Queen Ifrica at Flames Yard Kingston, JA. Photography by Wayne Lawrence.
Born Ventrice Latora Morgan in Spanish Town, Jamaica, Queen Ifrica aka the Fyah Muma is the daughter of ska legend Derrick Morgan. She grew up in the Rastafarian community of Montego Bay, and burst onto the local music scene in 2007 with a humorous tune called “Below The Waist” that she followed up with a string of hits that established the DJ’s name as a force to be reckoned with. While putting the finishing touches on her long-awaited debut album, Ifrica recently released an EP called Road To Mobay, which includes a new song that might as well be her official anthem called “Lioness On The Rise.” As she says in the tune, “When the roll is call up / we’ll be standing tall up.” Run the track…[audio:https://www.boomshots.com/tunes/LionessOnTheRise.mp3]
After vibesing the new music, we linked Ifrica for some reasoning. Come in Fyah Muma….
WILL YOUR ALBUM BE MOSTLY NEW SONGS, OR SONGS THAT HAVE ALREADY HIT ON THE MARKET?
I think “Keep It To Yourself” and “Daddy” is the only two songs that are going to be on it that people are familiar with in terms of songs that are out there. All the other rest are exclusive.
THE EP IS CALLED ROAD TO MOBAY—IS THAT WHERE YOU COME FROM?
Yes I grew up in Montego Bay. I actually spent quite a while there.
IS THAT WHERE THE MUSIC BEGAN FOR YOU?
Yeah, I could say that. Growing up in the Rastafarian community, I was always around music. From the Niyabinghi going to a stage show. And it was in Montego Bay I met Tony Rebel, and he invited me to Flames Productions. So I guess I could say that Montego Bay is where it really started.
SO YOU REALLY USED TO BE CHANTING IN THE NIYABINGHI SESSIONS?
Yes. That’s the environment I was raised in. And also on the album there’s going to be a tribute to Niyabinghi People Center. That’s the center where we would meet on occasion to either celebrate the birthday of His Majesty or just to have a banquet, just Rasta family coming together to entertain ourselves. So that’s like my roots. That’s the community I was raised around.
AND THAT’S COMING THROUGH SO STRONG IN YOUR MUSIC. WE GET THAT CULTURAL VIBE EVERY TIME.
Yes. Because it was always about positive reasoning and observing society from the hills and all the other stuff that is leaking down, especially the poor among us. So it was always the topic of discussion, you know, where justice and equal rights are always concerned.
DANCEHALL SEEMS TO BE GETTING A BEATING LATELY IN THE PRESS AND ON THE RADIO. WHAT ARE YOUR VIEWS ON THE STATE OF THE MUSIC AT THE MOMENT?
Well I wouldn’t necessarily say that dancehall was getting a beating you know, cause it would be unfair. Dancehall is something that derives out of our culture also. But the problem that a lot of us are having—and where we’d say the “beating” is coming from—would be from the lyrical content that some of our artists choose to put on these records and some of these disc jockeys on the radio stations that choose to play them. And it is having an effect. What I don’t like is the hypocrisy of people saying that the music does not have an effect on young people. We could all place our bets and I’m sure that those who bet that it does have an impact would win. Because we see it in the schools, we see it in the streets, we see it in the homes—where music is the first choice for anybody. Music is what people go to for whatever comfort they need at the time.
I support the move to clean up the airwaves, and if I wasn’t an artist I would still be supporting it. And you know sometimes, even as an artist, when you say that you support it… because of the way the society is set up hypocritically, to send the wrong messages to people, it would seem as if the artist that does cultural music is rejoicing because the artist that does derogatory music is getting pressured. But at the same time if it was a cultural artist that was contributing to the decline of the music and the decline of the minds of young people, I would definitely be licking out against that culture artist too myself. You know, cause at the end of the day, it’s not about us the individual that do the music but it’s about the people who consume it. And they’re not just consuming the artist because, they are saying, “Yeah me like the artist so me ah go listen.” Music really does something to people in whatever circumstance they’re in. And as long as we artists put outselves aside and the money making thing aside, and just think about being responsible, I think we’d have a more prosperous dancehall field. A lot of the artists need to be educated to what the music is really about and what having freedom of speech really is.
BECAUSE THERE’S A RESPONSIBILITY THAT GOES WITH THE FREEDOM?
Muma Fyah: Ifrica and her son Imaru. Photography by Wayne Lawrence.
YOU ARE A PARENT AS WELL AS AN ARTIST. HOW DOES THAT SHAPE YOUR OPINION ABOUT HOW MUSIC CAN AFFECT CHILDREN?
A lot of these artists that does the derogatory music have children also. They all have children. I mean, they’re not babies. They all have kids too. You might find a few among them that don’t have kids. But sometimes they even have more than a dozen, twenty-sup’m sometimes… [laughs] So they know what having children is, and the influence that music have on them also.
WITHIN YOUR OWN FAMILY, HOW DO YOU SUPERVISE THE MESSAGES THAT COME IN THROUGH THE MUSIC AND THE MEDIA?
Well my son has certain artists that does a whole lot of violent songs that he loves very much, and he wears their pictures around his neck and everything. I don’t necessarily… I would not be mad at the fact that he’s gravitating to their music and not mine. That would be unfair to him. Because at the end of the day he’s going to gravitate to what he’s getting most readily. The marketplace is not leveled where the cultural acts get the same amount of leverage as the derogatory music. And so this is what the youths are getting to download on their ipods and their phones, and all the other things that they have access to music through. I can’t come down on him and say that he’s being unfair to want to listen to somebody else more than his own mom. But at the end of the day, I’m his mom, and he loves me and he knows what I’m about. And he goes into other environments where I might not have any power over what the society really wants him to hear.
