Sun | Feb 16, 2020

We win already – Koffee’s mother - Jo-Anne Williams sounds off on daughter’s latest accomplishments, God and Grammy nomination

Published:Sunday | January 26, 2020 | 12:17 AMStephanie Lyew - Sunday Gleaner Writer
Jo-Anne Williams, known affectionately as ‘Koffee Maker’, the mother of reggae’s fast-rising star Koffee.
Jo-Anne Williams, known affectionately as ‘Koffee Maker’, the mother of reggae’s fast-rising star Koffee.
Jo-Anne Williams, known affectionately as ‘Koffee maker’ the mother of reggae’s fast-rising star Koffee.
Koffee in performance.
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The local music scene and social media quickly became abuzz last November after it was announced that reggae newcomer Koffee had been one of the nominees of the 62nd annual Grammy Awards. She created history by becoming the youngest solo act to be nominated in the Best Reggae Album category. Koffee, born Mikayla Simpson, was raised by her mother in Spanish Town and is the ‘wash belly’ of five children (three boys and two girls).

In an interview with The Sunday Gleaner, Koffee’s mother, Jo-Anne Williams, said the Grammy Award nomination is the high point of her daughter’s career.

“The journey, how her career transpired and has come to fruition, is something like a dream, and there is no singular time that I can think of or identify as the acme. But if I have to, I would say that the announcement of the nominations is presently the high point,” she said.

Koffee’s Rapture EP released on March 14, 2019 on the Columbia Records UK label is nominated alongside the work of veteran reggae acts, some of whom are past winners and nominees, including Steel Pulse for Mass Manipulation, Third World for More Work To Be Done, Julian Marley for As I Am, and Roots Radics, Sly and Robbie for The Final Battle: Sly & Robbie vs. Roots Radics.

ENDLESS SUPPORT

“I am excited, proud, thankful and blessed … . Did I say proud, proud, proud? I can tell you also, that she feels honoured simply with being a Grammy Award nominee, and extremely excited as well. I am sure she will be happy if she walks away with the award tonight. The nomination in itself is an accomplishment, so we win already!” Williams exclaimed.

Whether checking the books for her superstar daughter, acting as an official chaperone for tours, or dancing side stage at the concerts, Williams, who is a psychiatric nursing aide (PNA) with the Ministry of Health and Wellness by day, has made it her duty to show endless support for Koffee from the moment she decided she was going to take up music – though she will not be by her side in Los Angeles for the actual announcement due to other obligations.

She noted: “Well, aside from being her manager and mother, I still have to create a legacy for myself by working still. However, my job is somewhat flexible.”

They spent last Christmas touring West and East African countries, Nigeria, Ghana and Kenya, and she just returned from Antigua last week, following Koffee’s stellar set at the One Nation concert at the Antigua Recreation Grounds.

“I am still in awe, looking on my daughter perform … it is surreal. Sometimes when I am at the shows with her, I observe her every movement and automatically mi jaw drop. I even find that I talk to myself, asking the question, ‘Who is that?’ and responding, ‘Oh yeah, ah my baby dat’,” Williams said of her daughter who turns 20 next month. “I have not had to remind Mikayla (who she is before Koffee) about the values she was raised on, but the mother and the Christian in me is always expressing the importance of keeping God close, to continuously honour and acknowledge Him.”

She expressed that Koffee walks with her Bible, and even while travelling they never forget a moment to have devotions to call upon God for guidance and sing praises. From her perspective as a PNA, she said, “I am always concerned about Koffee’s and all my children’s mental health, being exposed to various elements in the world but not to the point where I am worried. My children are strong people, give thanks for that.”

The reggae singer’s mother, too, has had her share of the spotlight, starting off in the 1990s as a commercial actor, and she understands the challenges that come with the entertainment business. Pride is something, she added, “hindering individuals from sharing their issues with mental health. Not just entertainers, it can be anybody because it is something that affects a person irrespective of who you are. We need more education on the topic”.

THE KOFFEE MAKER

Williams has been dubbed ‘Koffee Maker’ as the one who gave birth to the freshly brewed and Blazin hot reggae singer – she laughs at its conception – a name given to her by popular radio personality Wesley ‘Burgerman’ Burger.

She shared: “It was after Raggamuffin’s release when Burgerman, the radio personality at the time who played her tunes the ‘mostest’, called to tell her congrats on the success of her singles and when I came on the phone, he said, ‘A who dat? The Koffee Maker?’ From then on, I have adopted the Instagram handle @jojothekoffeemaker.

“Strangely, several months ago it occurred to me, I am living my dream to be a performer, without realising it, through my daughter. As a youngster, I grew up singing in the church, maybe not as well as Koffee does, and used to be part of a group. I became involved in the acting world, but it took a back burner for a while. Is recently it all come back to me, when I used to dance and all deejay and sing pon riddim. With Koffee, I tried to get her into commercials early but she was shy and would read the script staccato, but from the moment she took up the guitar and did the cover of Jason Mraz’s I’m Yours at age 12 or so, even scat singing while playing and all that, I knew she would be great at what she wants to do. I actually want to see her do that song over,” she said.

stephanie.lyew@gleanerjm.com