Today's roots reggae revival has treated us to some of the genre's most powerful voices and produced songs that vibrate deep within the hearts of the community. One such songstress is roots-reggae dawta, Marla Brown, the youngest daughter of reggae legend Dennis Brown.
After a successful career in dance and performance, Brown solidified herself as a reggae singer in 2014, when she represented for her father in Jamaica, during their month-long celebration of music known as Reggae Month. Brown performed at several events during this time and really shined at the Dennis Brown Annual Tribute Show, produced by JARIA Jamaica (Jamaica's Reggae Industry Association).
KingstonToLA recently caught up with Brown ahead of her upcoming performance in California at the Sierra Nevada World Music Festival, in Boonville.
KNG2LA: How did this journey begin for you?
Marla Brown: My family has always been active in entertainment, so I organically moved into this realm. I initially went straight into dancing and didn't see myself becoming a singer. I never said, "when I grow up, I want to be a singer." It literally just happened overnight. I moved to Jamaica, and they had a tribute show for my father, this was in 2014; and they asked me to perform and I said "sure," as I was always singing with my family. I had been writing songs and wrote a song for my father "Here Come's the King" and I performed it at the event, and literally from that reaction, the love, the embrace (of that performance) that's when I said: "maybe this is for me." (laughs) The dancing prepared me for the stage because I had been doing it for so many years - so God and my father already had their plan and it was just my teaching steps and my journey to get to this point where I am at now.
KNG2LA: A lot of the music's subject matter is rooted in Rastafari principles, were you raised in those principles or did that develop as you became more conscious.
Marla Brown: I have always been conscious in terms of my relationship with God. In terms of Rastafari, it wasn't a strict religious experience, it was more of a family feeling, a respect, and love for one another. I grew up in the Church of England, as a Christian, but moving to Jamaica; that is when I interacted more with my father, as a Rasta. Yet, my father passed when I was 12 years old, so I was witness to how he interacted with his people and through his music. Either way, I have always been faithful to God and had that kind of understanding of how to live, who to live amongst, and being grounded in that knowledge. I'm conscious of being grounded in my roots and roots is a way to faith, love, and unity, and I have executed this throughout my life. So, nothing has changed, it's one faith is one love.
KNG2LA: In the UK there is a very nice roots reggae community - for example you and Randy Valentine - do you connect with those other artists?
Marla Brown: Yeah, Randy and I just got back from Germany, we had a show together and that was really nice. We connected quite some time ago. We had another show in London together - it is just one family. I come from a big family and I have always been a people person. So, also Christopher Elis lives in London and again all of us are one big family. One message we are trying to project. So, it's nice to come together and shine that light.
KNG2LA: Are you close or connected with any other "roots daughters?"
Marla Brown: Passion Minott, I am very close too. She was my first friend when I moved to Jamaica. We are still very close. I moved to Jamaica two years ago. So I am now back in London because I have got some shows in Europe, so I am literally back and forth all the time. I am close to everyone; we have Kelissa, Donna Romeo, Keida, Hempress Sativa. Hempress Sativa is on my new project Survivor so I am really excited for people to hear that collaboration. I love the female energy and it is nice that we are each speaking our own truth. The voice becomes louder when we all come together. (then Marla discussed some upcoming goodness between her and the other roots daughters that we were sworn to secrecy not to discuss). Although we (the roots daughters) are all on our own journey, it is more powerful when we all come together. When we all speak with one voice, this kind of power can touch more people.
KNG2LA: Where did you grow up?
Marla Brown: I was born and raised in London. But, I spent my summers in Jamaica (I am the youngest of five), because we have a house there as well. My mom and dad got married in London, moved to Jamaica, and moved back to the UK once they had children. I was educated in London, but, as a family, we were back and forth traveling all the time.
KNG2LA: With so much going on in the world today, how do you remain grounded - positive?
Marla Brown: I read my scriptures. You have to read your scriptures, and you need this as your foundation to exist in this world. Know who you are - my message is always empowerment of self. We have to love ourselves before we can love another person or thing. I like to create songs with clear substance so I do a lot of reading. London is diverse, so I interact with other cultures. Yet, once you overstand self - you are able to expand and gain knowledge. I am still growing, still educating myself. For my songs, I think I am speaking my truth and our reality. God's timing is the best, and we can only learn from what he is presenting to us. So, continue reading and expanding your knowledge base.
KNG2LA: Is this your first time coming to the Sierra Nevada Music Festival and is there anyone you are looking forward to seeing at the festival?
Marla Brown: Yes, it is! I am looking forward to everyone because everyone brings something unique. Everyone has their own interpretation of the roots - of the music - of the culture. So, I am looking forward to seeing these different interpretations, hearing what inspires them. I am going to stay for the whole weekend - cannot miss it.
KNG2LA: Who are you listening to now that you find inspiring?
Marla Brown: I love neo-soul, gospel. I am always listening to my father and he is my favorite artist, but not because he is my father. More that his messages - I have always been a message person. I like Alex Isley and India Irie because they are conscious as well.
The roots reggae revival is a re-awakening. This generation of singers and artists carries on the tradition held by many of their parents, one that looks to use music to uplift and bring a oneness to the listener. Marla Brown is one of the flag bearers for this movement. Her sound is handed down from her father but is also very much her own. A fresh take on a message that has stood the test of time. In it, purity and the desire to seek harmony. It's message, to find commonality as a people and oneness in self. This is Marla Brown, and why her music resonates is because this is also each of us.
Listen to Brown's dedication to her father, "Here Comes The King," here:
Watch the video for Brown's breakthrough single "Better Days," produced by Royal Order Music here:
Featured photography by Gianluca De Girolamo