Original Jamaican pressing from 1982. Produced by E. Brown & B. Seaton. Copyright and all rights reserved E. Brown & B. Seaton reggae vinyl.
"My music is music of upliftment. It is music that teaches. It shows you how not to complain, but to seek solutions for yourself." ~ Queen Ifrica
Conscious, roots reggae music has always been a male-dominated genre, so it can be difficult for female artists to break through into the top. But this "Fyah Muma" (Fire Mother), the royal Rastafarian empress known as Queen Ifrica, is definitely setting a blistering pace to becoming the foremost female in this arena. Hallelujah – we've been waiting for her for too long!
Born Ventrice Latora Morgan in Spanish Town, Jamaica, on March 25, 1975, this daughter of Ska king, Derrick Morgan, was raised in rural Jamaica. She was nicknamed Ifrica by her mother who thought her face was shaped like a map of Africa. Queen Ifrica burst onto the reggae scene in 1995 when she performed in, and won by a landslide, a montego bay talent contest. In 1998, Tony Rebel recognized her gifts and her quality and invited her to join his Flames Production family. Now, Queen Ifrica is using her substantial hereditary talents to help restore the cultural vibes to reggae music and to Jamaica as a whole.
Her commanding stage presence, strong self-confidence, and her delightful voice and dynamic performances have created a demand for her on the international reggae scene as well. She has toured extensively and been warmly received throughout the US and Europe, appearing at festivals such as Summer Jam (Germany, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008), Reggae on the River (California, 2006), One Love Festival Tour (US, 2006), Sierra Nevada World Music Festival (California, 2007), Reggae Sundance Festival (Holland, 2007, 2008), Ragga Muffins Festival (California, 2007, 2008), Rototom Sunsplash (Italy, 2007, 2008), Montreal International Reggae Festival (Montreal, 2007), Uppsala Reggae Festival (Sweden, 2008), Anthems of Love (Trinidad, 2008) and the Millennium Countdown (Bahamas, 2008). She has shared the stage with the legendary Abyssinians, Black Uhuru, Gregory Isaacs, Buju Banton, Culture, Sly & Robbie, Burning Spear and a host of others. This mother of two also mesmerized a hometown audience in Montego Bay, Jamaica, with her fiery performance at the 2008 Reggae Sumfest. Visiting nearly every continent, she would like to perform in Africa in the upcoming year.
Stirring up controversy and social awareness by addressing topics like incest and child molestation, Queen Ifrica claims to find inspiration for her music in the people she meets while doing community outreach work. She believes she was put here for a special purpose – to do her part for all the suffering people in the world. Her songs are uplifting, teaching us to appreciate life and to look for solutions wherever there are problems. Some of her role models in the industry were Sister Carol, Rita Marley and Marcia Griffiths.
Sometimes drawing on her own personal experiences, this mother of two has covered religious discrimination in Natty Fi Grow , Jamaica's violence and negativity in Randy , a poignant rage against gangster violence in Boxers and Stockings, the pain of lost love in Goodbye Love, downtrodden communities living in poverty in Zinc Fence , domestic violence in Below the Waist , incest and child molestation in Daddy Don't Touch Me There , and the dangers of Jamaica's latest skin bleaching trend in Mi Nah Rub. This Rasta Empress doesn't shy away from social commentaries. She proves you can sing about anything; it just has to be done with class.
Bold and vibrant, sweet and sultry, Queen Ifrica's voice and delivery have improved over the years. She fills arenas with beauty and positive vibes while sharing with us her brand of socially uplifting culture music. She exemplifies what consciousness combined with talent can achieve and proves herself to be a fine example for all women.
We hope to see a follow-up studio album from the Fyah Muma in 2009. May her wisdom and morals and truth stay with her and her meteoric rise continue!
What is a reggae “riddim?”
“Riddim” is the Jamaican Patois term for the instrumental “rhythm” track of a song, also known as the “groove” or the “beat”. Jamaican popular songs, and many other types of Caribbean music, are built on riddims.
Riddims usually consist of a prominent bass line and a particular unique drum pattern and are truly the backbone of dub, reggae, lovers’ rock, ragga, roots, dancehall, etc. Many riddims originate from a hit song and the riddim carries the name of the song, for example I-Wayne’s 2004 hit “Lava Ground” on the Lava Ground Riddim. Or, in some cases, the riddim takes the name of the most popular song recorded on it. For example, the Satta Massagana Riddim is named after The Abyssinians’ original song “Satta Massagana”.
Occasionally, an artiste will voice two completely different songs on the identical riddim. And it’s very common for different artistes to voice over the same riddims with different lyrics and different vocal styles, ranging from singing to toasting. For example, Jah Cure’s “Call On Me”, Gyptian’s “Butterfly”, and Tanya Stephens’ “Reminiscing” are all on 2009’s wonderful Good Love Riddim. The success of a riddim is judged by how many artistes “juggle” it, or make their own vocal interpretations of it. Jamaican audiences will judge whether or not the tune is big and, if so, other artistes will write new lyrics to “ride the riddim”.
