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Out of Many, One Rawsoul People

Published:Saturday | August 28, 2010 | 12:00 AM

Stephanie Lyew, Gleaner Writer

With her European tour preparations well under way, songstress Etana, who still lives up to the Swahili definition of her name, 'The Strong One', spoke with Saturday Life about her latest projects and hopes for the future.

In 2006, when Etana became a solo roots-reggae artiste, she partnered with designer of Dattawd Designs, Andre Morris, to launch a casual wear line, Rawsoul, in March.

However, before her solo debut, Etana landed a job with Universal Studios as a singer in the girl-group Gift, but gave up that chance, rebelling against the gaudy attire that was required of her.

"I would get attention that I did not want for myself. What you wear says a lot about the way that people treat you," said the singer, commenting on wearing short skirts and showy clothes.

Etana walked away from music completely and returned to Jamaica to open her first business. But music always remained her number-one passion. In 2005, she again received the opportunity, this time to sing back-up for Richie Spice. That was the launching pad of her now successful musical career.

But Etana said she represents more than music. She has an element of entrepreneurship. Here's what Etana has to say about her strength and style.

  • How do you juggle business and music?

When it comes to music and writing, 'mi jus tek weh miself'. Music is not hard to write for me, because it's my emotion. However, I try my hardest to balance everything I do. I also have a good team of representatives who all play a significant role. So, Rawsoul, music and everything else gets the required attention.

Rawsoul clothing line includes a wide variety of styles, including short shorts. For a female reggae artiste with a conservative style, why would you represent a brand that includes short shorts in their line?

Rawsoul is a clothing line for anyone, male and female, and the items range from T-shirts, tanks, long skirts, short skirts and shorts. At age 16 and 17, I was wearing short skirts and shorts, but I guess a change in image was needed. Not everybody wears dresses and long skirts like I do, yet I can still represent the line, even though it doesn't necessarily represent me.

  • What's your favourite article from the line?

My favourite piece is a simple, yet strong T-shirt that has the words Rawsoul across the chest in metallic silver. It reflects my personality and personal style.

  • Where does the inspiration come from in creating the designs?

The main inspiration for starting the line was to create something that freely expresses oneself. The creativity that lies within every human is sometimes suppressed due to fear of failure or other reasons.

The inspiration for the designs comes mainly from different art forms and the Jamaican people - observing how and what they wear and how they live.

  • With the ban on expletives in music and commercially, do you think the name Rawsoul will spark controversy, especially with you being a singer who emphasises positive lyrics?

Let's set the record straight, Rawsoul means the intellectual nature of a person in its purest state. The word raw means untouched, unchanging, natural and untainted, and soul refers to the spiritual self. When put together, Rawsoul then means a spirit that is untouched by negativity and the brand represents this free expression. It's just a good play on words, turning something known to be negative into something positive.

  • Speaking about free expressions, that is the title of your new album that was to be released but is now on hold. Why the hold-up?

It was time to revisit some of the songs and issues with the production of the album, but it will be released on November 9.

  • What's the Free Expressions album like?

The 2008 (album), the music was a mixture with R&B but Free Expressions goes deeper into the roots-reggae. It is roots, rockin' raw-soul reggae - very open and honest lyrics.

  • Promotion plays an important role in every aspect of your career. How do you plan to promote your album and the clothing line this year?

The tour should promote the album, internationally, along with radio play. As for the clothing line, promotion comes through me wearing the shirts while on tour.

  • Where can persons interested in Rawsoul find it?

The shirts are available at Collectibles T-shirts in the Village Plaza, Spicy Couture in the Mall Plaza, Glam Gods and Goddesses at The Treasure House, Shop 5, 96 Hope Road, and Stacie's Boutique in Half Moon Shopping Village and Secrets Hotel.

  • What other business endeavours are you taking on for the rest of 2010?

Well, the Etana notebooks are available at Kingston Bookshop. With the recession this year, we have sold the books at a reduced price, allowing the store to sell at a lower price too. They are 200-page binders with photos from shows on the cover, along with quotes from my music and myself.

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