Jah9 and her family of roots reggae revival artists prove that the natural mystic can be accessed; tapped into and drawn from to create a sound, a feeling, an awakening. With artists such as Protoje, Kabaka Pyramid, Kelissa, Chronixx, Dre Island and more constituting a collective that has reawakened reggae fans, Jah9 is special. She has created her own persona as a transcendent empress, evoking her passion and philosophy for life through song. Her voice is distinctly powerful and her message empathizes with the struggles of any person seeking a greater purpose in life.
Born Janine Cunningham in Jamaica's Trelawny Parish, her path was shown long before she realized her desire to sing and inspire. As a young girl, the singer's uncle foreshadowed what would be her stage name by organically referring to her as Jah9. The number 9 began to then take on a life of its own, as she found herself more connected to its meaning; then seeing it as the obvious choice for a name when she began pursuing music and living publicly as an artist.
"I always connected with my name as Jah and 9. I have always been interested in the number 9 and how it played out in my own life, through the cycles of years and things that would happen to me. As I learned more about the significance of the number 9 in nature and creation, animals and how it represents the spiral and how that spiral connects with nature, as well as the mathematical significance and African symbolism, I connected with that as well as the representation of femininity, change, and new beginnings. For me, just having the number in my name made it really something that I paid attention to. When I became an artist I realized I was already given a name, you know, Jah9, so I just continued to use it and watch it unfold," explains the singer.
This September, Jah9 will release her sophomore album titled "9 The Album," which will premiere on 9.9.9. (2+0+1+6=9). The awareness of numerology, purposefully aligning the date of her album release according to symbolic principles, is just one of the reasons fans are in awe of Jah9's persona. She is a leader among her musical colleagues, yet is accepting of what comes. She's not looking for overnight success or a way to create a career curated by other people's idea of fame. To Jah9, the message within her music is the reason. Getting this message to others is the success. "I was trying to avoid releasing the album all the way in September, but it was always there. When I finally sat with the team and realized how the timeline was working I just had to surrender and say that really is the best day."
Listen to Jah9's new single, "Humble Mi" here:
People describe artists who draw inspiration from the spiritual in different ways: old soul, connected, one. Yet, Jah9 is more than cliched descriptions. She has a deep-rooted curiosity for truth and understanding. Lyrics such as "the truth sets me free and encourages me" from her new single "Humble Mi" are not to be taken lightly. When asked if there are any activists or political figures she draws upon to inspire her spoken word, Jah9 responded, "I think just observing people historically, more than politically, is inspiring because I try to look at the world through the lens of Africa. (Examine) from the highest civilizations and kind of looking at it where we must have been able to use more of our brains till now and looking at how man has turned the world into color-coded politics and being disillusioned by it all. A lot of that influences the topics I share, especially as a black woman living in this time right now."
Jah9's sound is integral to the delivery of her message, which made us curious about her own musical influences. "There were many singers who influenced me in terms of their capacity to create music with their voices such as Ella Fitzgerald, Tracy Chapman, and Nina Simone; these women who were producers of music while sharing how their life story unfolded. They were powerful and great sources of talent and emotion and they provided a great example for me."
As Jah9 prepares to release "9 The Album," she recently surprised fans with a brand new mixtape entitled, 9MM Vol. 2. The record, available for download on Jah9's website, features some of her most loved tunes to date including "Avocado," "Feeling Irie," and now "Humble Mi."
Listen to 9MM Vol. 2 here:
In the meantime, as Jah9's work continues to inspire her listeners to experience their own truth, she discussed with us how she came to find her sense of self. "I grew up in the church, so my first experience of spirituality was through Christianity, so we didn't know our history, our language, or our original relationship with God. All we have is what we have been taught by those who gave us religion, but there are truths in these things. All of it is an amalgamation of the truth, and the essence of the truth can be found in the Word. As a youth growing up, I felt so connected to my environment and I saw how Christianity affected my family. My father was a pastor and he allowed me to ask a lot of questions, but I still grew up very sheltered. My whole mental world was caught up with this church and I just watched life happen while I started to outgrow the containment of the church. The constant disappointment led me to Africa and His Imperial Majesty. Not willing to accept things that I am told has been a challenge for me and I think maybe between the age of 9 and 11 is when I really began to take the spirit personally and realize that no one else is going to show me what I need to find." Even while casually speaking, the power and depth of Jah9's thoughts and her ability to communicate them solidify her as a vessel of truth.
Recently, Jah9 appeared at California's 32nd annual Reggae on The River (ROTR) music festival in Humboldt County. Commenting on her love of the northern California vibes, she said, "I really enjoyed the last Reggae on The River where I got to walk around and meet the people." The feelings are mutual as fans thoroughly enjoyed Jah9's powerful performance, citing her spiritual ability to connect with her audience as the reason for her set being one of the most talked about performances at this year's fest. The singer is currently still on her #Yearof9Tour. Click here for the complete schedule.
Get familiar with Jah9's stylistic grace in the official video for her single "Feeling Irie":
Listen to her brand new thought-provoking single "Prosper" here:
Featured image courtesy of Joavan Puran Artwork.