I refer to the music I create as ‘Truth Music’ as it reflects my spiritual journey and the physical and psychological changes that come along with it. – AbiYah Yisrael
AbiYah Yisrael is a gift from The Commonwealth of Dominica to the world of Reggae. Talented, spiritually grounded, deeply rooted in her African identity, fierce and truthful with a melodic soothing voice, AbiYah (Ah-bee-Yah) is in a class of her own spreading Truth Music.
Dominica, not to be confused with the country Dominica Republic, is an island of the Lesser Antilles in the eastern Caribbean Sea. It lies between Guadeloupe and Marie-Galante to the north and Martinique to the south. It is the last Caribbean island to be colonized and in reality, it could not be fully colonized because the Kalinagoes (Indigenous people) and Negre Mawon (maroons) worked together to ensure the colonisers failed. The British Parliament at that time claimed that Dominica’s Maroons were more savage than Jamaica’s Maroons. AbiYah Yisrael is cut off the same cloth of rebellious warriors.
“We had leaders like Jacko, Bala and Calypso (all birthed on African soil) and even Carib Warner who seemingly rejected the oppressors and wanted our people to live in peace. Now in these hard times I am calling on us, their descendants, to rise up once again and reject oppression.”
It was inevitable that Nicole Christian-Alfred, now known as AbiYah Yisrael, would grow and end up taking the mantle from her ancestors using music as her strategic weapon. She grew up in a home where music and Christian principles intertwined daily. I grew up in an extended family. My Mom was the choir instructor at the primary school that I attended. I too was a member of that choir. My father always loved singing, dancing and entertaining guests at home. My sister and I would do backup vocals for him whenever he sang folk songs to our guests while one of my brothers played the keyboard. I remember a time my father rented a drum set and had one of our friends play drums while we sang for a family gathering. So I was constantly exposed to various genres in my home setting. My Mom and brothers loved listening to reggae and dancehall, my sisters enjoyed 80s and 90s Pop and R&B music and my father always sang along to Rock and Roll, Motown, Calypso and Soca tunes. As a family we also enjoyed local genres like Cadence (Kadass), Cadence-lypso, Zouk, Bouyon (boo-yon with the ‘n’ silent) and oh boy, I had a hefty dose of gospel music as well. Various artists like Nasio Fontaine, Denis Brown, Marcia Griffiths, Bob Marley, Lucky Dube, The Mighty Sparrow, Singing Sandra, Michele Henderson, Kassav, Whitney Houston, Aretha Franklin, Yolanda Adams…and I can go on and on…all influenced my sound and music direction.
She would go on to perform and showcase her talent at various events and in the process got recognition for her musical efforts. In 1998 She won Artist of Tomorrow competition in the Junior section;2nd Runner up at the DOMFESTA Song Competition in 2019 and just last year,(2021) she was 3rd Runner Up at the Dominica Virtual Calypso Competition. During that period, Abiya was heavily involved in the worship team and also performed at gospel events. It followed that her very first release in 2012 would be a gospel album entitled ‘Speak To Me’ under the name Nicole Christian. She then took a break to focus on her studies at the University of the West Indies where she successfully completed her Bachelor’s Degree with honors in Social Work.
I believed that Social Work best fitted my personality, character and philosophy. During that time I learned that the laws, policies and societal structure that exist today in the western hemisphere of the world were created by our colonizers; some who claimed to be Christians and taught slaves the word of God. I was angry, then sad, then confused; a whole hip of emotions. I wanted to know what my ancestors did way before being kidnapped from West Africa and taken here as slaves. I researched a lot. That is when I discovered my Hebrew Israelite roots and spirituality in Enoch, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc. I found out that my ancestors were Kings, Queens, Prophets, a great nation under the council of the Mighty Yahweh and that his son Yahshua who once dwelled among us is our King and High Priest and will return as the Lion of the Tribe of Judah. Since then my focus has been to get back to the culture of my ancestors. I am guided by the Thorah…scriptures.
That is how Nicole Christian-Alfred metamorphosed into AbiYah meaning Yahweh is my father and ‘Yisrael’ speaks of the nation that she belongs to. It is also the same period that she was introduced to the conscious sound of organic roots rock reggae and her love and understanding of reggae grew. She grew consciously and musically strong enough to plunge into the music profession as a career, a tough decision considering that in her country, music is still seen as a hobby and something that you cannot live off. It is also particularly tough because the preferred genres enjoyed by locals are Bouyon, Soca, and Calypso and there are not many events catered to reggae acts. But these are minor issues for a soul like Abiyah Yisrael destined for world stages. She dabbles effortlessly in calypso as can be heard on her recent release Levé (an awakening) a Cadence-lypso local genre sung in both English and Creole where she ponders on the Dominican Independence after Forty-three years and ask the perennial question: Are we truly free?
Although it may me tough, her journey as an independent artist signed under an independent label has been rather progressive, receiving positive feedback, air play and attention both at home and abroad. Working with different producers mostly from home (Africa) and abroad, AbiVah really stands out as she walks the talk. She not only sings about Africa but effectively reaches out to her distant cousins and work together with them in alignment with her vision and purpose.
Africa is my original home. No matter where I was born my bloodline runs on these streets. When producers from Africa reached out to me, I’ve been more than happy to oblige.
One of the producers who reached out was South Africa’s Lavoro Duro who produced the Empathy Riddim compilation album, which went on to be nominated at the South African Music Awards in the Best Reggae Album category. Abiya featured with the Single Love in My Heart and that was followed by Africa Time on the Reconciliation Riddim by same producer. In Kenya she featured on the Prayer Riddim with Calabash Running Over and Herb Tree on I Great Riddim produced by Francis Kaumba of Ever Blazzing Production based in Germany. She features on the Kingston Dakar Riddim with a ting called Ital Farmer produced by SenVibe 221 and 10 Star Muzic from Senegal and UK and Tell Me produced by Gasha Blacks out of Jamaica and Boxed In produced by Chayah Studio in Dominica. Then she levelled up with Sweet Dreams off the Rise Up Riddim produced by Jermain Clarke for Pure Hits Music Records in Jamaica.
Her lyrics are not only conscious but are deeply rooted in African philosophy, spiritually ingrained and truthful, yet delivered in such sweet melodies. How does she strike a balance of delivering truth music without emotions getting in the way?
I think it’s the fact that I’m generally a sweet person (so they say) who has all these emotions. My husband can attest that I am an emotional person lol. But I am better able to sort out my emotions and vent through music.
To date AbiYah has released 22 singles and 18 of those were released in the last two years.( The lockdown’s positive side effects). Together with her amazing husband Hilroy ‘ObadYah’ Alfred who is also her manager, producer, rhythm guitarist, song writer; they own ChaYah Studios (Ka-Yah). Chayah meaning life restored. They are working on an album to be released under the ChaYah Studios label and have already had their first release for 2022 with Boxed In. But first Abiya has an EP on the way which will not come until a few more singles have been released in 2022.