The explosive rise of Koffee, the prodigious young talent whose name seems to be on everyone’s lips over the past year, has perhaps overshadowed some of the other, truly notable, young female newcomers on the scene, such as Lila Ike, Sevana and Alicai Harley. We wrote about Koffee on the ATX Sound System a few weeks ago, so this week we’re shining a spotlight on some of our other new favorite women, all of whom are releasing fresh reggae and dancehall with voices that are both unique and classic.
Jamaican-bred but now based in London, there’s no mistaking Alicai Harley: She’s a bold and colorful presence–online, on stage and in her videos. Born Leslieann Alicia Harley, she first came onto our radar in late-2017 with her infectious single “Gold”. She followed up in 2018 with a pair of absolute crackers: “Naah Done”, which was pure dancehall fire, and “Proper Paper”, a slow-burner that hinted at her potential as an R&B singer. There was also her guest vocal on Estelle’s Lovers Rock album and a freestyle (“So Good”) she posted to her Soundcloud page in December that quickly racked up 30k+ streams. Her first release of 2019 is a collaboration with UK producer and DJ Toddla T. Called “Instruction (Gallong Gyal)”, it is a true crossover single, combining pop, dancehall and R&B to perfect effect. It’s a record that is likely to still be in our heavy rotation when Carnival rolls around.
OK, so Sevana might not be as new as Koffe or Alicai — sharp-eared listeners will remember her guest turns on Protoje’s album Ancient Future all the way back in 2015. But this year, we should finally see the release of Sevana’s long-awaited debut album. In 2016, she released a self-titled EP (which spawned her first single “Bit Too Shy”) but only two new singles since then. She has a good excuse for the slow progress, however: Her career as an in-demand model and actress was also taking off during this time. Like Alicai, Sevana’s music has a strong R&B element to it. But while Alicai blends R&B with dancehall, Sevana’s songs rest on a more traditional reggae foundation. The singer grew up in Westmoreland, Jamaica, a lush and pastoral setting on the western side of the island, and it comes through in her music. Latest single “Sometime Lover” is soulful, organic and laid-back — and hopefully, a hint of what’s to come on her forthcoming full-length debut.
Like Sevana, Lila Ike is also product of Protoje’s In.Digg.Nation collective and label. And like Protoje, Lila’s is a conscious brand of reggae, classic in sound but modern in production (note the Dennis Brown “Promised Land” reference on her latest single “Second Chance”, for example). Growing up in the mountainous area of Manchester, Jamaica, Lila was going to college to become a teacher when she decided to give up education and move to Kingston to pursue her music career. Her breakthrough single in 2017, “Biggest Fan”, was boosted by a spot on Protoje’s tour, and followed up by another hit, “Gotti Gotti” (which owes a small debt to Black Uhuru’s “Sponji Reggae”). Aside from live performances, she’s been quiet so far this year, at least with regard to new releases. But she very much remains one to watch in 2019.
This Week’s Austin Reggae Fest Spotify Playlist
Click here to hear all the dub sounds we have been listening to the last few days.