by Howard Campbell
KINGSTON, Jamaica – As she prepares to celebrate her 40th year in the music business, Nadine Sutherland reflects on the changing trends in reggae since she won the Tastee Talent Contest in late 1979.
She started as a roots-reggae prodigy for Bob Marley’s Tuff Gong Records, and flourished as a dancehall queen in the 1990s. The 50-year-old singer is still moving with the times with the song It Takes One, which is scheduled for release on February 22.
Ironically, the track is part of Queens In The Arena, an all-female compilation album produced by artist, Chyna Nicole. Sutherland believes while women have made strides in reggae in the past four decades, there are still disparities.
Marcia Griffiths said it best, ‘praise without raise’. From my perspective, we need to be paid like our male counterparts for shows and appearances,” she said.
Another gender negative she points to, is tabloid gossip. Looking back, Sutherland wishes she handled media scrutiny better.
“Yes, I would take the rumor mongering less personal, it is a part of the fame machinery. Anyway, it helped to make me stronger,” she said.
Not many female reggae artistes can boast about a 40-year career, especially given the history of male bravado in Jamaica’s music system. Sutherland beat two promising artists (singer Paul Blake and toaster Yellowman) to win what was then Jamaica’s American Idol contest, and went on to record several pre-teen hits such as Starvation on The Land, Hands and Heart and A Young One Like Me.
As an adult, she had considerable chart success in the 1990s with Action (with Terror Fabulous), Anything For You (with Snow) and Babyface which she recorded for Philip ‘Fatis’ Burrell, whose Xterminator Records was arguably the hottest dancehall/reggae label of that decade.
For Sutherland, her triumphs outweigh the negatives. These include, “Working as a tween with Bob (Marley), doing background vocals for Peter Tosh, and having songs that have survived over time in big ways.”
Outside of music, she earned a Masters Degree in cultural studies from the University of the West Indies in 2015.
Nadine Sutherland returns to South Florida on April 20 for Reggae Meets Soul at The Center in Coral Springs.