Monday, July 20, 2009

'Queen Ifrica is a creative, life-enhancing individual '

From Kay Osborne

Jean, I’ve attached for your use a copy of my presentation at the launch of Queen Ifrica’s remarkable new album titled Montego Bay. Queen Ifrica is the talented artiste who last year sang the powerful anti-incest anthem, Daddy, which is on the Montego Bay album. Queen Ifrica is among the few dancehall artistes who have not succumbed to the lure of violent and explicit lyrics and instead writes and performs songs that empower and celebrate. Kay

This gathering serves a single purpose: To celebrate our Jamaican, Rastafarian, sister, mother, daughter, Queen…Ifrica and to thank her for dropping her sophomore album, titled Montego Bay which is also Queen Ifrica’s debut album for VP Records. Montego Bay is an awesome collection of sounds that showcases the inner workings of the mind and heart of a gifted songwriter, DJ, singer, performer, social commentator.

With this album, it is clear that this unique, woman-of-truth has something worthwhile to say and to contribute. Things are going on in societies all over the world that need urgent, lyrical intervention that Queen Ifrica delivers with authenticity and grace. This is why Queen Ifrica’s lyrics and riddims resonate inside our heads, penetrate our hearts and enrich our souls.

Derrick Morgan’s daughter, Ventrice, who is widely known as Queen Ifrica, began singing as a child. Later, a Club Inferno date became an important milestone. Still later, under maestro Tony Rebel’s guidance, Queen Ifrica and her collaborators have created the body of work that we celebrate this evening. In 2007 Queen Ifrica’s big hit, Below the Waist, foreshadowed what was to come. Last year, Queen Ifrica followed up with the musical tome, Daddy that earned our everlasting respect.

This evening, ladies and gentlemen, we are also here to give thanks and praise for Tony Rebel and others who have contributed enormously to this awesome, musical gift to the world titled, Montego Bay. The excellent production works of featured producers, Donovan Germain, Christopher Hurst, Donovan "Don Corleon" Bennett, Kemar McGregor, Adrian & Steve Locke, Rickman Warren, and the inimitable Tony Rebel.

On one level, "Montego Bay’s" opening nyahbingi drumming and chant T.T.P.N.C. is a reverent tribute to the Pitfour Nyahbinghi Center. The tune also foreshadows the musical feast that follows. When Queen Ifrica chants…The Lily of the Valley, This Bright and Morning Star, we are reminded of Queen Ifrica herself.
Help me Make wise the simple…
Let the words of I mouth
And the meditation of I heart be acceptable in thy sight….

Friends, Queen Ifrica’s words are indeed acceptable for they arise from a space that is pure in spirit; a spirit that is introspective, self aware, and, above all, supremely confident. The music pours forth from a heart that is gentle and compassionate, from lips that know tact, a soul that is emotionally honest and humane.

And so the lyrics and riddims merge with irony, solemnity, humor, all the time delivered with authority and sensitivity so we come to understand that a woman can at once be vulnerable and emotionally strong.

Ladies and gentlemen, By their works ye shall know them. What do these well known words mean? The phrase means that an artiste’s body of work reflects something essential about him or her. It is through his or her work that we come to know the creator of the work.

With Montego Bay it is clear that Queen Ifrica is a skilled and talented artiste. But she’s no mere artiste. Queen Ifrica is a creative, life-enhancing individual who is also an artiste.

When you relax and let Queen Ifrica’s music penetrate your consciousness, you come to realize that this beautiful sister has transcended self consciousness and has freed herself psychologically to draws inspiration from a wide range of sources that she transforms into something beautiful, no matter how ugly and repulsive the source material. By so doing, Queen Ifrica consistently brings something unique, original and beautiful into the world. This quality marks a psychologically whole person who has much to contribute.

As if this were not enough, Queen Ifrica’s music presents a paradox for she expresses the personal universally: She creates music that resonates with boundless meaning. Queen Ifrica’s music says to us that she is the kind of person on whom nothing is lost for she turns everything, good and bad, into something of value for the ultimate benefit of humanity.

