'The Lion Of Sheba'

Published: Sunday | December 20, 2009

Sadeke Brooks, Staff Reporter

Like her life, Ethiopian born Sheba Sahlemariam's music is a fusion of many different cultures.

The singer was born in Ethiopia but her family was exiled from the country when she was only a baby. Since then, she has lived in places like Germany, Guyana, Trinidad, New York, Canada, Kenya, and even Jamaica. Hence, her music is heavily influenced by varied cultures.

"We did a lot of travelling when I was young and it has sort of given me a view that is very global. The music that I create sounds as diverse as my life. My life is about growing up in many different places. My life is a fusion of all those things and my music is a fusion," Sheba told The Sunday Gleaner.

"My musical style is fusing all the music that I grew up on; dancehall, reggae, Afro-pop, Ethiopian jazz and urban music. I am fusing all those things which sound like the soundtrack to my life."

The New York-based artiste said reggae and dancehall is also a big part of her music.

"It is very big in New York," Sheba said. "You can't grow up in New York and not be exposed to it. And my experience living here (Jamaica) let it get under my skin. It was just so around me, I started to soak it up and love it."

She has also done remixes of her songs Love This Lifetime with Bounty Killer and Oxygen with Mr Perfect.

And ofcourse, there is much influence from Ethiopia, as she says, "It will be represented in my album. Certain songs that represent Ethiopia and Ethiopian music, both traditional and modern."

Although she left the country as a baby, she is still close to its traditions. She said she was able to return there as a teenager and now, she makes regular visits as her father, sister and other relatives still live there.

"Ethiopia for me, is always gonna be where I'm really from. It is always gonna feel like home in my heart. But the reality for me is that I feel at home in many other places," she said, while noting that she is a cousin of Emperor Haile Selassie.

Nonetheless, Sheba said her aim is to bring the many world sounds into one voice. This, she hopes to accomplish next year with her album, 'The Lion Of Sheba'.

"The goal with 'The Lion Of Sheba' is to remix the past, present and future of African sounds in an urban context. My target is basically the African Diaspora," she said.

However, she noted that what she is doing is nothing new, as it is being done now by artistes like Santi Gold and MIA.

At the end of the day, Sheba says she is a songwriter and her aim is to do music that touches people.

And although she was always interested in music, it didn't become a reality until later on in her life. She said she has been singing and writing since she was a child but she did not start recording until eight years ago.

"It was only in the last two years that I have been out there making myself known. It has just been my passion all life," Sheba said, while noting that she graduated from college in 2001 because school was always important in her family.

"Love This Lifetime was a single I did myself. And everything that has happened is as a result of it being posted on youtube. So, if that is any indication, so far so good."

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