IKAYA: Writing Her Name across Many Hearts

The reggae music industry is heavily male-dominated.  Throughout the years female artists like Judy Mowatt, Marcia Griffiths, Rita Marley and Carline Davis are among the very few that became “household” names.  Today there is a new group of female artists who have kicked the door wide open. Artists like Alaine Laughton –stage name Alaine, Ventrice Morgan – stage name Queen Ifrica, Shauna McKenzie – stage name Etana, Tessanne Chin and Cherine Anderson are writing their own story in reggae music. One such artist that jumps out of the bunch is a singer who I heard for the very first time 2013 when I hosted a Friday afternoon reggae show in Tampa, Florida. Her name is Kadian Blair – sage name Ikaya.

IKAYA
IKAYA

Ikaya stands out among a small group of female reggae artist and song writers who can really sing. Not women who have to purr seductively over highly syncopated tracks and auto tune – as writer Patricia Smith once note – “who writes checks with advance hype that their voices couldn’t possible cash”.   There is no screeching and snarling in her rhythms. There is no over sampling to attempt to hide anything in her voice. What she delivers is what you hear – all natural, all hers. Her songs come from the heart – odes of love and life.
Ikaya was born Kadian Blair in the heart of one Kingston’s “tough zone” called Waterhouse (also the birthplace Jamaica’s multi-Olympic gold medal winner – Shelly Ann Frazer). It is said that her parents (which include the man we call coach – Hugh “Bingy” Blair) loved R & B and classic reggae music. As a result, Ikaya began discovering her talent at the tender age of 4 – while auditioning for her pre-school choir. As a teenager she performed at various small venues and soon ventured out while still in high school with a group called B2K.  In 2001 she was introduced to the popular reggae artist Clifton Bailey – stage name Capleton, aka the Fire Man. She became a background vocalist and later opening act for Capleton – accompanying him on several world-wide tours.  She also had the opportunity to collaborate with him on one of his mega hits – a track call “Fire”.
While some might reference the influence of R & B and Dancehall music on her reggae style as “old school”, I simply call it original. It is original because it was R & B, American Jump Blues and Dancehall music combined with the African Kette drums that gave us reggae. Reggae music has its roots in the original sound system/dancehall culture – the culture of King Edwards the Giant, Duke Reid the Trojan, Count Bells the President and many others.
Today her extended list of hit singles includes enough songs for three albums. Her 2016 “Ugly Girl” and accompanying video had many in and out of the entertainment industry talking. Another 2016 hit “Love Note” is still in regular rotation on kingston12.net, and reggae formatted, digital stations throughout the world.  Other hit single include “My Man” (2015), “Write Your Name” (2010), “Broken Wings” (2013) and “Stuck in the Middle” (2016). Ikaya is a multi-talented artist with talents that include rapping/DJ which she demonstrated on two of her songs “Fly Away” and “Ain’t Giving Up”.

Her debut studio album is now past overdue, but it is in the works. She continues to write songs and record tracks for her first album –slow and deliberate like a painter doing the master piece that he/she knows will define his/her life. The album is not yet titled.  She anticipates that this album will show everyone what many of us already know – that she is a master of her craft. As she explain “All of me, my life, my experiences, love, family, friends and my surroundings. It’s an expression of my versatility compiled on one CD. My greatest joy will be that my fans and friends appreciate and have fun with it!”
Ikaya has been recognized for her early contributions to the reggae music industry with a “Best New Artist”, “Best Music Video and “Female Artists of the Year” awards. She continues to be in demand for the big shows and reggae music festivals as word of her talent gets around. She has performed for Reggae Sumfest (Jamaica), Sting (Jamaica), Jamaica Day (Canada), Reggae and R &B festival (New York) and most recently – the Grace Food & Music Festival (Washington).

