As part of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s Young People’s Concert series, vocalist Jah’Mila will headline Reggae Roots (Apr. 16) and explore the beloved genre at the core of Jamaica’s music scene, alongside the TSO led by conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser. Here, she talks about growing up in Jamaica, Bob Marley and moving to Nova Scotia.
Tell us about your connection to music in Jamaica?
I was born into the roots of the reggae family tree. My dad was a guitarist for Bob Marley and the Wailers and contributed to many reggae albums. He has been playing reggae since the early 1970s. I grew up with that level of access to the music that was not as common. I was a kid in the studio watching them make the music that has now become iconic, and it has really shaped me.
What inspired your move to Canada?
When I was in Jamaica, most of my musical pursuits were as a backup singer. While I loved that work, I always had a deep desire to chart my own course. When I moved to Nova Scotia permanently in 2017, two factors contributed to me taking that step. One was that there wasn’t a lot of reggae – especially women doing it. And second, the support of the local community there cannot be understated.
How has being based in Atlantic Canada influenced your music?
I’ve picked up some of the East Coast music style. I had the opportunity to collaborate with Jimmy Rankin. That was insane, not only to move here, but to embrace the art scene at that level. I’ve been welcomed with open arms, not only for my value and love of music, but they’ve trusted me enough to include me in their projects as well. It really strengthens my confidence.
You’ve said your music is not just about entertainment, but activism, too. Why is that so important to you?
I’ve made a commitment to roots reggae music to bring it into the next generation. Me and the other talented artists have done some justice to the art form, I think. It has always been the voice of the marginalized and oppressed people. Not only does it make you feel good and spread the message of one love, but it also highlights a call for equality and advocacy for the marginalized people and groups. Nina Simone said it best: If you have a platform as an artist, it’s part of your responsibility to use it. I agree that it’s a responsibility and not just a choice.
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