Nadine Sutherland...30 years on
Krysta Anderson • Lifestyle Writer
As Flair Magazine turns 30, let's take a trip down memory lane with our first 'Big Date', a feature that appeared on our pages three decades ago. Nadine Sutherland, then a promising 16-year-old songstress, returns to our pages as an accomplished singer with a solid list of hits.
Thirty years ago, we described her as a shy girl next door. "A lot of people misunderstand my shyness as arrogance to some degree. But I am still a little shy. I have become confident and more assertive, as well as disciplined in every aspect of my life," Sutherland told Flair, recently.
In that first interview, Sutherland expressed her dreams of someday performing on Broadway. "I had pursued the arts back in the day in a very classy way," she said. From dancing all genres possible at the then Jamaica School of Dance, to enrolling in classical music training with Fae Enniver, competing and excelling at both, it's no wonder she wanted to reach for the stars and make her name in the city of lights - New York. But, while Broadway was her stated desire, she went on to lead a life of no regrets, becoming a bona fide reggae and dancehall queen.
"You never know what life holds. Reggae had become such a household name, both locally and internationally, and I am happy to have contributed to my culture. Dancehall gave me my start, but I've proven that I am a multi-genred singer. I still have dreams of Broadway, so you never know," she said.
Sutherland feels honoured to have been a protégé of the legendary Bob Marley, who signed her to Tuff Gong Records while she was still in her teens. The young singer had the privilege of performing background vocals for Peter Tosh at 16 years old. She provided supporting vocals for Bunny Wailer and Leroy Sibbles on tour in the United States, and was a background vocalist at Gussie Clarke's Music Works studio, recording on Gregory Isaacs' 'Mind You Dis' rhythm on the song Mr Hard To Please.
Additionally, she toured with Ziggy Marley in the early 1990s. She then went on to become a solo artiste, working with producer Donovan Germain at his Penthouse Studios, creating many hit tracks, including Action, one her most notable titles, featuring Terror Fabulous, which was recorded in 1993.
Today, she's eagerly anticipating her new project with producer Rory of Stone Love. She has never been one to be fenced in by limitations and has no intentions of starting now, so the sky is still the limit for Sutherland, who emphasised that her musical journey is far from over.
"Mixing professional work and school is not really my idea of heaven, but I've managed." Currently working towards a master's degree in cultural studies, at the University of the West Indies, Mona, her regard for education remains as high as ever.
Adjusting to college life has been an interesting experience. She got the chance to go straight for her master's based on her experience in the music industry. But that was only the beginning. She had to sit special undergrad courses in order to fulfill the requirements for the master's programme. She didn't tell many people of her plans, but it wasn't long before word got out. With the pressure now on, she zoned in on her intellectual capacity, as she calls it, doing the best she could, and in the end, her hard work paid off when she passed and was granted the opportunity to take her education to the next level.
Balancing recording and tertiary-level education has proven difficult but she has devoted time to both passions, sacrificing where it was necessary. Now that she is on her way to the finish line, she is pleased with her progress and looks forward to handing in the first draft of her thesis.
Thirty years ago, the young Sutherland spoke about her "overprotective" father and brother, who at the time, ensured that she was on the right path, irrespective of her new-found fame. Looking back, she's happy for that protection. "Sometimes what you see as a negative can really turn into positive. I'm very grateful," she said.
In the 'Big Date', 30 years ago, the teenager was clear in announcing that she wanted a boyfriend with a considerate personality. Today, she has swapped that criterion for confidence, and had this to say about the man she desires: "I am not into a man settling into his second youth; that is very unappealing. I am not looking for another half to complete me. I am whole, so he has to come into the relationship with me whole as well. I want a man who is confident."
Her advice to fellow Jamaicans: love your country first. "People can make it work. It's just that race and class play a role in being a hindrance in not moving forward. We need to be caring and uplift others instead of tearing them down. Put money into social programmes, like giving money to children to go to school. Sometimes you just need a start, and I've become passionate about that mission," she said.
Thirty years after her first interview with Flair, Nadine Sutherland beams with pride for all of her accomplishments and looks forward to what she knows are the many blessings still heading her way.