Sat | Sep 19, 2020

‘With life, there’s not much to complain about’ - Sister Carol hits Billboard chart

Published:Tuesday | August 4, 2020 | 12:00 AMYasmine Peru/Senior Gleaner Writer

The lyrically potent Sister Carol, also known as ‘Mother Culture’ and the ‘Black Cinderella’, is holding on to the belief that in this COVID-19 era, it is best to look for the good. “I’m here in Jamaica now on quarantine. I’m very grateful to be alive, while respective of the strict measure against this virus. We remain hopeful. With life, there’s not much to complain about,” the singer, who celebrated her 61st birthday with family and friends in St Mary earlier this year, said.

The Rastafarian reggae icon, who is one of a handful of women to have been nominated in the reggae category of the Grammy Award – in 1997 for her Lyrically Potent album – has been tucked away during the lockdown, but, fortunately, her music has not been quarantined. In fact, she even hit the Billboard chart recently and is happy that this effort is introducing her to a new set of listeners.

Sister Carol recently shared with The Gleaner a snippet of what’s happening in her world. “A pop artiste by the name of Jason Mraz in the US released his album, Look For the Good, last month. This is an all-reggae album which has, among the invited guests, popular comedian Tiffany Haddish and I, Mother Culture,” she said.

MRAZ’S WORK

Mraz, who is quite the heavy hitter musically, has a penchant for reggae music, and this is his first album totally dedicated to the genre. But he has stated in interviews that he “is not a reggae artiste” and that he is quite aware that he is “treading on sacred ground”. He is described as a singer-songwriter, two-time Grammy Award winner and a Songwriters Hall of Fame honoree. Mraz’s body of work contains more than six original studio albums, and a multitude of gold, platinum and multi-platinum certifications which extend to over 20 countries globally. According to Billboard, he has promised to donate all earnings from the sales and streams of Look For the Good – including his $250,000 advance – to groups working for racial equality and justice, including Black Lives Matter.

Sister Carol, whose real name is Carol East, linked with Mraz through a mutual friend. “We connected through a brethren of mine named Michael Goldwasser. He produced the album for Jason and thought I was able to join him on a ganja-friendly track called Time Out on the album,” she explained. The veteran reggae singer released her last album in 2017, a ganja ode titled THC (The Healing Cure), and Goldwasser knew of that body of work, plus he had worked with Sister Carol prior to that. Incidentally, Goldwasser is credited with broadening Mraz’s appreciation of reggae, introducing him to the music of Sister Carol, Dennis Brown, Sugar Minott and the band, Aswad.

A delighted Sister Carol told The Gleaner that the response to Time Out and the entire album has been great. “It was on the Billboard charts a couple weeks ago. Everybody can check it out YouTube to get their vibe. It has been little over a month now, so we await what the Most High has in store for us,” she said.

Sister Carol, who originally hails from Denham Town in west Kingston, was 14 when her family emigrated to Brooklyn, New York, her bio states. Her father, Howard East, was a senior engineer with Radio Jamaica and contributed to recording sessions at Studio One, and she became involved in the Jamaican music scene herself. In 1981, she earned a degree in education from the City College of New York and around that time she met Brigadier Jerry, a Jamaican DJ, who encouraged her to try deejaying, rather than singing. It worked. She won competitions in New York and Jamaica and toured with The Meditations. Sister Carol’s first album, Liberation for Africa, was released in 1983, but it was her 1984 album, Black Cinderella, that really established her. She has appeared in the Jonathan Demme movies Something Wild (1986), Married to the Mob (1988), and Rachel Getting Married (2008).

yasmine.peru@gleanerjm.com