ARGUABLY reggae's leading female vocalist, Etana will perform live at Studio 38 this Friday. Born Shauna McKenzie, Etana has been an often-requested act at Studio 38 -- one of Jamaica's hot spot for live entertainment. Studio 38 has hosted the best of the best in the past year and a half, since John Holt first appeared there at the start of 2010. They have the distinct honour of hosting the final performance of reggae royalty, the cool ruler Gregory Isaacs.
Other reggae and R&B superstars who have performed at Studio 38 include Tarrus Riley, Lady Saw, Beres Hammond, Melba Moore, Freddie McGregor, U-Roy, Beenie Man, Tami Chynn, Tessanne Chin, Assassin, George Nooks, Tifa, Leroy Sibblies, Pinchers, Protégé, Tanya Stephens, Mavado, Ernie Smith, Ken Boothe, Pinchers, Admiral Bailey, Denroy Morgan, Laza Morgan and many others.
The only girl in a family of boys, Etana grew up in the eastern St Andrew community of August Town. Her vocal talent was discovered when she was six years old and was overheard singing along to a 1991 hit by the group Air Supply. Etana migrated to the US in 1992. She went on to attend Broward Community College with the intention of becoming a registered nurse.
Following her decision to prematurely exit college in 2000, Etana joined a female vocal group named Gift. At the time Universal Records was interested in their music so Etana reluctantly agreed to wear the skimpy outfits dictated by the music industry's pervasive stereotyping of female artistes; then one day, she could no longer conform.
Etana returned to her Kingston birthplace, but music still beckoned. This time, it had to be done on her own terms. Etana wanted to deliver dignified, words shaped by her embracement of Rastafarian principles, which include a royal representation of women, adhering to a natural lifestyle, and an acknowledgment of the teachings of Marcus Garvey and Emperor Haile Selassie I. That opportunity arrived in 2005 when a friend brought her to Kingston's Fifth Element Records, who were then enjoying success with Richie Spice's single Earth A Run Red and his album Spice In Your Life. Etana auditioned to become one of his backup vocalists and so impressed Spice's management team, she was immediately asked to accompany the Rastafarian singer on his heavily booked American and European tour dates.
Later in the studio with the guitarist and percussionist from Spice's band, Etana put together the song that heralded her arrival Wrong Address. Audaciously fusing acoustic folk with roots reggae rhythms and strains of neo-soul influences, the single was duly rewarded with heavy radio rotation, reaching the number one position on several Jamaican charts. Etana's second major hit Roots was inspired by her travels to Africa. Her very first solo performance was in the West African nation of Ghana where she was showered with overwhelming adulation.