YOU JUST HAVE TO TRUST THAT YOU’VE GIVEN YOUR CHILDREN ENOUGH TEACHING TO MAKE THEIR OWN DECISIONS AND DO THE RIGHT THING.
That is it. They’re always going to gravitate to what they love. But as a parent, you have to be there to let them know that as much as sweets are very good to the tastebuds, it does decay your teeth. So you are going to have to choose between having a lot of sweets to the point where you’re going to have to go to the dentist and take all your teeth out, or you’re going to have it in small portions so that you can preserve yourself in the long run. So as a parent that’s what I have to do.
What I do is, I talk to my son, I ask him what he gets from listening to this music and that helps me to understand the mindset of the other kids that aren’t necessarily in my household. And it is frightening some of the things that he tells me, that he gathers from listening to these things.
BUT YOU DON’T JUST PERFORM ON THE MORE ROOTSY CULTURAL SHOWS LIKE “REBEL SALUTE”. DO YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO BRING YOUR MESSAGE TO THE STING AUDIENCE?
Yeah, because that’s what it’s all about. I would never say that these artists that are doing these things are evil as a person. I’m just saying that sometimes when you’re in a situation when you think that you need to do something for whatever reason you find to justify it, it is hard to get into that space there. So I don’t want to say I’m going to just bash you because you’re doing that, right off the bat. I would love to ask why is it so important for you to do that? You’ll find that the powers that be that promote a Sting and all these kind of shows that promote this kind of negativity, you’ll see it in the areas where you have other people that have products that would benefit from sale who endorse these kinda shows and they go all-out in promoting this negative element.
It is positive and negative that makes up all of us as an individual. It’s which side you want to gravitate toward at the end of the day is going to determine what you get out of it. And so, that’s why we have no problem going to wherever. If it’s even a go-go club I have no problem going in there—as long as I can tell one person dancing that there must be another way of doing this instead of selling yourself short or telling yourself that this is the only way to go. You know?
That’s even one of the things I had to say onstage at Sting. Because there was a running up and down that was taking place in the audience. And everybody was just running all over the place and just getting ready to live up to the expectations of what everybody have of Sting. To say it’s a violent crowd, it’s an unruly crownd, it’s an ungodly crowd. Well that may be so far from the reality that they are trying to portray.
I REMEMBER YOU WERE SAYING “DON’T DO WHAT THEY SAY WE WOULD DO”
Right! Don’t live up to that. And it actually worked, because I ended up getting a forward before I left the stage. A lot of artists—and I got that a lot from the promoters also, who said that in other cases a lot of artists tend to either put the mike down and walk away, or try to perform in the middle of that taking place and it always end up either getting worse or people end up booing them offstage. But it’s not about thinking you’re trying to be a hero, or trying to be a super person—it’s about just seeing something in front of your eyes and really saying, “Is that necessary? I mean, It’s ridiculous, cause you’re not running up and down for anything. It could be a pickpocket in the audience trying to rob somebody. So why you want to come with a mindset of negativity, expecting anything” It don’t have to be that way.
Queen Ifrica rocks Reggae Sumfest 2008. Photography by Rob Kenner
I HEARD SOME NEW SONGS ON THE EP, “LIONESS ON THE RISE” AND “COCONUT SHELL.”
Yeah those are brand-new songs that’s going to be on the album.
WOULD YOU TELL ME ABOUT “LIONESS ON THE RISE?”
Well the “Lioness on The Rise” is basically saying… There’s an individual who is ready to get up and to stand up for something, especially where it have to do with children. A lot of times, we as public figures tend to believe that we don’t have a responsibility to the people that are listening to us, in terms of being there as an ear, being there as somebody they’re accessible to. I am so surprised at when I’m dealing with people and I’m just being me, and they’re actually surprised at the fact that I would stop and talk to them, or that I would have a conversation with them for more than ten minutes. Because they don’t get that from our artists because they’re on this ego trip that a lot of us are on.
So “Lioness On The Rise” is bascially saying that when the roll is called up, we are some of the ones that would be ready to stand up and to be counted as someone who doing something. Who’s not just singing to be famous. But there really are people who are willing to get into the community to get the conversations going and to find solutions.
AND WHAT ABOUT THE “COCONUT SHELL”?
The Coconut Shell—you know we always do herb songs from time to time. As Rastas we always have a little herb song. I don’t necessarily love to write a herb song just from the point of view of saying, Bun some herb and the herb ah me meditation or so… I love to put a little ting in there. You know, the things that the herb can do, and the fact that while you try to destroy it, you can’t believe that there’s so many other things you can do with it… So it’s just an informative way of sharing, not just me burning a spliff and reddin’ up me eyes. But at the same time there’s a little bit of message there that you can actually… Cause it’s not about burning down Babylon because for saying Don’t burn the herb anymore. In Italy we saw where it was legalized for some reason or another.
I MUST HAVE MISSED THAT.
Yeah man, in Italy if you’re caught smoking a cigaerette it’s illegal but you can always smoke a spliff. And there’s certain places, certain coffee shops that they ban cigarette smoking in, but herb is welcome.
QUEEN IFRICA’S DEBUT ALBUM WILL BE RELEASED THIS SUMMER PRODUCED BY FLAMES PRODUCTIONS AND DISTRIBUTED BY V.P. RECORDS