Sitting somewhere between Ella Fitzgerald, Nina Simone and Haile Selassie I is Jamaican artist Jah9, who makes her first-ever trip to Australia this year, including Island Vibe Festival in Queensland.
A deeply spiritual performer with her beliefs rooted in the Rastafari movement, Jah9 says audiences at the festival can expect a real musical treat. “Real roots-reggae music with contemporary infusions and a lot of inspirational songs,” Jah9 promises.
“They can expect to listen and to feel blessed, and to be moved by spirit and to have a good time.
“[I'm] very much looking forward to coming to Australia and performing at the Island Vibe Festival. It will be my first time on that continent and it is a space I have long been enthusiastic about visiting for its Indigenous culture, and just for all that it will teach me.
"Hopefully the music will be well-received and the people will reciprocate my excitement about being there.”
Greatly inspired by the teachings of Haile Selassie I – regent of Ethiopia 1916-1930, then emperor 1930-1974 and revered as the returned messiah, God incarnate among the Rastafari movement – Jah9 uses her art and music to practice her own spirituality.
“My sense of spirituality influences my art and music greatly because I see myself as spirit first; it governs how I interact with my environment and how I access my creative forces,” she says.
“So my trek through this world is very different from another person who may be in this industry and thinking about commercial success and all of these things that are very important to think about.
“But for me I'm trying to be the best version of myself, overcome all my shortcomings and all my flaws, and use personal discipline to get me there.”
Born Janine Cunningham, Jah9 has cultivated an aura of mysticism around her as well as her own style she calls 'jazzondub'. “'Jazzondub' is quite simply two major influences,” she explains.
“Jazz has been a great influence on my vocal style, how I compose melody and how I hear melody in the music that I listen to or create. Dub is the environment that is created when music is stripped down in post-production and the sonic elements are fine-tuned in a way that turns music into something else.
“That is a great influence for me [and] a very potent source of inspiration where I can create, especially because I am a lyricist so open spaces are the perfect place for words to rest.”
If there is an overarching message or philosophy to Jah9's music, she says it is one of self-reliance and self-discipline in the pursuit of personal excellence – something she'll be encouraging at her Australian shows.
“To my Australian fans, I just remind you all to breathe and stay grateful for all the blessings, because life is so fleeting,” Jah9 says.
“Love yourself, love those around you – this is what helps to keep the whole cycle moving in your favour, and I'll see you soon. I'm looking forward to spending time on your beautiful continent.”
Jah9 Tour Dates
Sun 28 Oct - Island Vibe Festival (Nth Stradbroke Island) Sat 3 Nov - Max Watt's (Sydney) Sun 4 Nov - Hotel Steyne (Sydney) Fri 16 Nov - Mullum Music Festival (Mullumbimby) Sat 17 Nov - Evelyn Hotel (Melbourne)