The average theatre stage is 35 feet deep, but for singer-songwriter Jah’Mila (who performs under a mononym), circumventing that distance was a 3,254 kilometre journey: While in her home country of Jamaica she’d built herself a stacked sonic resume, touring with the likes of The Wailers (yes, as in Bob Marley’s band), it wasn’t until she came to Halifax that she found herself able to take centre stage as the front person she was destined to be. Now that she’s grabbed hold of the mic, though, there’s no stopping her—as her long-awaited debut LP Roots Girl proves.
A study in old-school reggae that folds in elements of R&B and hip hop, Roots Girl was recorded live from the floor in Jamaica, with Jah’Mila’s Halifax bandmates in tow. It’s a record that crackles with ephemeral electricity and a sense of cinematic grandeur, thanks to the theatrical drums that intro the opening track. It presents an image of what it could’ve looked like if Lauryn Hill took her reggae phase to its natural born conclusion, or if Koffee decided to explore a more traditional, 808-free vein of the genre.
“I've always felt a pressure to fit my art into the mold of popular music—and especially popular music coming out of Jamaica, you know: Trying to align with the branding and the imagery, but Roots Girl is not listening to all that noise—and tapping into my own authenticity, and really growing roots in a new home here,” Jah’Mila told The Coast earlier this year. It’s the sound of genre authenticity and personal authenticity colliding, of someone carving out the space to tell their story—and an addictive, catchy one at that.