Reggae Sensation Etana Talks Grammy Nomination And Breaking Barriers For Women In Reggae
By: Omar Cook
Female reggae sensation, Etana, was the first female in 21 years to be nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Reggae Album category. The last time a female artist was nominated in the category was in 1997 when Sister Carol received a nomination. Etana’s Reggae Forever album was nominated alongside Black Uhuru for As the World Turns, Ziggy Marley for Rebellion Rises, Protoje for A Matter of Time and Grammy Award winners for Best Reggae Album, Sting & Shaggy for 44/876.
Etana, whose real name is Shauna McKenzie, is a soulful singer and songwriter. She made international waves with her fifth album Reggae Forever which debuted the Billboard Reggae Chart at number one. Her fourth album I Rise also debuted the Billboard Reggae Chart at number one and her album Better Tomorrow debuted the Billboard Reggae Chart at number seven. Etana made history as the first female with back-to-back top albums on the Billboard Reggae Chart. Her unique sound blends Roots Reggae with flavors of Folk, Soul, and Jazz.
Etana is an artist that is breaking barriers for women in Reggae and her success is giving other women pursuing a music career inspiration to keep pushing. Etana speaks about her 2019 Grammy Awards experience and hitting the red carpet at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, CA!
We talked with Etana in an exclusive interview, check it out below!
QUESTION: HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN MAKING MUSIC AND HOW DID YOU GET STARTED?
Etana: I've been singing since I was eight years old. I wanted to be a nurse or a doctor but music called me in and I knew music was it for me. I started professionally in music in 2000.
QUESTION: MUSICALLY, WHO HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST INFLUENCE IN HELPING YOU ALONG YOUR JOURNEY AND WHO ARE YOUR FAVORITE MUSICIANS?
Etana: Bob Marley, Jay-Z, Bruno Mars, Beyonce to Dolly Parton. They sing about their own life experiences. That speaks to me. When you listen to songs that explores life experiences especially to things that we can all relate to, you're sure to love it. I feel my music connects with people as they can relate to my songs either they have those same experiences or may be experiencing it right now.
QUESTION: YOUR ALBUM REGGAE FOREVER WAS NOMINATED FOR BEST REGGAE ALBUM THIS YEAR AT THE GRAMMYS! WHAT WAS YOUR INITIAL FEELING WHEN YOU FOUND OUT YOU WERE NOMINATED AND WHAT WAS THE GRAMMY EXPERIENCE LIKE SHARING THE NOMINATION WITH OTHER GREAT REGGAE ARTISTS SUCH AS STING, SHAGGY, BLACK UHURU, AND ZIGGY MARLEY?
Etana: So excited! It's an honor that Reggae Forever has been recognized by the Recording Academy with a Best Reggae Album nomination and to be amongst these talented nominated artists and award-winning artists. I'm truly delighted to have made an album independently that was well received by so many people around the world.
QUESTION: YOU WERE THE FIRST FEMALE IN 21 YEARS TO BE NOMINATED FOR A GRAMMY AWARD IN THE BEST REGGAE ALBUM CATEGORY. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON REPRESENTING WOMEN IN REGGAE AND WHAT KEEPS YOU MOTIVATED TO BREAK BARRIERS?
Etana: Having five albums that have all rocketed to the Billboard Reggae Chart is impressive. Being the first female in 21 years to be nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Reggae Album category is monumental. The last time that a female was nominated in the category was in 1997 when Sister Carol received a nomination. I'm a reggae artist who wants to preserve and grow our music and to promote love and inspire, so that it makes way for endless opportunities for reggae artists to have. Women in reggae have come a long way but we still have a long way to go and I intend on breaking as many closed doors and barriers as much as possible.
QUESTION: WHAT DO YOU FEEL IS YOUR BEST SONG/PROJECT EVER RELEASED AND WHY?
Etana: All of them! I'm proud of all of them! My album Reggae Forever. I was extremely happy when I learned that my first independent project made it to number one and was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Reggae album. The album is distributed by Tad's Records. I think audiences appreciate that Reggae Forever was independently produced, it's eclectic and the main message is love as well as it tells many stories and keeps the listener engaged.
QUESTION: WHAT PROJECTS CAN WE LOOK FORWARD TO IN THE NEAR FUTURE?
Etana: I'm in the process with my sixth studio album and I’m looking forward to releasing a single from that album soon. I will be going on tour in the U.S. this year and will be touring the U.K and other countries.
For up-to-the-minute news and information on my music and shows, visit www.etantathestrongone.com and follow at Facebook @OneEtana and Instagram @EtanaStrongOne and Twitter @EtanaStrongOne.
QUESTION: HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE YOUR MUSIC TO PEOPLE AND WHAT SEPARATES YOU FROM OTHER ARTISTS IN YOUR GENRE?
Etana: My sound blends Roots Reggae with flavors of Folk, Soul, and Jazz. My music has a bit of everything for everyone. It is wonderful to see many audiences deeply connected to my music.
QUESTION: WHAT SACRIFICES HAVE YOU HAD TO MAKE TO SEE YOUR DREAM BECOME A REALITY AND WHAT ARE SOME OBSTACLES THAT YOU HAVE OVERCOME?
Etana: We all go through hardships and sacrifices especially experiences throughout our life that shape us. Everything that I have experienced up to now has shaped me into the person I am today. I'm still learning and growing and feel that through hard work, perseverance, determination, knowledge, and self love is important to have and to continue it through life.
QUESTION: WHERE DO YOU SEE YOURSELF AND YOUR MUSIC IN 5 YEARS?
Etana: I want to continue to make hits and to continue to make great music that people want to listen to. Two levels up at a time or more.
QUESTION: WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO OTHER UP AND COMING ARTISTS OR PEOPLE LOOKING TO BREAK INTO THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?
Etana: Always work hard, keep improving your music and sound and believe in yourself.
QUESTION: IN YOUR OPINION, WHAT ARE SOME KEYS TO BECOMING A SUCCESSFUL MUSIC ARTIST?
Etana: Keep learning and growing. Continue to make great music and for longevity. Knowing as much about the business of music is important as well.
QUESTION: WITH IT BEING BLACK HISTORY MONTH, MUSIC HAS PLAYED AN IMPORTANT ROLE IN THE HISTORY OF AFRICAN AMERICANS! WHAT LEGACY ARE YOU LOOKING TO LEAVE BEHIND WITH YOUR MUSIC?
Etana: African American musicians and producers have made huge contributions to the history of music. As an African American female it is important to continue to enrich the culture of music. I want to make a lasting impression in the minds and hearts of little girls and boys of all races, religion, and lifestyles, all across the world.