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Halifax musician celebrates reggae roots at National Arts Centre

Jamaican-born and Halifax based musician Jah'mila is performing with conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa this week. (National Arts Centre - image credit)
Jamaican-born and Halifax based musician Jah'mila is performing with conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser and the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa this week. (National Arts Centre - image credit)

A local reggae musician is spearheading a series of performances and educational modules to celebrate the storied history of the art form.

Spanning multiple decades and countless fierce, political and celebratory records, reggae music is a certified worldwide phenomenon. And it's fair to say that Halifax's Jah'Mila, a dazzling musician and the daughter of legendary roots reggae guitarist Earl Chinna Smith, is every bit the genre's disciple.

"In the 60s, Jamaica was going through a lot of turmoil, a lot of political unrest, and reggae rose to prominence at that time as the voice of the oppressed," she told Information Morning Nova Scotia.

"It was the voice of the marginalized in the community and it was a way for them to be able to share their dissatisfaction with their way of life. It's either political social commentary or it was just an encouragement for all of us to live in one love and equality and unity."

In 2022, Jah'Mila joined Symphony Nova Scotia live in concert to perform the songs of Nina Simone, but now she's taking her talents to the national stage.

This week, she begins a series of performances tracing the history of reggae at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa with the National Arts Centre Orchestra and conductor Daniel Bartholomew-Poyser.

These concerts will take place in tandem with a series of educational modules for young students, who will learn about the origins of raggae, its cultural and political influences, and some of the genre's most influential songs and artists.

If you can't make it to Ottawa, Jah'Mila will be playing in Dartmouth and Halifax next month. She will perform at the Woodlawn Library on March 14 and March 16, and at the Halifax Central Library on March 18.

Jah'Mila spoke with Information Morning host Portia Clark about her research, and what to expect from her performances.

For more stories about the experiences of Black Canadians — from anti-Black racism to success stories within the Black community — check out Being Black in Canada, a CBC project Black Canadians can be proud of. You can read more stories here.

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