2016 Top 50 Reggae Songs

Kingston12's Top Fifty (50) Reggae Songs for 2016

2016 Top 50 Reggae Songs

Song Title Artist    Label

 
Rise Up (Ft. Taffari)                              Anthony B                                            Minor7Flat5
Stay With Me                                            Ashli Jade                                            HeavyBeat
Wake Me Up (Reggae Remix)          Avicii                                                       Avici Music AB
Unstoppable (ft, Akon)                          Beenie Man                                       357 Records/VPAL
One Life to Live (Dub Re-mastered)    Beres Hammond                     FM Records
Is This Love (Montmartre Remix)              Bob Marley                            Island Def Jam
On My Way Home (ft. R. Valentine)        Cali P                                           Hemp Higher/Flash Hit
Memories                                                          Chevaughn                                Frankie Music/VPAL
No Pressure                                                         Clay                                         Countrybus Music
Espionage                                                              Clay                                         Countrybus Music
Steal My Girl                                                        Da’ville                                   O Thomas
Nail Pon Cross                                                    Damian Marley                 Republic Records
High & Dry (ft. Morgan Heritage)           Easy Star All-Stars           Easy Star Records
True To My Roots                                  Freddie McGregor                      Big Ship Music/VPAL
I Only Have Eyes For You (12” Mix)        Frederica Tibbs                Derek Fevrier
Natural Vibration (ft. J. Boog)                    Gappy Ranks                      Hot Coffee Music
Ride out Your Storm                                        George Nooks                   Tad’s Record
Mama Roots (ft. J. Boog)                              The Green                              TheGreen808
Love Note                                                              Ikaya                                        VP Music Group
Sweet Love                                                           J Boog                                      Washhouse Music
Telephone Love                                                  Jah Cure                                 VP Music Group
Who’s That Sound?(ft.Beres Hammond)  Kirkledove                       VP Music Group
Cold Water (Reggae mix)                              Major Lazar                         Mad Decent
Change The World                                            Mikey Spice                         Upstairs Music
Dancehall (ft. Mr. Williams)                     The Movement                      Rootfire Cooperative
Honorable                                                           New Kingston                       OurVinyl TV
Me & You                                                       Omari Banks                         Big Banko Music/VPAL
Red Rose                                                            Pressure Busspipe               Jalpo/Busspipe
Live Your Life (ft. J Boog/Busy Signal)    Raging Fyah                       Dub Rockers
Why Can’t You Love (ft. Spawnbreezie)    Rebel Souljahz              Rebel Music
This Train                                                                     Richie Spice                    Tad’s Record
Dance (ft. Mr. Easy & Dean Fraser)              Ricky Blaze                     FME Recordings
Photograph                                                                Sadiki                                 Skinny Boy Records
Rejoice (feat. Jah9)                                                Sara Lugo                        Oneness Records
That Love (ft. Alkaline)                                        Shaggy                              K. Licious Music Group
I Got You (ft. Jovi Rockwell)                             Shaggy                              Sony Music
Days Like Dese (ft.Dexta Dapps)[2015]  Sotto Bless                      Idi Welch AKA Sotto B
Shanty Town (ft. Busy Signal)         Sugar Roy/The Fireball Crew     Fire Ball Records
Date Night                                                 Bobby Hustle                            Giddimani Records
Girl On The Side                                    Ce’Cile                                           Creative Noize Records
There She Goes (ft. Jimmy Cozier)         Gyptian                             Diamond League UPT
Hold On                                                     Randy Valentine                        Maximum Sound
One Minute                                            Dexta Daps                               Chimney/21st Hapilos
Freedom Fighter                                  Bugle                                            Live MB Music/
Keep My Kool                                        Influential                                  Hungry Mouth
True Love                                                  Luckie D                                     FM Records
Goodbye to Love (Re-mastered)     Maxi Priest                          FM Records
Don’t Know How Much                        Beres Hammond              FM Records
Smile Jamaica                                             Chronixx                               Silly Walks Discotheque
Whisper In The Wind                            Dalton Harris                      Silly Walks Discotheque

Giants Behind the Music: Prince Buster

Prince Buster (Cecil Bustamante Campbell) was born in Kingston, Jamaica on May 24, 1938. His work as song-writer and produce during the Ska and Rock-Steady era has made him one of the giant figures of Jamaican music. This work has earned him an Order of Distinction (OD) honor from the Jamaican government. This honor is conferred upon citizens of Jamaica who have rendered outstanding and important service to Jamaica. His body of work as producer is said to have “influenced and shaped the course of Jamaican contemporary music and created a legacy of work that later reggae and ska artists would draw upon”.
Prince Buster, like many Jamaican artist of the time, gained his earliest musical experience from the church. He began performing around Kingston at the “social clubs” as a teenager, and became part of a dance group that performed at the Glass Bucket Club, one of the premier music venues in Kingston at the time. He later joined the crew of “Tom the Great Sabastian”, one of the early sound systems that imported music from the United States – mostly New Orleans. Buster later went on to work with the music legend – Clement “Coxsone” Dodd, the founder of the great Studio One.
His many jobs with Studio One enabled him to learn all the important aspects of both the music and the sound system business. He started his own sound system – named The Voice of the People, and became one of the main rivals of Clement Dodd’s “Sir Coxsone’s Downbeat”. In 1961 Prince Buster started his first record label in the heart of downtown Kingston. That same year he joined forces with drummer Arkland “Drumbago” Parks, guitarist Jah Jerry and Alpha Boys School graduate, Rico Rodriquez (whom he knew from his days at the Baby Grand Club) to release his first record – titled Little Honey backed by an instrumental called Luke Lane Shuffle. That was followed up with recording of the now famous – Oh Carolina by the Folks Brothers. This song is credited with the introduction of Nyabingi Rastafarian drumming and influences in main stream Jamaican music. The song was released on the Blue Beat label in England and went on to become one of the first influential Ska songs released outside Jamaica.
In the 1960s, Prince Buster went on to release several local hits with artists like Alton Ellis on this Wild Bells Label. Among the Ska hits were Wash Wash –which charted in England and Madness which started a kind of Ska revolution around the world. At the end of the late 1960s, after meeting the world heavyweight champion – Muhammad Ali, Prince Buster decided to join the Nation of Islam. He did not walk away from the music business however, and continued to release several rock-steady hits. His song – Al Capone charted at number 18 in the United Kingdom in 1967.Over the years he has had a few cameo roles in movies including The Harder They Come – in which he played a club DJ.
Prince Buster continued to influence Ska revivals in the 1970s and 80s. It is said that the Ska revival of the late 1970s began with the British 2-Tone label’s introduction of his music to a new generation of listeners – some of who were not even born when he was popular in the UK. In 1979 the band Madness released their first single on 2-Tone, a tribute to Buster called “The Prince”. The B-side was a cover of the Prince Buster’s hit song “Madness” from which they took their name. Their second single, released on the Stiff label (“The Prince” was the only single released by Madness on the 2-Tone label), was a cover of Buster’s  “One Step Beyond”, which reached the UK Top 10.
On their self-titled debut album, The Specials covered “Too Hot” and borrowed elements from Campbell’s “Judge Dread” (in the song “Stupid Marriage”) and “Al Capone” (in the song “Gangsters”). The Specials also included a cover of “Enjoy Yourself” on their second album More Specials. The Beat covered “Rough Rider” and “Whine & Grine” on their album I Just Can’t Stop It. Campbell’s song “Hard Man Fe Dead” was covered by the U.S. ska band The Toasters on their 1996 album 2 Tone Army
Prince Buster presently reside in South Florida.