The Strong One Brings Us Together – A Conversation with Etana

Photo Credit: Marvin Bartley

When I was first introduced to Etana back in 2008, WhereItzAt Magazine had been around for just 5 years, and we were always on the lookout for “Rising Starz”, which became the name of a segment of our publication. Our existing relationship with VP Records led to the introduction, subsequent interview, and cover story on The Strong One, a title that was not only her debut album but also the meaning of her name in Swahili. Strength is something Etana continues to demonstrate every day as she continues to write, perform and churn out albums that have garnered the admiration and respect of fans worldwide, especially in Africa. Etana, born Shauna McKenzie, has released seven albums, and in 2018 received a Grammy nomination in the Best Reggae Album category for her fifth album Reggae Forever, which she executive produced. I could stop there, but why would I? Etana’s story needs to be told. Here is an artist who has had chart-topping success with a Billboard No. 1 plaque for her 2014 album I Rise and continues to rise to the top.

I had the opportunity to interview Etana recently, and the experience was almost comparable to our last in-person meeting at Irie Jamboree on September 6, 2009. What made it different? Well, as I recall, Etana sang me a song and time stopped. Her voice blew me away. That’s when I was convinced how much of a powerhouse she truly is as an artist. Talent aside, I discovered just how humble Etana is. I had some technical issues with our most recent interview, let’s just say, my file pulled a Houdini, Etana was gracious enough to do the interview again and it was just as good, if not better than the first.

We spoke about several things ranging from her upcoming eighth studio album to people’s perception of her new look, which has had people buzzing on social media. As Etana, states “I don’t see [sic]a big difference, but I know exactly what they are talking about, and it was intentionally done, and I think that I’m having fun creating new music and I’m still enjoying my style of wearing my long dresses and some clothing with maybe just a little bit of cleavage showing or maybe not. I’m just doing me. I’m doing my style and I think that my fans who have been around for a long time, they know, and they are just rolling right along and those who are still back at 2008 on “Wrong Address” and “I’m Not Afraid” and stuff, I think they just need to catch up and that’s it.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Photo Credit: Marvin Bartley

While discussing the collaborations and the new album, Pamoja, Etana had this to say:

“The meaning of Pamoja is together and I got together with all these musicians from all over. From Zambia, from Kenya, from Zimbabwe and we made it happen and we came together and created some strong songs and yeah, I think the message just came together and came across and went through the whole album.”

Etana also mentioned that when the album was being created, there were only supposed to be three collaborations (not including Vybz Kartel, which was still in the works) – Stonebwoy from Ghana, Naiboi from Kenya and Alborosie from Italy. Now, there are 11 collaborations, including the previously mentioned artists along with Vybz Kartel and Damian Marley, and a host of other talented artists.

After listening to the album several times, I remain convinced that Etana is one of the most talented artists of our time. Her range can only be limited by her imagination. Pamoja is an amazing blend of music, that features artists from the Caribbean and Africa. The album serves up messages of love, resilience, self-respect, pride, and power all while making you dance and feel good vibrations.

There’s so much more to say, but you can find out more by watching my interview with Etana below and stay tuned for updates on any special giveaways.

For more updates on Etana visit her website or follow her on Instagram @etanastrongone or OneEtana on Facebook.

An image as a link: W3Schools