Sister Carol: roots warrior

Unsung Heroes

Observer senior writer

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

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This is the final in the Jamaica Observer's Reggae Month series saluting some of the music's unsung heroes.

IN a 1999 interview to promote her album, Isis — The Original Rasta Womb-man , Sister Carol addressed topics some of her peers in the reggae community considered taboo.

She told the website that, “When I refer to myself, I am I-SIS. So is a twofold tribute, ya know. And there are other issues that I cover on this album, as well. HIV — the importance of safe sex. Police brutality. Love relationships. Political empowerment by the people of government, ya know different things. Talking about herbal healing, where you have a herb-a-physical. Giving you different herbal remedies for different illnesses. So we are covering a lot of different topics.”

Born Carol East in Kingston and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Sister Carol is one of roots-reggae's true standard-bearers. She has built a career big on talent and resilience, boasting a touring schedule on par with veteran road warriors like Burning Spear, Culture and Israel Vibration.

That career took off in the 1980s, a decade when the female artiste came of age in reggae. While Sister Nancy, Lady G and JC Lodge held the fort in Jamaica, Sister Carol quietly called the shots in the United States.

Her rise was driven by a succession of quality albums such as 1984's Black Cinderella and Jah Disciple, released five years later. Like Spear, Culture and Israel Vibration, Sister Carol's music was channelled through independent companies including RAS Records from Washington, DC and Heartbeat Records out of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Because those labels had strong networks on the US west coast and Pacific Northwest, Sister Carol developed a lasting fan base in those regions, especially in California, Arizona and Nevada.

Interestingly, one of Sister Carol's admirers was the movie director Jonathan Demme. He gave her small roles in a few of his movies, S omething Wild and Married To The Mob and the 2008 movie, Rachel Getting Married, which starred Anne Hathaway.

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