For reggae singer Etana, the themes of equality, love and peace that underpins reggae haven’t always extended to women reggae artists. In fact, she’s often had to do battle against an industry that hasn’t shown much respect for singers like her.
According to Etana while speaking to Dylan Elliott, StarNews correspondent; she learned right after she started singing that there was still some kind of prejudice when it came on to women in the industry.
[Their names] would be posted at the bottom of the flyer or they might even be rushed off the stage by other male artists, (who) would just walk up and take the mic and just move on.
Etana started her career by turning down a major label deal at the age of 18 because of the superficial and hypersexualized image being molded around mainstream R&B artists and the lack of autonomy she had if she signed.
I had to do what I was told to do, told to wear, told to eat. And not only that, I just wasn’t comfortable showin’ so much of me on the outside, you know? Wearing lingerie, short short short clothes, or naked. I just feel like I didn’t have to do that. – Etana
Born in Jamaica but grew up in Florida, Etana returned to her roots to nurture her talent as a reggae artist, where she felt she could be herself, blending reggae with pop, R&B and more.
Etana noted, however, that not all the men in the industry treats women with disrespect. As a back-up vocalist for reggae artist Richie Spice in 2005 and 2006, Spice refused to let his female backup singers be treated poorly.
They decided they were gonna have 20 men walk me up on stage and another 20 walk me off. They kinda taught people how to treat me, just to be sure that nobody was able to walk up on my stage and take my mic or disrespect my time. – Etana
Since then, Etana has become a symbol of empowerment for women and her success has led her to be the headliner at the Port City Reggae Music & Arts Festival at Greenfield Lake Amphitheater on July 7th. Tickets are $35, and seven bands will be playing. For more info, visit www.PortCityReggae.com.