I Rise – Etana.
Released: October 2014
Album Review by Reggae Lovers Botswana
Talk of outstanding female artists in reggae platforms and the name Etana springs out. The
name is, in fact, engraved in the top-ten list of these potent reggae females. The first time I
listened to Etana was in the early 2000’s when she did soothing backing vocals for Richie
Spice. Back then, she was just a voice in the background, enhancing Richie’s power-laden
lines. But today, clipped to Etana’s belt are four studio albums; The Strong One (2008), Free
Expressions (2011), Better Tomorrow (2013) and I Rise (2014), all released under the
arguably largest reggae label worldwide, VP Records. It is this latest offering that inspired
the penning of this article.
I Rise is a concoction of a variety of themes, sung over a wide range of engaging progressions
obviously sourced from experienced hands in the reggae industry, the legends about which
Etana tells her audience in the last track of the album. Rich vocal prowess and a remarkable
song-writing skill make this album outstanding. Laid-back, easy going, relaxing and
therapeutic roots reggae sounds are the hallmark of I Rise. Etana touches on diverse topics
relevant to the lives of the common people: praise and worship; love and relationships;
religious issues and the common daily struggles; women empowerment and black
A rendition of The Wailer’s Rastafarian hymn, ‘Selassie is the Chapel’ opens the album with
Etana’s distinctive soulful vocals interlacing with piano arpeggios. A chorus layer of strings
carpet Etana’s bright vocal tones, augmenting the spiritual tinge of the song.
A snare roll, a winding bass line and the characteristic offbeat reggae rhythm ‘chop’ ushers in
the second track in the album, ‘How Long’. Backed intelligently by a harmony of voices, a
constant blare of brasses and emotional riffs of the lead guitar, Etana throws a series of
questions to the world leaders. How long will the people suffer, struggle and fight while the
leaders carry on? Promises don’t feed hungry bellies. These are questions asked by a
concerned citizen of the world, a woman whose heart pumps to see the welfare of the world
population cared for.
Another noteworthy tune is Etana’s version of Marcia Griffith’s ‘Steppin’ out of Babylon’.
Etana delivers this 1978 classic with exquisite precision, a sure sign that so long as gifted
singers continue to rise from new generations, reggae will never die. ‘Stepping out of
Babylon’ had always been a pleasure to the ear, and now, with this new rendition, it soars
with vibrancy and offers an astounding satisfaction.
In ‘Jamaica Woman’, Etana gives advice and hope to the black woman. ‘Black and strong in
every way, trotting to the top of the mountain’. To any listener, man, woman and child, this
song is an important message meant to build the nation. It’s a song that should dominate
To those with a dismal notion that life has turned against them, those who have given up or
on the brink of giving in, the title track ‘I Rise’ is crafted specifically for them. ‘I Rise’ isn’t
just a song of hope, it’s a song of promise and positivity.
One of my favourites is ‘Love Song’, in where Etana declares an unconditional love no
matter the circumstances. ‘Even though you broke my heart, and I lay here in the dark, tears
running down my face, flowing from my heart, I will never leave your side…
The album I Rise is a reggae collectors treasure in many ways. Quite pleasurably, this
collection of 15 tracks is likely to appeal even to non-reggae listeners because laced within it
are elements of soul, country and rhythm and blues. As an experienced listener of this genre
called Reggae, I place a gold sticker on this album.
01. Selassie is the Chapel
02. How Long
03. On My Way
04. Stepping Out Of Babylon
05. Jamaica Woman
06. I Rise
07. Richest Girl
08. Love Song
09. By Your Side
10. Passing Thru
12. Ward 21** (Stenna’s Song)
14. Jam Credits
Available on Itunes