The new diva of Jamaican reggae, whose powerful and graceful voice can venture into jazz, dub, dancehall or roots in the most classic tradition – this is Jah9. The 35-year-old Montego Bay native is conquering reggae fans around the world. Her strong, sensual voice brings to mind Nina Simone, Erikah Badu and the early Lauryn Hill.
The daughter of a pastor and a social worker, Janine Cunningham inherited a spirituality and keen social conscience. She describes herself as a country girl who became involved with music when her parents moved to Kingston during her youth. Lost in the chaos of the city, she took refuge in poetry and joined the dub instrumental milieu, where her lyrics inspired her Rastafarian friends.
Noticed by the famous singer Beres Hammond, she began to record in 2010 and launched her first album, New Name, in 2013 under the guidance of producer Rory Gilligan, of the highly popular Stone Love sound system. Jah9’s international career was launched straight away, with sets of tours in Europe and the U.S. Her jazz-influenced dub style and her deep lyrics seduced audiences from the start.
Pursuing her spiritual evolution, Jah9 embraced yoga, a practice that corresponds perfectly to her philosophy of going beyond one’s limits based on self-reliance and personal discipline. She launched “Yoga on Dub TV” on her YouTube channel with asanas set to a reggae musical background (“In the spirit”). She held yoga retreats during her tours.
Her second album, 9, issued in 2016 with femininity as its theme, was chosen as second best album of the year by Billboard magazine. The number 9 represents the helix, abundance, fertility and respect for one’s deep nature. While preparing for the release of a new album this year, Jah9 made the cover of Reggaecharts magazine in January 2019, and her track “Field Trip” was ranked number 9. The clip of her latest track, “Heaven,” shows her in all her femininity and elegance.
Alongside her singing career, the young Jamaican also heads the non-profit organization Manifesto Jamaica, which helps young people by giving them access to arts and culture.