ZIF Exclusive Interview: Queen Ifrica

Royalty is not something bestowed upon you, it’s emanated from oneself outward. Simply put, you know when you’re in the presence of royalty, you can sense it. Last week I got that eerie feeling, that I was experiencing the genuine royal treatment. There she was, a Queen amongst a sea of men and girls, voicing her regal speech over hard hitting dancehall breaks, it was Queen Ifrica. She put down a killer set after Tony Rebel straight murdered his set. Check some of the footage from the show after the jump. Big shout out to Nate at VP Records for keeping these interviews coming. I guess you can say we have a royal pipeline into reggae right now on account of VP.

Through your music you earned the nickname Fyah Muma, which is also the name of your debut album in 2006, but you grew up with Reggae in your blood, your father Derrick Morgan, being a well-known artist. Tell us a bit about growing up in a family with a tradition in the reggae music business.

Let me clarify something. I was not raised with my dad, I only met him at 22. We are born two days apart and we discovered we have a lot in common. He tells me a lot about how it all started in the reggae scene. It was great to meet him and be able to have him come out on stage with me in Jamaica and in Europe. People recognize his work, so it is a great experience to call him out on stage and see the crowd’s reaction.

Is it a lot to live up to? How do you get the drive to continue the family legacy?

Well my mom also a good singer and my sisters and brothers all sing well. There are 16 of us and I am the baby da-da of the family. I make music because I enjoy it. Even though my brothers and sisters are doctors and lawyers, they all have good singing abilities. My sister Bette, who lives in Miami, wants to sing too, so I will be supportive of her when she is ready. Watch out for her!

Do you guys get to spend much time with the family?

My grandmother is celebrating her 90th birthday in January and we are having a big family get together in Jamaica with all the grandkids.

What artists influenced your development as a musician?

Definitely Garnett (Silk). He is a great source for spiritual and convincing music. It inspires you to stand up for what you believe in because it is sincere.  I like Nina Simone; Jazz is my second most favorite music. Tony Rebel also, because he had the Rasta influence in his music and he is consistent in his messages. He also inspired other artists, like Luciano, Capleton and Buju to become Rasta.

You’re one of very few female artists in conscious reggae… What is it like for you as a woman in a male dominated industry?

It’s funny… it IS male dominated! But I stayed true…  Other female artists have to understand that they can’t just jump into the game and look for opportunities because it is easy to lose yourself. They have to know why they came in for. Rita Marley, Sister Carol, Sister Nancy and other culture artists enjoyed success but not to the level they should have because “they” say that culture doesn’t sell. This is discouraging for a lot of artists trying to make it. But I took notice and wanted to prove that it is possible to be successful. I am staying true to my original mission and my goals.

You have a soft, feminine side, but you can just as easily jump on a dancehall track and set it on fire. We saw your show with Tony Rebel last week in Hollywood. The DJ mixed out your first track after 30 seconds, and you immediately called him out not to give you a “cliché mix.”

(Laughs) Yeah, it is really frustrating when you can’t even hear the song because it is being mixed out.

Well, it is clear that there is an agenda behind the music you make. What are you trying to achieve with your music?

Talent is a gift from the Almighty … what we do with our talent is the gift we give back to Him. I take it seriously that I can write a song that can last through the years and has the potential to impact maybe the entire world if they come across it.

I don’t write from my point of view.  I write to speak on issues that affect people in their daily lives. Music is the voice of the voiceless. Music is such a powerful tool and it can bring hidden issues to light. I am one of those who are willing to stand up for something with the music they make. Like John Lennon, who got shot because he wanted to change the world by asking people to imagine a world without conflict.

The subject matter of your records brings social issues to light. What can we expect from your new album “Montego Bay” and where can we buy it?

It’s interesting, because it’s my first major label project with VP Records. I wanted to focus on good production and sound and the team delivered. Many times, I hear complaints on the road, that artists are not spending enough time to put a good quality album together. It is humbling how well it was received so far. The album came out in July and it can be purchased on vprecords.com, iTunes and you can find it in record stores that sell reggae music.

We got to listen to the album and one of the tracks that stands out is “Daddy.” It touches on the controversial issue of incest and domestic abuse. What inspired you to write this and how has it been received so far?

Often times in society, we are complaining about people’s behavior and we ask why they do a certain thing, but we never sufficiently look into the cause of the behavior. Incest is a very serious problem. It is a human problem, it does not matter what culture you grew up in, it’s a sickness that is plaguing families around the world. In my social work at community centers and prisons, incest keeps coming up over and over and often is at the core of the problem.

