Jah'Mila shows reggae's roots

'REGGAE Roots', a three-day event featuring Jamaican singer Jah'Mila Smith and the National Arts Centre Orchestra of Canada, starts tomorrow at Southam Hall in Ottawa.

Jah'Mila, who is based in Halifax, Nova Scotia, will perform interpretations of dancehall/reggae songs with the 55-member orchestra, led by conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser.

Their audience will comprise members of the Ottawa student community.

It is the latest venture between Jah'Mila and Bartholomew-Poyser, who she first met in 2018 at the Music Nova Scotia's 'Orchestrated Neighbors' initiative, which showcased diverse cultures in the province of Nova Scotia.

Her other projects with him were in August 2019 and February 2020 with Symphony Nova Scotia. Shortly after, they formulated the Reggae Roots Educational Program to introduce youth to Jamaican music.

"It is always a pleasure to work with Daniel and to learn from him. He has a discipline and a focus that inspires me to show up authentically and excellently every time we collaborate," said Jah'Mila, who is also Reggae Roots's associate artistic director and lead author of its pedagogical guide.

She and the National Arts Centre Orchestra will perform songs such as Bob Marley's One Love, Johnny Was, and Concrete Jungle; Judy Mowatt's Black Woman; I Feel Good by Beres Hammond; Bam Bam by Sister Nancy; and Chant Their Names, a song from Jah'Mila's album Roots Girl, which was released in November.

Jah'Mila is the daughter of Earl "Chinna" Smith, the famed guitarist who has played on countless albums and songs by elite acts including Bob Marley, Dennis Brown, Burning Spear and Lauryn Hill. He also played on Roots Girl.

She developed her sound as a harmony singer for acts such as The Wailers, Black Uhuru, Cherine Anderson, and The Congos. In 2016 she made her solo debut with the song, Reggae Got Soul.

Since 2015 Jah'Mila has lived in Nova Scotia. It is her wish that Reggae Roots come to Jamaica.

"I hope it will serve as a prototype for similar initiatives in other places around the world, especially in Jamaica. As the younger generations in Jamaica turn their attention away from their roots, and toward the more current and popular music, a big piece of our history and legacy is at risk of becoming obscure and/or diluted," she said. "This Reggae Roots programme can help to preserve this history in a way that no other programme has done before."

Howard Campbell

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