05 January, 2008

Cold is Just the Absence of Heat

That's what I keep telling myself as I pile on the sweaters and layer my socks, as I gulp down bowls of chili and turn my car heater on full-blast. I was lucky to discover that there's no absence of heat in the songs of Etana, a female reggae artist whose songs appear on volumes 36 and 38 of the Strictly the Best reggae compilation albums.

Hailing from Jamaica, with only a handful of songs to her name, Etana strikes soulful chords and hits creative highs that few full-fledged reggae artists even touch upon in their lengthy careers. "Roots" is a song that combines African rhythms with roots reggae lyrics and jammin' guitar. This song is smooth, and Etana's voice is soulful, full-bodied, and intensely accented by her Jamaican home. Her first single, "Wrong Address", is a story of struggle, a more fitting anthem for the reality of Jamaica than the watered down Marley used to advertise the tourist spots. "Warrior Love" is more straightforward: a love-song in the vein of Rihanna. Still, lyrically this song is more multifaceted than most of the music on Good Girl Gone Bad, and Etana's voice is heavier and more interesting than Rihanna's croaky whine (although, I can't say that I'm not a fan of "Umbrella").

Overall, Etana is a promising new talent on the reggae scene. Her music immediately struck a chord with me, finding that sweet spot where the sound is pleasing but also slightly challenging. Far from mundane and homogeneous, Etana's music is warm and her lyrics thoughtful. Reggae music needs a new injection of life, and this talented songstress may be up to the challenge.

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