Nina Simone

Multi-Grammy Award winner Stephen Marley is at the helm of a project aimed at shining reggae's light on the work of celebrated African American singer, musician, and songwriter Nina Simone.

Celebrating Nina: A Reggae Tribute to Nina Simone will be released Friday on the Ghetto Youths International label. The project will feature a number of women on the seven-track EP presenting Nina Simone's work with a reggae reinterpretation.

The lead single Four Women, reimagined with the vocals of conscious reggae songstress Queen Ifrica, was released last year. Marley's sister Cedella is also among the women on the project. She lends her voice to Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood.

“That song is very fitting for Cedella,” Marley shared in an interview with Billboard magazine. “As a strong woman in a man's world, she is misunderstood sometimes.”

Also part of this collection are Etana — Y oung, Gifted and Black; Canadian singer Melanie Fiona, who collaborated with Marley on No Cigarette Smoke, delivers Don't Explain; British singer Terri Walker voiced No Good Man; Joss Stone does Here Comes The Sun, which was originally recorded by The Beatles and remade by Nina Simone; and Maya Azucena covers Mr Bojangles.

Marley noted that he chose to work exclusively with female artistes on this project because “our queens deserve recognition as the mothers of creation. These are beautiful, strong women and their voices do Nina's work and reggae solid,” he told Billboard.

Dubbed the High Priestess of Soul, Nina Simone (given name Eunice Waymon) was an American singer, songwriter whose musical styles comprised classical, jazz, blues, folk, R&B, gospel, and pop.

Also a civil rights activist, she died on April 21, 2003 at 70.

This is not the first time Marley is repurposing the work of older artistes and using younger acts to offer a fresh take and introduce the music to a younger audience. In 1999, the younger members of the Marley clan brought together an impressive line-up of popular acts to re-record the music of their late father, reggae king Bob Marley.

A massive concert was held at James Bond Beach in St Mary and broadcast on American channel TNT to celebrate the project. Among the performers were: Lauryn Hill — Turn Your Lights Down Low, Erykah Badu — No More Trouble; Queen Latifah — Who the Cap Fit; Darius Rucker — War; Tracy Chapman — Three Little Birds; Ben Harper — Get Up Stand Up; Eve — Rat Race; and Busta Rhymes — Rastaman Chant.

Etana
Stephen Marley
Queen Ifrica
BY RICHARD JOHNSON Observer senior reporter johnson@jamaicaobserver.com

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