Once in a while, the world is gifted with a powerful, soulful and unique voice of the people. The ever-so-talented songstress Etana “The Strong One” has emerged as this entity, representing one of Reggae music’s newest faces. Boasting a flawless soul-soaked voice, in just a few years, Etana has captivated and inspired following of dedicated fans. In addition to wooing listeners with her rich honey-laced vocals, Etana also proudly dons the hat of songwriter. The singer has boldly struck a chord with the masses, winning the hearts of the people song after song. Etana’s craft of developing Reggae music masterpieces spans beyond just a means of entertainment. Consistently, Etana addresses pressing issues in her music; just like the “The Strong One” translation of her name, Etana’s messages are a force to be reckoned with. Citing of oppression and injustices against all people, Etana never fails to motivate and inspire her audience. Although Etana’s music is often billed as “Roots Reggae,” her style undeniably transcends music genre and is also infused with hints of Jazz, Soul and R&B.
Born Shauna McKenzie in August Town, Jamaica, the only girl in a family of boys. From early on, Etana thrived for making music. Attending school in Jamaica until roughly 1992 and moving to Florida, education was always of great importance to the songstress. Whilst attending college to pursue a Nursing Degree, Etana’s passion for music quickly developed. She was especially interested in an innovative blend of music genre that she grew up on. Etana credits a wealth of artists for influencing her love of music, ranging from Reggae stars Bob Marley, Marcia Griffiths and Sizzla Kalongi to R&B crooners like Whitney Houston, Lauren Hill and Jill Scott, among others.
Before her solo debut, Etana took on many gigs. She landed a slot in the girl group “GIFT,” which was a brainchild of Universal Records. As fate had it, Etana did not enjoy dressing in provocative attire to fit the direction of the ”GIFT” or better yet every girl group in the new millennium; because of this, after putting in a little time, Etana walked away from music completely and returned to Jamaica to open a business.
However, music was still Etana’s calling; she landed a stint as a backup singer for Richie Spice in 2005. After mesmerising the Fifth Element crew with her explosive vocals she provided background vocals to Richie Spice in a show in Los Angeles, this presented an opportunity for Etana; which resulted in performing for a solid year with the artist. Etana thoroughly enjoyed her time on tour with Richie Spice. ”I really loved the energy of Richie and the band,” says Etana. Fatefully, Etana started to create a buzz as a background vocalist — so much so that 5th Element management encouraged Etana to make a solo record. It took a while but eventually Etana recorded two songs: “Time” and “Wrong Address.”
Etana’s quest as a solo artist crafting positive music was fueled by a young girl who recited lyrics from one of her more racy songs. Embarrassed by this, Etana firmly believed that if she could sing a song with sound lyrics, she could utilise that very same energy to create music to uplift, educate and strengthen. From that point on, Etana embarked on her journey as a solo artist, determined to make music her way. Since then he has never looked back. “I always knew that a solo career was in my future,” says Etana when reflecting on her path. “I needed to deliver music that was straight from the heart, straight from the soul and straight from the people”.
“Wrong Address” was the song that formally introduced Etana to the massive in 2006. That year, the ground breaking single thrust Etana into the radar of the mostly dancehall Reggae music arena. “Wrong Address,” a thought-evoking and spirited single, brought a riveting fusion of Jazz and Reggae to the airwaves. The song received an overwhelming reception from Reggae music fans, resulting in heavy radio rotation in Jamaica and throughout the Caribbean. Notably, “Wrong Address” peaked at #1 on a number of Reggae music charts.
Basking in the success of this first single, Etana delivered another major hit, “Roots.” The powerful hook “You can’t water down and dilute” catapulted “Roots” to instant popularity. Truly, “Roots” became an anthem among Reggae music fans. With impeccable influences of African music, foundation Reggae and eloquent Jamaican patois, Etana had another gem on her hands. The videos for these first singles were also received well. Etana continued to exceed expectations with her music releases. Songs like “Warrior Love,” “I am not Afraid,” “Blessings” (ft. Alborosie), “Free” and countless others are just a snippet of Etana’s catalogue, which has steadily strengthened her position in Reggae music.
Driven for success, Etana took pride in delivering ground breaking Reggae music. Her musical efforts were centralized on her 2008 smash debut album and namesake “The Strong One” on VP Records. With loads of dynamic music, fans and critics adored “The Strong One” so much that the album and Etana took home numerous coveted awards over the past couple of years. In 2009 alone, Etana scouped the “Album of the Year” award at the International Reggae and World Music Awards (IRAWMA) in New York for her debut effort and at the Excellence in Music and Entertainment Awards (EME), among numerous other accolades.
Etana has been afforded with extensive visibility in 2009, performing in locations throughout the world, including an impressive performance at the Johannesburg 2009 Arts Alive Festival in Johannesburg, South Africa. Notably, for this performance, the soulful songstress was handpicked by the governments of Jamaica and South Africa. Other milestones include unforgettable sets at several high profile music festivals like Reggae Sumfest, Irie Jamboree and the Soul Beach Music Festival in Aruba – where Etana shared the stage with the likes of Jamie Foxx, Common and Robin Thicke. Clearly, this performance exposed Etana’s music to a diverse audience.
Etana’s single “August Town” is being heralded by fans as a great, thought provoking song. Like many of Etana’s efforts, ‘August Town’ tells of a real-life, recent situation that occurred in her community. ‘August Town’ launched in February 2011. Other tracks confirmed for her highly anticipated sophomore effort include “Free” and ‘Happy Heart’. One can expect great things from Etana with her new album set to launch later this year.
One can only expect great things from Etana, The Strong One; her new album ‘Reggae Forever’ via Tads Records is a 14 track album. The tone of the album is reggae; however it fuses genres such as soul, rhythm & blues, dancehall and lovers rock. The album is filled with uplifting messages of hope, unity, freedom, stories of relationships, self-love and tributes to Rastafari, all beautifully delivered with her soulful sultry voice as only she can.