There are some artistes who every journalist should get an opportunity to interview, and internationally-acclaimed singer/songwriter Jully Black, the ‘washbelly’ who confesses that she is truly a Mama’s girl, is one such class act.
Totally devoid of airs and the often misplaced trappings of ‘divaship’, Jully Black, unofficially crowned ‘Canada’s Queen of R&B’, is the original girl-next-door who, once you meet her, you just want to kick off your shoes, sit beside her on the floor and chat all day. Born in Canada to Jamaica parents, there is nobody more Jamaican than Jully. Even when singer Richie Stephens puts on his dazzling Jamaica suit and hat, he still has to take a back seat to Jully Black.
“My mother is from Aboukir in St Ann,” she recently announced with pride to her folllowers on social network, Twitter.
Jully admitted to chatychaty.com in an exclusive interview that her upcoming trip to Jamaica for the Jazz and Blues Festival has sent her digging into her roots a little bit more. “I always knew my mother was from St Ann, but I didn’t know exactly where, so I had to call her up to find out,” she explained happily, in her authentic Jamaican accent as she effortlessly switches between Standard English and Jamaican Creole.
The last of nine siblings, Jully is the only one who was not born in Jamaica, but ironically, she is the one who is closest to her roots, having an especial love for the traditional Jamaican fare of soup on Saturdays and rice and peas on Sundays and the ‘broughtupcy’ instilled by Jamaican parents in their children. She has visited the island several times and is totally immersed in the culture.
“In Jamaica there is still reverence. Kids know that they doan dip into big people argument. Dem know that when dem come home from school you change and put on you yaad clothes. And there is your church shoes separate from you other shoes, and then there is your going out clothes. These are some of the things I love about Jamaica and being Jamaican. My mother left Jamaica for Canada but our home was very Jamaican and I loved it,” recalls the singer who has opened for Kayne West in Singapore and was hand picked to perform for the Queen.
Described as having a “charming attitude and charismatic personality”, Jully has won multiple Juno awards, written songs for the likes of Missy Elliot, Nas and Destiny’s Child and has performed alongside artistes such as Jay-Z, Sean Paul, Kardinal Offishall and Alicia Keys.
A musical force to be reckoned with, Jully Black is scheduled to perform at the Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival on Friday, January 27, 2012.
“I am so excited to be coming to Jamaica to perform at the festival,” Jully declared over the phone, with an excitement that was both palpable and infectious.
And, ‘perform’ is in fact the operative word, because in 2009, Jully attended the festival on behalf of a television station out of Canada, where she works as a celebrity reporter. As part of the crew, it was her job to interview acts such as Lionel Richie, Randy Crawford, Estelle and Robin Thicke who were among the big names on the annual Jamaica Jazz and Blues Festival that year.
“I looked at that Jamaica Jazz and Blues stage and said ‘mark my words, I will be back’. I feel so honoured that I have been chosen and I must send a shout out and mega thanks Tara Lehman. She was a stranger who was very determined to get me on the festival and she made it happen. The only thing Walter Elmore (festival organiser) wanted to know was ‘Is she Jamaican’ and once he heard yes, everything was put into motion,” the enthusiastic Jully Black, christened Jullyann Gordon, said, adding that the fact that Jamaica is this year celebrating 50 years of music and Independence, makes it even more meaningful.
Known for her powerhouse vocals and memorable performances, this songbird whose body of work — from her first Canadian Top 40 hit in 1998 to her 2005 album This Is Me with the hit songs Sweat of Your Brow and 5 X Love and her 2007 offering Seven Day Fool — has caused many stop, look and listen, is no stranger to the Jamaican music fraternity. She has done collaborations with several reggae/dancehall acts, including Demarco, Sweat of Your Brow; Bounty Killer, You Drive Me Crazy; Lady Saw, Trouble Now and Can I Get It; Babycham, The Day Before and Sean Paul & Kardinal, Money Jane.
Naturally, Jully’s looking forward to meeting up with these artistes at the Jazz and Blues Festival, where she will be performing with her full band, which includes her producer/drummer, YoungPete Alexander, who is himself of Jamaican parentage.
“I owe it to the audience to give them a great performance. I might be bringing up some friends on stage,” she said, “but whatever happens, it will be all F-U-N for everybody. It will be Tina Turner meets Jully Black,” promised Jully, paying respect to Tina Turner, who is one of her musical influences. “My aim is to make every heart inside that stadium beat at the same time, and if I do my job properly, who knows, maybe my Jamaican people will invite me back for another Jamaica 50 celebration. Perhaps Reggae Sumfest,” she said laughing.
When asked about her favourite reggae dancehall acts, Jully miss a beat. “Tanya Stephens .. her voice, her grind and her hustle, they are so authentic. Of course the Marleys, Buju Banton, especialy the conscious side; there’s Mavado and definitely Barrington Levy,” she said before rhapsodising about Jamaica’s singing canary.
“Barrington Levy has a voice like no other …di man have tune and lyrics. A big shout out to Mr Levy!” Jully Black sent from Canada, adding that she just can’t wait to get to Jamaica.
Jully would love to bring her mother, Agaha Gordon, with her to the festival, but her mom has decided to watch the live stream. “I am doing this for my mom. She is so excited about me performing on the festival, but she says she’s too old to be following me around, “Jully chuckled. But she’s definitely taking her mother’s advice to keep her focus, even while eating the Juicy Patties she’s longing for.
.In closing, she said with humility, “I want Jamaica to know how proud I am to represent the country on the world stage and I’m coming home.” — Yasmine Peru
Posted in: Jamaicans On Top