July 12, 2021
RISING reggae singer Khalia made her way into the history books when she captured the Breakthrough Artiste of the Year Award from the Jamaica Reggae Industry Association (JaRIA), a week ago.
For many, the name was not instantly recognised, but once the opening bars from her 2020 track Easy begin to play, they have that: “Oh, she!” moment.
“Prior to 2020, my fan base was more outside of Jamaica, but once Easy dropped more of Jamaicans began to gravitate towards me and my music. They just related to the song. My lyrics come from my heart and in Easy I was just speaking on something that so many people know about. The first two lines speak to going to school and study yuh book and you will get a job and everything will be fine, and 99.9 per cent of the time, we know it is not so. So like so many people in Jamaica and the rest of the world, we just want somebody fi easy and give us a chance. The first time I heard the completed track, mixed, and everything, I got chills and cried because it was just the truth,” she said in an interview with the Jamaica Observer.
Khalia (full name Khaila Million) was born in Westmoreland, but migrated to London, England, when she was six years old. She returned to the island in 2016 to pursue music, which she described as her passion.
She worked to establish herself in the industry locally and began dropping singles as well as collaborations with the likes of Tifa, Busy Signal, Stonebwoy, and I-Octane.
Stars aligned and she became the first artiste signed to KLicious Music, the label established by record producer Tony Kelly.
“Growing up in London you never really leave Jamaica because the island has played such a major role and had a huge impact on the culture there. So reggae and dancehall music are a huge part of who I am. I describe my music as a dancehall-reggae fusion with good vibes and positive energy.”
However, her upward trajectory was derailed in early 2020 with the onset of the pandemic. Khalia likened it to a roller coaster.
“In 2019 I did a Latin American tour with Alborosie. Then things began to move even faster with the release of Easy. The bookings were coming in and I was preparing to go places and then came COVID. All the bookings were being cancelled. So I was literally on a high and then everything dropped. It was a mental roller coaster as, at one point, I felt like this was my year, then there is nothing,” she said.
Like everyone else, Khalia was forced to reposition herself and face the changes brought about by the global health crisis. According to her, she dug deep, started creating more content to keep her fans engaged, and did a few virtual performances during the period.
As for the future, Khalia is excited to be part of the reggae fraternity at this time, as she sees it as being a magical time, especially for young people.
“I’m getting myself ready for when the world opens up again. I am excited not only just as a performer, but as a patron as well to see all the creativity that this pandemic as forced out of us as artistes. So I have some singles coming, a few collaborations, but I can’t say anything just yet about that, and there is an EP in the works,” she said.
“I love the fact I am a young artiste at this time to be part of the great stuff being done by this generation. When I look at artistes like Lila Iké, Mortimer, Jazz Elise, Nation Boss, Koffee, and Khalia… It feels like we are creating history at this moment. I see great stuff, amazing things from Jamaican artistes in the next one to two years,” she continued.