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Happy Mother's Day to dancehall's mom

Published:Sunday | May 13, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Artistes agree on genre's matriarch

Lady Saw honoured by title

Hasani Walters, Gleaner Writer

Being a standout female entertainer in a male-dominated arena is as hard as it looks. It comes with its pros and cons, mostly cons.

Every musical genre has had female figures who the major industry players admire for their outstanding work and contribution to the development of the genre.

Whether they are alive or dead, their work and names are etched in the history books and the minds of listeners, and aspiring and established acts.

Like a Mildred Bailey or a Bessie Smith is to jazz, or a Ruth Brown is to R&B, dancehall has its own matriarch. Marion 'Lady Saw' Hall, or 'Mumma Saw' as she is affectionately referred to, has many a musical son and daughter.

Her 'sons' who have been in some way influenced to embark on their journey as entertainers by her told The Sunday Gleaner that the relationship they share with their 'mumma' goes much further than the obvious musical ties that bring them together.

Music producer Steve Locke of TruckBack Records who has worked closely with Lady Saw for almost 15 years and is partly responsible for some of her more recent hits, like Short Cummings and Like Mi Mate, told The Sunday Gleaner Lady Saw was not "just another artiste that come into the studio", and that their relationship extended beyond musical boundaries.

"To me, Lady Saw is like a mother and a sister in one. The love that we have for each other is amazing, and she always listen to we, just like how we always a listen to her. Is a bond so special that we know what will trouble her and what won't ... she come in like one of us. We don't see her as an artiste who we a do some work with. Trust mi, we have a great musical relationship as well because when we guh music, we don't miss. We go around the world together and what she do inna music nobody nuh do it yet," said Locke.

Deejay Kiprich spoke of his admiration of her dominance.

"Is a woman that I have to have respect for. She is always moving forward in the industry with the strength of a woman. She really keeps up with the men in an industry that is very hard for a man much less a woman. She's really a mother to the business, as you can see from the influence that she has on up-and-coming acts, especially the females. If mi call her pon her phone right now, mi a go seh 'Mumma, wah gwan'," Kiprich explained.

positive advice

Although he has not yet collaborated with Lady Saw, Kiprich said she always had nothing but positive advice to offer.

Kiprich recently recorded Life Change, an effort between Lady Saw and Lisa Hyper on the Grill Fly rhythm for his Nuh Behavia Music imprint.

Elephant Man also spoke to The Sunday Gleaner, saying Lady Saw's undying determination and her contribution to dancehall will forever keep her an inspiration for those to come.

"She's one of the best mothers ... she care for her two daughters so good while she have a bag a other pickney inna the music. Is a lady weh love her kids and always a try set a foundation. Mi nah really use her work and judge her, cause that's how she earns her bread, but she's a very nice person. As a musical mother inna di ting so long, mi have to give it up to her. She neva leave music for anything yet. Her donation to the music as a woman and as a mumma to di whole a we ... mi nah lie, it's a legacy. She is always working. Over the years, mumma hold it out, man."

A few seconds later, Elephant Man burst into singing, doing a remake of his favourite Lady Saw songs, which included Siddung, a recent collaboration with himself, Hice It Up, Sicamore Tree and Healing.

Lady Saw, who is revered by many as the queen of dancehall, began performing with sound systems at a young age. It was not long before she became known for her raunchy style which led to her performances being banned in some places in Jamaica. As a result, her Freedom Of Speech song, an outcry against these bans as similarly lewd performances by males were not, was done.

She has had several hits over the years, was certified as a triple-platinum artiste and earned a Grammy Award for Best Performance by a Duo or Group for her featured performance on No Doubt's single Underneath It All, which peaked at No. 3 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. She launched her Divas Records label in 2010.

When The Sunday Gleaner contacted Lady Saw, she was in the middle of writing a song. You could hear her trying to put the lyrics together as she answered the telephone.

"I'm honoured to be seen in that light. What I think it's saying is that I govern everything female as the dancehall mother," she said.

She continued, going on to disclose some of her idols, among other things, saying:

"I remember I used to look up to Sister Nancy as a 'mumma' in dancehall. I would even say that she is the mother of dancehall before me. I used to love how she worked on the stage. There was one point when females were only the opening acts at the shows, but when I came I was closing shows. I remember many males were afraid to work after me," she laughed.