Throughout the lifespan of reggae music, male talent has dominated the genre. In the recent years, there has been a revival of female vocalists in reggae music.
From the early days of The I-Three, singing back up vocals for Bob Marley and The Wailers to solo stars like Sister Carol, Sister Nancy, Diana King, Queen Ifrica, Tanya Stephens, Sandra Cross and the “Queen of Lovers Rock,” Janet Kay, the aforementioned singers have all cemented their legacy in the foundation of female reggae artists. However, there has been a gap within female talent over the last ten years, until now.
Recently, the island chain of Hawaii has been a hotbed for up-and-coming and main stage female reggae artists. The trailblazer that has prompted this revival is Anuheake’alaokalokelani Jenkins, known as simply, Anuhea. After being a self-taught guitarist and writing original tunes, Anuhea began performing locally in Hawaii. A year later, Anuhea performed at the world renowned South By Southwest Music Showcase in Austin, TX.
2010 was Anuhea’s breakout year as a performer, playing alongside Jack Johnson and Ziggy Marley at the Waikiki Shell on Oahu, as well as releasing her first studio album titled, Anuhea. Soon after, Anuhea received two Na Hoku Hanohano Awards (Hawaii’s version of the Grammy’s), one for Contemporary Album of the Year and the other for Most Promising Artist, among both male and female artists.
Over the last four years, Anuhea has toured with Bermuda’s Mishka, lead singer and guitarist of Australia’s The Beautiful Girls, Mat McHugh, the Aloha State’s Rebel Souljahz, and most notably, SOJA. With Anuhea’s opening act spot on SOJA’s Strength To Survive nationwide tour through the United States, the trajectory of Anuhea’s exposure increased exponentially.
Simultaneously with the Strength To Survive tour, Anuhea released her second studio album, For Love on Valentine’s Day. Six singles from Anuhea’s sophomore release reached the top spot on Radio Stations, and her prominence in the reggae community certainly didn’t stop there.
With Anuhea’s growing success and reputation in the reggae genre among both male and female artists alike, the Maui product began collaborating with the biggest names in the reggae field with the likes of Jacob Hemphill of SOJA, Tarrus Riley from Jamaica, Justin Young from Hawaii and AWA from New Zealand.
However, it was Anuhea’s collaboration with fellow Hawaiian based female artists that has recently seen her name attached to a radio-hit single. The song, “Haters” features Anuhea with Aloha State natives Irie Love, Eli-Mac as well as the song’s title artist Kimie Minor.
Kimie Minor, or simply, Kimie is no stranger to the reggae genre, having shared the stage with Barrington Levy, Tubby Love, as well as Hawaii’s Mike Love and The Green on back-to-back nationwide tours through the United States. With the September 2014 release of “Haters”, Kimie compiled the best female talent on the Hawaiian islands to collaborate on one song. And, it was an instant hit. Mixing reggae, pop, hip hop and female vocal chords was a breath of fresh air in a music scene that is dominated, in large part, by male artists.
It is ironic that the single is titled, “Haters”, since this collaboration and sound from the female artists is something music lovers have been wanting for some time now. The aforementioned artists, Anuhea, Kimie, Irie Love and Eli-Mac are just a few of the top female vocalists in the reggae game, currently. Other artists like Leilani Wolfgramm, Hirie, Tenelle and others have been budding stars for the last couple years. And touring, collaborating and seeking album and radio success will only increase the spotlight on female talent in the reggae genre.
The Islands of Hawaii are known for pristine beaches, big wave surfing and postcard views, but soon enough these female reggae singers from the islands will be as familiar to music enthusiasts as the Road to Hana and Diamond Head for tourists.
Video: Anuhea – “Only Man in the World” featuring Tarrus Riley