There can be more than a dozen popular current riddims, but there are usually only a few “hot” riddims at any given time. Artistes have to record over these hot riddims if they want a better shot at getting their songs played in the dancehalls or on the radio. Many times a dance is even created in honor of the riddim, like Pepperseed, or Gully Creeper, or who can forget the world’s fastest man Usain Bolt’s victory dance, “Nah Linga”?!!
The riddims don’t always originate from reggae; some urban contemporary songs may become riddims as well. The instrumental of Ne-Yo’s “Miss Independent” has become a popular riddim; many dancehall artists have recorded songs using the track. Other songs have inspired riddims too, such as George Michael’s song “Faith,” which became a riddim of the same name, and R. Kelly’s “Snake,” which became the Baghdad Riddim.
Types of riddims
Riddims are African in origin and are generally one of three types. The oldest, the “classical” riddim, provides the instrumentals for dub, roots reggae and lovers’ rock (well known producers include Sly & Robbie). The “ragga” riddim backs (or used to back) raggamuffin and dancehall songs. And “digital” riddims (e.g., King Jammy’s Sleng Teng Riddim) are created with computers, synthesizers and drum machines; in other words, they are really electronic riddims.
The advent of technology changed the entire business. No longer do you need to pay for studio time and hire musicians! This opened up the business to a whole new generation of producers, musicians and performers. Today, most riddims backing dancehall and Soca are digital. Digital riddims, along with the global reach and popularity of dancehall, have also spawned the creation of more and more popular riddims outside Jamaica.
“Versioning” is the term for recycling or rejuvenating old riddims using computers and samplers, and voicing over them with new artistes. Jamaica has been versioning since the 1960s. Some of these riddims are decades old, many of them coming out of Clement “Coxsone” Dodd’s renowned Kingston studio, Studio One. Some great riddims came out of Studio One in the ’60s and ’70s, and you will still hear them versioned in constant rotation by sound systems today.
Versioning can be controversial, however, because many of those who produced the original classic riddims never got paid for the riddims themselves. It would be nice to get some “royalties”!! But today’s artists argue that they’re inspired by these classics and paying respect by versioning and re-popularizing them. Many Jamaican producers rely heavily on versions although, in the past decade, we saw less of this practice with hundreds of creative new riddims being released.
The explosion of dancehall in recent years generated many great new riddims. But some are already being versioned as well. The Unfinished Business Riddim, popular in 2008, was a version of 1998’s hit Showtime Riddim. So it seems old riddims never die!
Of course, creating a new and original riddim is far more difficult than versioning an old one! Here are some of the best original riddim producers from the past & present: Black Chiney (sound system, DJ, producer), Bobby “Digital B” Dixon (producer), Clement “Coxsone” Dodd (producer, Studio One records), Donovan Germain (producer, Penthouse Studio), Joe Gibbs (producer), King Jammy (dub mixer, producer), King Tubby (dub mixer, producer 1960s-1980s), Duke Reid (producer, Treasure Isle records, dominated the 1960s), Sly and Robbie (producers, Taxi Records), Steely & Clevie (producers).
Two of the hottest young producers of the new millennium share a surname but are not related. Stephen “Di Genius” McGregor, son of veteran singer Freddie McGregor, can boast of one of my favorite dancehall riddims of recent years, the Tremor Riddim (2007), voiced by Mavado (“Amazing Grace”), Sean Paul (“Watch Them Roll”), and others. This talented musician’s riddims are so popular that more than a dozen people might voice over each of them.
The other young star producer is Kemar “Flava” McGregor, who is responsible for some of the hottest hits in recent years and, in my opinion, the very best roots reggae riddims to come out of Jamaica (or the world, for that matter) in years, for example: 2005’s Triumphant Riddim (Gyptian’s “Mama Don’t Cry”), 2007’s 83 Riddim (Richie Spice’s “Ah No Me Dat” & Queen Ifrica’s “Daddy”), and 2010’s Classic Riddim (Pressure’s “Thinking About You”, Duane Stephenson & Ras Shiloh’s “Soon As We Rise”), and Sweet Riddim (Etana’s “Happy Heart”, Beres Hammond’s “See You Again”, Ginjah’s “Prayer”). I love the wide mix of artistes voicing his riddims – veterans and novices alike – definitely something to appeal to everyone. These two producers are out in front of Jamaica’s current hitmakers!
For me, it’s the smooth reggae beats that get me grooving and swaying; for others it’s the hard bass lines they enjoy on the dancehall floor. No matter your preference, riddims are reggae music’s foundation! Enjoy!