By contrast, a large chunk of Jamaican music has degenerated into a dysfunctional performance culture that is characterized by narcissism, exhibitionism, hedonism, image-manipulation, image worship, where packaging is ranked over substance and the mere ability to attract attention is rewarded as a major achievement. The pursuit of excellence replaced by opportunism, grace and class subsumed by crass and coarse. In this scenario, everything is reduced to violent or sexualized denominators that are commoditized, packaged and sold to a youthful audience that no longer can distinguish between right and wrong, good and bad, delectable and vile.

The music operatives are less concerned with values and principles or the use of musical talents for the common good. The music serves to display personalities who claim their “specialness,” and are so revered, regardless of the devastating collateral damage.

Far too much of our music has come to serve disturbed scoundrels of both genders with calculated positions that corrupt, manipulate and seed chaos. Crude objectification of women is rationalized by academics who ought to know better. Children’s natural curiosity and innocence are warped by goal seeking perverts and predators who find refuge and support inside the music and transportation businesses and among communication practitioners whose main concern is to attract attention so the public can be sold something, anything.

This is why so much of our music has degenerated into what is slack, explicit, degrading, disrespectful, demeaning, exploitive, violent, stabbin’, daggerin’, murderin,’ with no redeeming quality. Yet, despite this chaotic milieu that threatens dominance, Queen Ifrica makes the conscious choice to forego the beguiling bling of the valley of the shadow of death. She chooses her culture path that reinforces her values that are informed by self love and high self regard.

From TTPNC to the Spanish version of Daddy, Queen Ifrica provides a musical feast that nourishes, challenges, empowers, seduces, even as it rocks and entertains. All aspects of the new album, the lyrics, vocals, backing, sound quality, production are marked by exquisite taste and quality.

Title track Montego Bay is extraordinary social commentary that is informed by the writer’s power of observation and courage.
The lyrics, riddim, vocals combine to one drop the stinking irony that is Montego Bay, the full hundred.

The repetitive Welcome to Montego Bay line mocks and deplores sin city’s exclusive wealth and white that’s juxtaposed against black and blight exclusion. In the end, Montego Bay is a universal lamentation for justice.

Coconut Shell is no ordinary herbalist anthem. It is a fresh and innovative Satta riddim that rocks herbalists and non-herbalists alike.

"Lioness On The Rise"
celebrates women but the astute songwriter is well aware that whenever rules change in the middle of the game, the lioness is harmed and so she may not rise. This is why the qualifier, Once the rules remain the same repeats and repeats for all who have ears to hear.

The deceptively simple love tune, "Far Away" is a deceptively celebrates seduction and feminine guile that men find irresistible. The tenderness, yearning, enticing, implicit promise….Notice that nothing is explicit yet everything is said.

Perhaps the good advice and professionalism in "Don't Sign" bears witness to a pattern of professionalism and wisdom that is passed down from one generation of musicians to another, from Derrick Morgan to Ventrice Morgan aka Queen Ifrica,, from Jimmy to Taurus Riley, Cat to Shya Coore, Lloyd Parks to Left Side, Denroy Morgan to Morgan Heritage, the Marleys all, Ibo to Ariff Cooper, Freddie McGregor and Judy Moyatt to Yashema McGregor, and to Steven and Chino McGregor, and among the Hammond family. This is an area of research that academics could contribute something worthwhile. Help us understand whether these generational relationships are predictors for professionalism and conscious riddims. Maybe they are, maybe not.

The Kemar McGregor produced, worldwide hit, Daddy is not just a lament and revelation. It is a call to action against malevolence and the culture of silence that abets it. With this song, the girl-child has come to know that she is as sick as her deepest secret and so she is compelled to tell on you - Daddy I swear…and so she finds healing and becomes whole with this bawling out. The story teller knows the secret power of words to heal and to bring freedom.
"Keep It To Yourself" is clever obfuscation. Why risk controversy and confusion when “don’t want no fish in me ital dish?” will do? Parables galore….I’ll leave it at that, except to say that the tune is not about vegetarianism as one analyst claims.

Solemn and sad Streets are Bloody reminds me of Simone and Makeba. Life, love and keep this life, don’t mistreat this life, is straight up Makeba….the superb guitar work reminds me of Clapton, world class, kudos to producer Tony Rebel, this is a gem.

In summary, Queen Ifrica’s Montego Bay is a musical treasure that reflects the good heart and open soul that resides within this music. Thank you Queen Ifrica and your collaborators. Thank you especially Mr. Tony Rebel with all the honours.