Queen Ifrica talks Music, Motherhood, Revolution and Jamaica
Speaking to Queen Ifrica was always going to be more than just your regular run of the mill interview, and though it’s not deemed good practice to reveal the realities of interviewers striving to clarify the fabric of societies, (something akin to that) though the conversation was via phone, with the distant crackle of communication dropping in-and-out, whilst totally convinced one could hear the sway of a warm Jamaican breeze, being more than just your regular run of the mill interview, so the subsequent exchange proved.
Ventrice Morgan, stage name Queen Ifrica, reggae singer from the hills above Montego Bay, the capital of Saint James Parish on Jamaica’s north coast Jamaica, the daughter of ska music legend Derrick Morgan, a Rastafarian, a mother, an activist whose voice has found many a’ bended ears, thus, while music continues to be the theme tune to the most social climates, concerning Jamaica and reggae music in particular, renowned for her unrelenting social activism Queen Ifrica is the embodiment of a purest, so much so her vocal intentions are widely considered the one thing reggae music, and Jamaica, have been frankly crying out for, and astonishingly for a long time now. With her music Queen Ifrica takes it back to the second and fourth beat emphasised when playing in 4/4 time, very typical of African-based musical genres, as one of what is considered far too few “conscious” female voices in Jamaican music, her lyrics insistently centre on challenging socio-political themes, wooing audiences with incredible musicality, and severity, all at the same sweet time, profoundly Queen Ifrica and her music takes the ‘music’ back to “double skank” guitar strokes on the offbeat -she possess the ability to let listeners feel- in many ways like the King of Reggae did, her music having that naturalness of beautifully-provoked lyrical candour. And when the climate of Jamaica appears hotter than it’s ever been, within the emotional context the latter speaks of Queen Ifrica continues to speak for the nation she loves, and the people within it, not least of all her music resonating far beyond the prevalence of the challenges specific to this CARICOM nation still striving for a sense of togetherness.
Tell me, what does your music essentially represent?
Well, I grew up amongst music, music for me was always there, and growing with the music, the reggae music was a natural progression, and what it represents now, as a Rasta is consciousness raising consciousness, my music speaks to the heart, it speaks of the realisation of purpose, and God, and in particular the female agenda not only in Jamaica, but all around the world.
When you talk of the female agenda, what are you generally, or specifically, referring to?
The female agenda facing women all around the world, not only here in Jamaica, the female agenda is women standing-up for being respected, meaning to stand firm, to honour yourself as a woman and not just be what we see now, as in women not valuing themselves, I want to bring something else to the table, another option, a better option, as a reggae artist, the music…my music, my agenda is to give women that emotional drive that will enable women to rise-up out of their circumstance.
Recently Jamaica has seen a surge in crime against women, in many respects crime against women of a nature, and frequency that has never ben seen before, the obvious question is, how do you feel about this recent surge in crime against women in Jamaica, as well the surge replicating itself around the world?
Yes, that is true, as with all around the world Jamaica has seen crime against women and young girls making the headlines, and it’s a problem, a problem that the music talks about, the rape, the kidnapping of girls, the murder of women, for me the government that governs the people is not doing enough to protect its citizens, especially the female ones, there needs to be an equal measure between man and women in Jamaica, something the government of Jamaica needs to work towards, and the children, Jamaica has over 100 child agencies and yet what we’re seeing is the victims and the perpetrators becoming younger and younger, we have a lot of problems, and like with most third world countries it’s about the undeveloped mind of the people, it’s the reason I done the song - ‘No Bwoy’…
….Ahhh yes, sorry to interject, you mean "if it makes you feel good to sleep with children in your romping shop don't badda worry when the lightning clap."
