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By Kalamu ya Salaam of Kalamu.com

Saturday, November 21, 2009.


Eternal question: how to leave the rock, how to rock the rock? We no want to go away, we a want to stay. Love home, rep home. But yard hard. No soul want a be forever down, stepped upon. We assert ourselves against authority. We our own authority. But everyday downpressor on our back in everyway. What we gon do?

The upward struggle of our living down-under make our music come strong, got to be tuff enuff to stand forward in the shit-storm.

Take a little woman like this here hummingbird Cherine who sings eagle strong. Who can coo like a dove but really who owl wise to the tricks and games vultures run. She no rooster but she rules her own roose. Every guinea loves it own yard but still like she knows it always be better to fly the world than to become turkey on rich man table.

Cherine, Cherine. Come yall and listen to what the young songbird says.

I call my music “Dancehall Soul.” My sound is a hybrid of all the things that have inspired me. I have influences from roots reggae, dancehall, R&B, soul to gospel. So it’s an eclectic soulful sound that is more anchored in my Caribbean dancehall culture. Behind the beat is a message which incorporates the grittiness of my past with the sweetness of things that I have been exposed to.
—Cherine Anderson

Me ear always cocked to hear new sound. Some months back I heard a radio show and mixtape featuring Jamaica’s latest sensation, a young woman call Cherine. Went look for her and all I could find was soon come, soon come. Then I see she in a movie, playing the church girl lead opposite rasta romeo Ky-Mani Marley. One Love they call it.

Also peeped her in Dancehall Queen but that was before I fully knew what I was looking at.

And then a waterfall of singles started raining. Many of them collaborations with Cherise’s voice cool running the supporting spot to a big up male artist, except her background end up being the main attraction. Something truly deft-fresh in her tones, the way she a chuckle tickle your soul, makes you want to hear more. She a little piece of leather with a powerful, attractive whip crack of a voice, makes you pay attention.

So now, soon has somewhat come. She a drop an EP, not even a proper full length but it’s a coolly satisfying drink from a short-shot glass. And I man thankful for this sound satiating my thirst.

Born September 25, 1984 in Rockfort, East Kingston, Jamaica, Cherine Anderson’s coming up background is that of many; she could be any sistren from around the way. You see her at bus stop, standing in grocery line, waiting in clinic chair, waitressing at a local eatery.

You know what I’m saying?

Yeah, she a shine eye worth a second glance but she no massive beauty model, nor bright-skinned, model, Euro-looking, close-to-passing, movie-like black woman. Nah man, she a black. Dark inside and out.

Her cradle was hood; her attitude is the sufferer strength of a survivor. She one of these women we all know: our mothers who are so seldom celebrated in the picture show, our grandmothers raising us right, our baby mamas who see beyond our shortcomings and sacrifice to keep our children running. They are the ones whose teeth crack hardness bone and suck out marrow nourishment. And in doing all of that, and in being all of that, they become spiritual Amazon warrior women - the front line of existence and the back up for our daily struggles.

Cherine Anderson comes from Kingston, the heartbeat of Jamrock, aka Jamaica, where even tender have to be tough in order to grow up. Fortunately, her parents kept her and two older sisters in church and push them to keep up in school.

As with a majority of black vocalists, Cherine’s foundational training ground was the church.

It wasn’t so much the message in the church songs that appealed to me at first…it was the passion and strength of peoples’ voices,” she candidly notes.

At age 12, she became a member of, and toured with Ashe Performing Arts Ensemble. During this period she received professional instruction in dance, music and theatre. Once smitten, Cherine went on to earn a Bachelor of Arts in Film and Music, and a minor in Japanese Language and Literature from Middlebury College, Jamaica. Her college years included participation in an overseas program that took her to Japan.

In 1997, she won a supporting role in the Jamaican hit movie Dancehall Queen. Cherine played Tanya, the daughter of the lead character. The prestigious duo of Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare produced the movie soundtrack and invited Cherine to contribute. During the process, Sly asked Cherine to try her hand at writing lyrics and a melody for a rhythm track he had created.

She aced the assignment and that was the beginning of a major collaboration that has included featured vocal spots on major remix projects, Sly & Robbie were commissioned to do for international stars such as Madonna, Britney Spears and Sir Paul McCartney.

Soon a slew of hit singles and collaborations poured forth and in 2003 she won a starring role opposite Ky-Mani Marley in the movie One Love.

What may seem to be an overnight success story is actually the result of over a decade of hard work, buttressed by formal study, internships and apprenticeships working in the entertainment industry.

Through it all, what is important is that Cherine has stood tall artistically and morally.

