go swipe it.”
The classic rhythm from the Rastafari anthem Satta Massagana is updated on Rebel’s production of “Coconut
Shell”, a celebration of the Rastafarian sacred herb, marijuana, with the Queen’s smoky delivery lingering in
your head like billowing clouds of sensimilla. Donovan Germain reworks another timeless rhythm, “Movie
Star” for his production of “Don’t Sign” which urges caution before making a decision, as Ifrica rightly warns:
“the fine print always have a secret code and it could hurt you down the road”.
The African inspired choral chants on “Calling Africa”, another Rebel production, fortify Ifrica’s words, which
underscore some of the maladies afflicting the motherland and what her children scattered throughout the
Diaspora must do to assist her. “A lot of genocide is taking place in Africa, whether it is through AIDs or the
situation in Dafur,” Ifrica declares, “and this song says we need to come together to do something and the
African leaders have a big role to play in directing us.”
Ifrica displays her romantic side over a mesmeric one-drop beat on the rapturously sung hit “Far Away”,
produced by Rickman Warren. She demonstrates even greater vocal diversity on another lovers rock tune “In
My Dreams”, produced by C. Hurst, where her quixotic husky tone is reminiscent of the iconic song stylist Nina
One of the biggest hits of Ifrica’s career “Daddy” courageously shines a light on the often-shunned topic of
paternal incest. Produced by Kemar “DJ Flava” McGregor, Ifrica’s deeply emotive approach vacillates between
the voice of a frightened child and the observations of an infuriated commentator determined to expose this
scourge on behalf of all abused children. Certain sectors within Jamaican society were so disturbed by
“Daddy’s” subject matter, they attempted to get the song banned but the masses embraced it and sent it to the
top of the charts. “I wanted corporate Jamaica to realize that if a society is engulfed by violence we have to look
at the homes where these violent tendencies are coming from,” remarks Ifrica who despite her hectic schedule
spends a great deal of time counseling abuse victims and other disadvantaged individuals through volunteer
community outreach programs. “When politicians want to win elections they run surveys to find out exactly
where the most violence is coming from; if they tried to break this problem down from that angle, we would get
more solutions.” A previously unreleased Spanish language version of “Daddy” over a Latin-reggae flavored
rhythm, produced by Rebel, is also included on “Montego Bay”.
Queen Ifrica’s continually defends the children through her music. Her 2008 hit “Keep It To Yourself”
produced by Donovan “Don Corleon” Bennett, finds the Fyah Muma blazing against the increasing atrocities
experienced by children in Jamaica and worldwide, and the corrupt forces unwilling to penalize such heinous
Jamaica’s spiraling gun violence, which affects all ages, is addressed in the Rebel produced “Streets Are
Bloody”, a previously released tune is redone here acoustically as a heartfelt tribute to 20 year old Flames
engineer E’jon Peart who was killed at a Kingston dance when a Jamaican soldier opened fire on an
unsuspecting crowd.
It takes an exceptionally sophisticated writer to translate topics as solemn as incest, random violence and abject
poverty into hit songs; scarcer still is the artist whose uncompromised opinions posit possible answers to these
social disorders. Queen Ifrica achieves that rarefied balance throughout “Montego Bay” and the strikingly
complex Rastafarian female voice she brings to reggae is certain to engage the uninitiated as well as the
seasoned fan.
“I want people who hear this record to understand what my aspirations are for this world.” she discloses, “All
that effort we put towards dispute support we can put towards solution support.”
A lioness is on the rise, don’t you ever have doubt.
Posted By: Daniel Moss
Monday, June 15th 2009 at 3:52PM
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