It’s a Roots Girl thing Jah’Mila upbeat about JUNO nomination

February 16, 2024

article reposted by Chelsea


A career in music was inevitable for singer Jah’Mila.

With a father like musician Earl “Chinna” Smith — renowned for his work with the Soul Syndicate band as well as being guitarist for Bob Marley and the Wailers among others — it was bound to rub off.

“My dad taught me about the importance of practice and preparation. He leads by example, as someone who is constantly playing his guitar and honing is craft. Whenever we perform together he always emphasises the value of rehearsal, and he insists that we always approach the music with the respect it deserves,” Jah’Mila (real name Jhamiela Smith) shared in an interview with the Jamaica Observer’s Splash earlier this week.

Jah’Mila, who migrated to Halifax, Canada, almost seven years ago, resided in Brown’s Town in St Ann before moving to Kingston.

More than a week ago, the JUNO award nominations (Canada’s equivalent to the Grammys) were announced and Jah’Mila is among the nominees in the Reggae Recording of the Year category. She is nominated for the album Roots Girl.

She is quite upbeat about the accolade.

“Being JUNO-nominated is truly humbling and an immense honour. It’s a testament to the support and love from my team, fans, and peers — especially in the East Coast! I feel incredibly grateful for this recognition. Additionally, seeing the representation of women in the line-up of nominees is both inspiring and empowering. It sends a powerful message of inclusivity and diversity, and I hope it will serve as inspiration for young girls all across Canada and around the world,” said Jah’Mila.

The Reggae Recording of the Year category, for the first time since its introduction in 1985, is dominated by females. The other nominees are Rush Dem by Omega Mighty featuring 4Korners and Haviah Mighty, Stir This Thing by Ammoye featuring Turbulence, Feel Like Home by Exco Levi, and Dread by Kirk Diamond and Finn.

Released in late 2022, Roots Girl comprises a variety of topics from relationships to social issues.

“Roots Girl is a labour of love that took lots of dedication, passion, and collaboration over several years. It documents the first few years of growth for me and my band here in Canada. Nuff big ups to Richard McNeil, who produced several of these tracks in the attic of his home during the pandemic. We finally released the album in November 2022 after many delays. This album was brought to life by the incredible talents of Richard and Ben Barton Creeleman, who are not just producers but also cherished friends and invaluable collaborators,” said Jah’Mila.

She spoke about the collaborations on Roots Girl.

“There are some incredible collaborations on Roots Girl that I’m truly excited about. My dad’s drum ensemble called the Inna De Yard Binghistra Movement is featured on the album, as well as Tachichi, an incredible rapper from Halifax Nova Scotia,” the artiste shared.

She continued: “Making this album was like sharing a piece of my soul with the listeners, inviting them to connect with the stories and feelings behind the music. It reflects my deep Jamaican roots and connection to the music. Every lyric and every melody was inspired by my experiences, and the songs explore topics like spirituality, self-empowerment, love, as well as systemic social issues like racism.”

According to Jah’Mila, the JUNO nomination acknowledges the hard work that went into creating the body of work.

“For me, a JUNO nomination is a blessing, a validation and affirmation from the Most High that I am on the right path. It’s a nod to the countless hours of hard work and dedication from my team and an encouragement to us to keep pressing on — there is so much more left to learn and to accomplish. ‘To whom much is given much is expected.’ ”

A former background vocalist for several artistes, Jah’Mila said it was easy for her to make the transition to a solo career.

“Transitioning from a background vocalist to stepping into the spotlight with my own music has been an empowering journey of self-discovery over the past 10 years. While I feel imposter syndrome at times, I’m so immensely grateful for the opportunity to be able to express my own unique style and voice to the world. As backing vocalist I’ve also learned invaluable lessons from observing and studying the great reggae artistes I’ve had the privilege to support over the years. These experiences have been like precious gems, shaping my artistry and performance style. They’ve certainly helped to make me a better performer and a more informed ambassador for my Jamaican culture and this reggae music that I love so much,” Jah’Mila explained.

But even though her roots were firmly established in reggae music, the journey for Jah’Mila hasn’t been smooth sailing.

“My musical journey has had plenty of ups and downs, especially as a self-managed artiste with a full-time day job. However, each challenge has been like a lesson shaping me into the artiste I am today. I get stronger every time. There have been some magical moments that have left a lasting impact on me,” she said.

Jah’Mila has collaborated with organisations such as the National Arts Centre of Canada, Toronto Symphony Orchestra, Symphony Nova Scotia, and others to present the Reggae Roots virtual programme for youth in Halifax. She is the winner of the Black Artist Recognition Award at the 2023 Creative Nova Scotia Awards. She also won the Global Music Recording of the Year (2023) at the East Coast Music Awards, as well as the African Nova Scotian Artist of the Year and New Artiste Recording of the Year at the 2023 Nova Scotia Music Awards.

Said Jah’Mila: “I love music so very much, especially reggae music! It is my safe space and it comes as natural to me as breathing. I use music to soothe and heal myself, and I also use it to connect with others on a deeper and more profound level. I sing even when no one is listening. I think music has the power to transcend all barriers, to influence mindsets and emotions, and to unite people from all walks of life. It’s a gift from the Most High to share, and I am always so grateful to be able to share in its magic.”

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