Cherine notes, “I have seen so many girls my age and even younger come into the studio and before they even sing a note “on key” they are talking about being “sexy”. Image is very important but we should adopt an attitude where by we focus and commit to making “GREAT” music. Music that will affect people not only in Jamaica but internationally."

So what I hear is two big things. One: I hear a sexy young woman who knows her thing is a good thing and have no shame in celebrating what her mama birth she. Without slutting up her act, Cherine celebrates the sensual self. And this serious sexiness is a sign of life vitality and vigor, not of pornography and prostitution.

She knows how to call attention to her body without taking her clothes off. Some of the serious heads come so straight-laced they erase sensuality from the equation of life, but we people have always had body touch as a major part of our living, which is how and why we be dancing instead of simply shuffling and suffering up under the man. Dig; it’s ike Bootsy says, “In funk we thrust.”

So Cherine, she keeps the physical alive, which all is how humans should be. That’s the one drop. Now the second step is actually the hand-on-hip stance that is conscious of what’s coming even before the slackness arrives. I’m saying this queen got third eye awareness. There is plan, and not simply play, in her game.

So the last part of the Mixtape fiercely celebrates principles and higher standards than mere survival. Cherine was paying attention in political education classes, she understands class struggle, not fooled by skin color, nor seduced by phallus flag.

Nah man! Cherine woman she understands we must deal with all facets of our struggle, and for women, whether labeled as such or not, feminism (the empowerment of women) is a must.

So listen to “How We Living” and you will hear what must be done, where we coming from and where we got to go. Or as Cherine sings, it’s a “Kingston State of Mind.” Be clear-eyed, see ourselves for who and what we are, uplift the strong, do away with the wrong. Sista-girl got it, she understands.

So you know she be writing a bunch of her own songs. She no marionette jerking beneath someone else string pull. Nah, this child is a full grown, self-directed woman. Don’t let her schoolgirl looks fool you, she been around long enough to have seen it all before, and has drawn some conclusions about what her songs going to say, about where her career be going.

"Acting doesn’t help me on stage. I don’t act when I perform…I just simple BE! I am totally Cherine when I sing my songs…it’s more personal. I relate to my live audience not as a character but as a young woman who has layers and feelings, emotions and something to say. I enjoy expressing fun and love however it is also important to speak to reality through music."
—Cherise Anderson

Michael Franti goes to Jamaica to work with Sly & Robbie to record his last album and while down there Cherine sound crawls up in his ear so strong he feature she on three of his tracks and it was a wise draw.

Her sound helps make him a hit and he takes her out as part of his world tour, which is how one gets to travel around without leaving home. She a never fleeing not looking back, instead she be worldwide sightseeing and gathering other world experiences. Which is why this Mixtape starts with “A Little Bit Of Riddim.”

So dig Cherine I say, listen for how deep this sistren sing.

I give you both the Redemption a capella version and the full out rocking sound-system of the king track “Kingston State of Mind,” which incorporates both spiritual and dance hall stylee.

You can bathe in the clean beauty of her voice on the Redemption, or you can drop down and wind it up on the rhythm version. Same song, same sensibility, one for the soul, the other for the body, both be for us because we have both the spiritual and the physical.

Cherine she understands how to appeal to both, understands we need both, understands that in the totality of life in order to fully live we have to both embrace the sacred and touch the physical.

So when I mentioned up front the conundrum of how to leave and simultaneously stay, Cherise comes now and provides answer. Listen to her anthem “Shine On Jamaica.” Check how it abruptly end, letting you know the song stopped but it not finished. We still got a ways to go.

So like they say in Ghana, we must go-come. Go where we need to go to get whatever we need to get and then come back quick to give to and celebrate our roots, for it’s a sad frog don’t croak about its own pond—and there no sadness in Cherise sound. She shining on.

(Plus must call attention to the innovation of the arrangements, how she ingeniously references rather than merely copies past music thereby becoming an extension rather than simply an imitation. Need I tell you Sly & Robbie produced both Black Uhuru’s “Solidarity” and Cherise’s “Shine On Jamaica.”)

So this here we a hear is a slice of the latest rising coming up out of Jamrock. And moreover, what is noteworthy is that Cherine Anderson may just become the first female Jamaican reggae singer (other than Grace Jones who did not fully focus on reggae) to make international noise.

The men been coming on strong, even got generations of Marleys holding forth. But there has yet to be a singing sistren to surmount the pinnacle of international recognition.

Who next to bring the noise? I hear Cherine Anderson in the wings and she singing a mighty beautiful song. Give thanks!

Kalamu ya Salaam is a writer, musician and film-maker based in New Orleans, USA.


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