Tanya Stephens – the songwriter extraordinaire
Singer Tanya Stephens (left) receives a JamaicaReggae Industry Association (JaRIA) Award for herwork as a songwriter from JN Bank's Petal James at aceremony held at the National Indoor Sports Centre inKingston in 2019. (Photo: Observer file)

This is the 13th in the Jamaica Observer's Entertainment Desk's series for Reggae Month titled Princess Black.

NOTABLE music insider Clyde McKenzie label s singjay Tanya Stephens among the greatest local songwriters and lyricists.

“I don't think [the word] brilliant does sufficient justice to her writing skills. She's absolutely amazing! The way she can caption a mood…and idea and put in a song is just remarkable,” he told the Jamaica Observer.

In 2019 the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA) honoured Stephens for her contribution to the reggae industry as a songwriter.

Weeks before the ceremony Stephens told the Jamaica Observer that she wasn't a fan of awards and award shows, but felt she would be a hypocrite had she not accepted this one which recognises her songwriting skills. It is an element of the music industry for which she has advocated for improvement over the years.

“I am really happy for this one. Over the years I have always advocated for artistes to invest more in songwriting. I usually brush these things aside but if I did this time, it would be like I am going against what I have always stood for. If I can use this as an opportunity to inspire future artistes or even the young ones in the business at this time, then it would be worth a lot,” she said.

She is known for hits such as Nuh Ready Fi Dis Yet, It's a Pity, These Streets, Boom Wuk, What's your Story, Pon Di Side and After You.

Stephens writes not only for herself. Her signature is on the track Spread Love, which was featured on Etana's Grammy-nominated album Reggae Forever. She also writes for artistes outside of Jamaica.

“I am really proud of the song Rock The Cradle which I wrote for Sanne Salomonsen from Denmark. In addition to the fact that she can sing, when I listened back to the track I have to ask myself, 'A me really write that?' ”

Meanwhile, McKenzie said he encourages lyrical writing among local artistes because it creates another stream of income and helps them to create a legacy for themselves.

“There are some people whose gifts are in songwriting. The fact is, if you're a songwriter and performer you're at an advantage. There are instances in which your songs might be the leader of you. It might go ahead of you. Somebody like John Holt with Tide is High for example, and [Bob] Marley before he became mega star with I Shot The Sheriff. When people cover your songs it creates an additional stream of income. If you have great writing skills yes, by all means it's a profitable stream. When records stop selling you're still earning…people sampling. When you're [as] good a songwriter as Tanya, you can write for others. Your career has many lives. If you ask about some of the great songwriters, she's definitely up there with them,”he said.

BY KEDIESHA PERRY Observer writer

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