Mel Cooke, Gleaner Writer
Feonia Williams got the nickname 'Fuel' from emerging performer Roshida Rose about three years ago. "She said everywhere she goes she hears about me. She said, 'you are the fuel. I am going to call you Fuel'," Williams told The Gleaner.
The name, depicting energy, came in handy when Williams decided to start her own company three years ago. She dubbed the outfit Reggae Fuel Entertainment and Production Company, registering it recently.
Reggae Fuel represents the annual late summer Rototom Sunsplash - initially held in Italy but now staged in Spain - in Jamaica. Williams said the company also works with Bahamian artiste Jah Hem and Imar, a Jamaican about whom Williams is especially excited. His recordings to date include Woman I Need You and Long Way to Go. And Williams says there has been strong, positive feedback.
"We choose to do younger artistes. We like to identify and bring out what we know would have good for the market," she said.
Fuel has been on slow burn and been through several stages for a long time, even taking an extended break from music at one point. After finishing St Hugh's High School, Williams, who said she always had an interest in music, worked at The Record Store in Sovereign, Liguanea. "That was my very first job," Williams said. As a sales representative, she provided people with not only the music they requested, but also recommended tracks to them. Then, her favourites included Angelique Kidjo, Deep Forest and Enigma.
She also found that customers "taught me about the music" - like one 10-year-old boy who came in for Beethoven and Tchaikovsky.
That job lasted six months and Williams moved into video with the late Stafford Ashani at A+ Production on a chance meeting. "My grandparents used to have a garage and Stafford would come to service his vehicle there. He was amazed at my conversation. I was so into music and creating things. He invited me to come and work at his company," Williams said.
That proved to be her real immersion in music, as Williams started working on videos for Tony Rebel, Junior Reid and Buju Banton, among others. "We even did a documentary on Buju," Williams said. Ashani also ran the Reggae Strong television programme.
Ashani sent her back to school, but probably not the kind Williams would have anticipated at another point in her young life. She found herself learning studio engineering from Steven Ventura at the Creative Productions Training Centre, one of two women in the class.
Then came a break from the business of music, Williams going to England for a year. When she came back to Jamaica, Ashani was no longer in the video-making business and she applied her accountant training for seven years.
"It was easy work but boring and I could not create," Williams said.
Eventually, she left and got back into the hustle and bustle of music with Red Bull, including visits in the region as part of the energy drink's Music Academy. Williams visited Trinidad, Barbados, the Bahamas and Colombia, once again learning about the music other people liked as she got a closer listen to the music of other countries - while telling them more about reggae.
After six years, it was time for Williams to go on her own. "I incorporated everything I learnt and put it into Reggae Fuel," she said. It did not hurt that she did some work with a then emerging I-Octane while still at Red Bull. "After seeing how that moved, I decided to take it to a new level," Williams said. "Reggae Fuel is supposed to be one of the Caribbean's top promotions, event- production and artiste-marketing companies in five years."
Assessing the strengths of Reggae Fuel, Williams said, "I listen and learn, and what I learn I incorporate it with the things I think will make it happen. And I easily adapt as well. Once I know what I have, I can sell an artiste. I am driven, ambitious and aggressive for what I want".