Singer Jah'Mila chants for change
Protesters demonstrate police brutality in front of Dallas City Hall in downtown Dallas on Saturday, May 30, 2020. Protests across the country have escalated over the death of George Floyd who died after being restrained by Minneapolis police officers on Memorial Day. (Photo: AP)

It was May 25, 2020 and footage of a monstrous crime made the rounds on mainstream and social media. A white police officer with his knee precariously pressed on a black man's neck in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

That black man, George Floyd, died. The incident triggered international outrage and among the millions angered was Canada-based roots singer Jah'Mila, who was inspired to write and record Chant Their Names, which is the lead single from Roots Girl, her first album. The eight-song set was released in early November by Leaf Music.

"Having seen the video of the killing of George Floyd was very upsetting to me. We have heard about atrocities like this for as long as I can remember, but never have I ever seen it captured on video. And so when I watched it, it really, really hurt my heart a lot. My friend Richard McNeil asked me if I would consider putting that hurt into a song and channel it into my music. I watched the whole video of George Floyd, and I didn't plan that I would have a song clearly, but that is how Chant Their Names came about," Jah'Mila told the Jamaica Observer.

Floyd is not the only 'martyr' that drives Chant Their Name which Smith describes as "a cry for change in a system that has failed the black community repeatedly".

Roots Girl also includes the title track and Sugar And Spice, the follow-up to Chant Their Names. The albums are laced with the roots-reggae flavour Jah'Mila Smith has favoured since her youth.

She 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 along with a number of Canadian musicians.

Jah'Mila 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, she has lived in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

Howard Campbell

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