….Right, I can remember my daughter came home from school, my daughter who is thirteen years old, she came home from school and told me about this tune by Vybz Kartel -Virginity- she went on to tell me how she likes the song, tell me that regarding the lyrics to the song she was under the impression it was normal, when girls just like her are thinking the same thing, they believe its normal behaviour, at eleven, twelve and thirteen, and you know….it bought tears to my eyes, because if you know of the tune, and you know of the lyrical content in the song, no way can this be normal, no way can this be right, I had to let my own child know that it isn’t normal, it isn’t right, it’s the same thing with the bleaching, and the “cake shops”, too many people accept it as the norm, my thing is how can this be the norm!? The same reason I done the song Nah Rub, going back to what I was saying when talking about the underdeveloped mind, we need to develop the mind of our children in the right way, for the right reasons.
As a female artist, how well received do you think your message is?
For me I try not to look at myself as a female artist, I know I am a woman in this business but I look at myself as an artist, period, I say this because that is another problem when we’re dealing with the women in the music, I’ve said that the women in Jamaica need to take responsibility, we need to stop being angry because that’s where the mind-set starts, in the household, a lot of women angry because relationships with men don’t work and then to have this vendetta against men, and to vent the vendetta so children can hear and in a way become the vendetta, girls as well as boys, no, that’s not what it’s about, women need to be more than that, and when I say these things I have women who say how can I say that? How can I side with the men when we’re talking about the slackness in the music, in the communities we live in? Well, when you ask me as a female artist this is why I say I’m an artist first, my music is what it is not because I’m a female artist, it’s because I am a reggae artist, because the division between man and woman is the problem.
Can you explain why the industry continues to push these kinds of songs; I mean taking into consideration the climate of society, why does the industry continue to give these artists the platform to express these questionable, lyrical contents?
The industry is the industry, the industry serves a want, it’s why I say the minds of the people need to change first, and then tell the industry that we; the people are not listening to that type of music anymore, because within the industry it is deliberate, for the record labels and producers to keep pushing the style and content of this music it is deliberate, and the industry needs to understand that we are responsible for people not responsible for themselves, the industry needs to help determine change and not just serve-up for the sake of serving up, the people need our help as artists and we have a responsibility to that, we have a responsibility as artists and as an industry to help push for a cultural change, and we must do that, we must!
So, what are the aims and objectives for the Queen Ifrica’s future?
To keep on making music, to keep on doing the shows, more of the same, as it stands now I’m pushing my second album – Climb – with this album I’m pushing beyond just Jamaica, I want to push as far afield as I can, on this album I am singing about struggles wherever people they might find themselves, that’s the aim, as I’ve progressed with my music I’ve seen that the issues facing women and the culture in Jamaica is one that is manifesting all around the world, my music must represent this global message I sing out.
“You have a legion of fans in the UK, when can we expect to see you on our shores?
“I love the vibe in the UK, the fans there are amazing and I feel the love there, the intention is to be there very soon.
The outspokenness of Queen Ifrica’s song lyrics has warranted her special place within reggae music, and for good reason, as a women she is at the forefront of a struggle which is ushering towards expressions of pride, a struggle that is intent on expressing candid assessments about the difficulties women face, an artist who frankly does so with a vigour an artist of her calibre has not been seen for a very long time. And while within a presumed multi-cultural society, where regardless of race or creed one is able to attain aspirations, and exceed expectations, the deep-rooted truth is Queen Ifrica is a Black women helping to shape and change the world for the better, and when the concept of oppression is still the crux of Black female understanding; their comprehension of their place in the world, and women continue to be discriminated against in ways that often do not fit tidily within the permissible kinds of either “racism” or “sexism, Queen Ifrica’s retains and reserves the right to keep-on denouncing Black women’s sexual misuse, amongst the call for equality, and inclusivity, by deploying her voice as a mouthpiece to the world, vigorously resisting what Martin Luther King, Jr., called the “thingification” of a women’s humanity, Queen Ifrica’s very presence is a beacon for racial pride, justice, and human dignity, a beacon that shines bright and continues to glimmer.