Etana, your second album is entitled ‘Free Expressions', why did you choose to name it that way exactly?
Etana: "Well, when I did my first album ('The Strong One', red.) I was still very concerned with what I could or couldn't say and what would offend people in one way or the other, but for this album I didn't care about that anymore. I felt the young people listening to my music needed to know exactly what is going on."
I've already seen several photo shoots you did and you're always dressed in the most beautiful dresses. You obviously have an eye for fashion, which begs the question if you've never entertained the thought of designing your own collection.
Etana: "I have actually; we've developed a line called raw soul. We started with just a line of T-shirts and later added some skirts; basically we're still building the brand at the moment. The idea is that somewhere along the line you'll see some wicked colours popping up somewhere and immediately you will know: "Ah that's a Raw Soul design!""
Are you doing the designing or are you working with someone?
Etana: "If we take the dress used for the album cover of 'Free Expressions' as an example, I designed that together with a friend of mine called Dexter Pottinger. The dress I'm wearing today though is from LocsTafari, a female designer from the UK who's very much into African style fashion; she uses African patterns and colours but combines them with very contemporary designs."
On your 'The Strong One' album you included a duet with Alborosie ('Blessing', red.) and Alborosie put another one ('You Make Me Feel Good', red.) on his new album '2 Times Revolution'. There seems to be great chemistry between you two.
Etana: "(laughs) Alborosie is a goodhearted person and I think that when you're a clean hearted and positive person and approach your music with that same attitude, everyone in the world will be able to feel that in your songs. Alborosie is just that type of person; he's a wonderful individual, very talented, plays all the instruments himself and produces his own songs. I just love his attitude and I guess that why it clicked when we recorded these duets."
You did quite a few covers on stage just now, are these songs that have a special meaning for you?
Etana: "Yes, they do. 'The Harder They Come' for example, is a song that I always include in my set list, because it reminds me of the garrison, the ghetto where I'm from and how hard life can be there. At the same time it are songs that people around the world can relate to. Bob Marley's 'Is This Love' is another example; I love how a song like that can make people hug each other even though the weather circumstances might not be all that favourable like today."
From the look of it, you still put a lot of time and energy in the albums you put out. In a market where record sales keep declining, do you feel it's still worth the effort?
Etana: "Yes and I'll tell you why. Up to this day people still keep asking me for a song called 'Money' I did when I first started and that tune can only be found on vinyl. My biggest fans search the world to find a copy of that record, so I think it's still important to put a "collectors item" out there; a collectable item you can actually hold in your hands. Years from now, people will still have these albums to look at and that's important to."
Someone whispered in my ear you're working on a ska album for your next release.
Etana: "(laughs) Who told you about that? Well, I can tell you that's correct, I'm indeed doing a ska album. It's a bit of a side project. I want to try and bring some of the music of that era to the 21st century. I got the idea when I was touring in South-America. The ska scene in some of the places there (Venezuela for example, red.) is huge, but still that music had its origins in Jamaica, so it's important that that is not forgotten."
In closure, what's the music we would find on Etana's iPod? What do you listen to yourself?
Etana: "Basically, I listen to good music! (laughs) I listen to everything from Maroon 5 over Bob Marley and Gregory Isaacs to Dolly Parton and Tammy Wynette and even Ear Supply is in there. A broad range of music really."