The Jamaican Government recently passed long awaited legislation geared to protecting children from abuse, and as a result more arrests have been made. I feel vindicated and would like to think that I contributed to bringing awareness to the urgency of this issue. Human rights organizations have been trying for a long time to inspire some action from Parliament on the issue of child abuse. It looks like the recent media attention may have triggered a movement, which demanded that the Government react strongly against child abuse.

One of your tracks “Rasta Nuh Chat Rasta” calls out the fake Rastas out there, saying it’s not so much about the image (dredlocks), but about one’s attitude and actions. Share a little bit with Zebraisfood readers about Haile Selassie’s teachings on about how to live a good life.

Even if you do not worship Selassie, you are sure to admire him once you read his work. The main tenant of his teachings is Tolerance. You have to tolerate the differences in your surroundings and be able to live and co-exist with other cultures. He was against war, and stressed finding a peaceful solution out of any situation.

Peace, love, unity, togetherness – are the other tenants.

The music is becoming part of what Rasta represents because it speaks the language of Rasta. But with popularity and success in the industry, many become distracted from their true self, if they are not grounded as artists. They can lose themselves and become fake, not because they want to be, but because they loose touch with why they do the music that they do. They are not in tune with the true Rasta way.

Nowadays, Rastafarianism has become entangled with reggae music, but Rasta is a different thing from the music. Reggae music announces Rasta lifestyle but sometimes, without recognizing that the true Rasta represents love.

You are an activist yourself in Kingston, what issues have captured your attention and what have you dedicated time to?

Firstly, I am in the process of registering my own foundation. Aside from this I haves been involved with the Committee for Community alongside Tony Rebel and other social workers and lawyers. They brought community leaders together and went into a volatile community and pledged to help alleviate the decline that was taking place due to violence and killing. To intervene, they formed an organization and when there are rivalries in the community, they work to take the warring parties outside of their community to have a discussion. They try to get the parties to sit across from each other at a table and talk. It has worked very well so far. A recent charity show was able to raise 500,000 JA dollars, which were broken up in the community to help with back to school supplies or to open small shops. The strength can only come from the community though. The money raised can only set it in motion but it will have to be the community itself that comes together to continue these programs.

What can people do in their daily lives to help out?

One initiative that has had a lot of impact is building computer centers to keep kids off the streets after school. Free Internet workshops for those that do not have access to computers help society to educate themselves and learn to navigate life better and make something out of life. But then the rich man doesn’t want that – why would they want the poor, educating themselves and becoming elevated. They will need someone else to exploit then… This is why we will not get support from the rich. But by meeting and sharing what we stand for, like-minded people will want to donate for the cause, through a medium that is visible and transparent.

2009 has been a tumultuous year in the world, what do you think is the most important issue we should be focusing on in 2010?

Weather! It doesn’t matter whether global warming is fake or not, climate change is becoming visible to people all over the world. We know our atmosphere is deteriorating. The places that scientists say are keeping the earth together have come under an increasing amount of environmental stress in the past years, to the point that the damage can be seen with the naked eye. But all we do is argue! Nostradamus and the Mayans predicted that 2012 would be the end of the world. They predicted this, but they provided two paths, they showed a way out too. It is up to us which path we will take. If you really look at the atmosphere, it seems that what they said is happening right now. It is up to us as a people to come together across the table and join efforts to combat this. Our leaders may have other agendas they are representing. It is ironic that we can be as violent or as hateful as we want as a society but somehow it is hard for our leaders to say we were wrong about this issue and move on to doing something about it.

There are no doubt other interests at play that are stunting any community efforts of lobbying for more strict environmental regulations. Even with the Copenhagen Summit dedicated entirely to this issue, it does not seem like concrete steps were outlined that would have a significant and immediate impact. It looks like industry and the “suits” still have the upper hand.

I would like to meet some of these “they” and “them”s and look into their faces…

Last year has been busy for you: the album, you were at Reggae Rising in Humbolt county and the Hollywood club show. What do you prefer to play festivals or the more intimate club shows?

The bigger the crowd the more excited I becomes. I love looking at the crowd at big festivals. I think that even though no one ever came to see me personally, they will see me anyway, so I makes sure that when they leave, they will know me not as the entertainer, but as the person. I likes to look at as many faces as I can so I will know all the people. I loves being amidst people that share the same feelings and that already agree with me when I says something. It is easier not to get carried away. It is important to have self control and be the boss of our mind, body and thought and not turn out to be one person on stage and another off stage.

From your touring, what place has the rowdiest crowd?

Paris and Italy. I went to France for Summer Jam and there were about 40,000 people all with their hands in the air at my request. Even if they didn’t know English, it was overwhelming to see a sea of people do what you tell them. I have beautiful following in Europe because they saw me starting out touring with Tony Rebel and people have watched me grow since coming on as his opening act. They are very proud of me coming back and headlining my own shows.

Footage from the show @ IVAR in Hollywood

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